Books & Literature

Book Review: Awesome Emu, Written and Illustrated by Gregg Dreise

PICTURE BOOK: Filled with his well-loved colourful paintings and told with heart and humour, Awesome Emu will be a family favourite.

A lovely colourful picture book explaining the stars in the Milky Way
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A beautiful, brightly coloured front and back cover is the first thing that draws the reader to Awesome Emu. Dot circles in the background give a nod to the beginnings of the story, “Way back, before Once-upon-a-time, there was the Dreamtime.” Young children are immediately aware that this will be a story from our First Nations people. A brightly coloured emu makes one immediately wonder whether it will explain how the emu lost its colours.

Unfortunately, this story did cause some confusion when read to a couple of reception classes. The children were expecting to find out why the emu is now brown, not colourful like the one in the story. There were many questions at the conclusion of the book about why it was depicted as a coloured bird. It is, however, the Dreamtime story of Diraboo Direwah (Awesome Emu) who can be seen today in the Milky Way. The story also seemed to end abruptly, leaving the children wondering how the emu stayed in the sky.

Nevertheless, there are lessons throughout the story reminding us that there is danger in boasting and thinking we are the best … and words cannot be unspoken. The clever way Dreise uses the words “blast” and “flap” to describe both the mouth and wings of the emu was lost on the children, but noticed by the teacher.

The illustrations by Gregg Dreise throughout the book are all colourful and children can clearly recognise the animals and birds in the story. Each bird and animal also have dot decorations on their bodies as does the sun and landscape. The waves in the ocean are particularly spectacular. 

Dreise, an artist, story teller and musician, is a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi people of southwest Queensland and northwest New South Wales. Awesome Emu is the fifth book in his series of morality tales.  He wants children to realise that “you don’t have to be ‘the best’—‘your best’ is all that matters.”

Awesome Emu is a lovely story given to us by a new generation of brilliant storytellers and would be a welcome addition to any library.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Magabala Books
Released: October 2021
RRP: $24.99

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.


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