Books & Literature

Book Review: Old Man Emu, by John Williamson

PICTURE BOOK: A new picture book adaptation of John Williamson’s first and now legendary hit song, ‘Old Man Emu’.

Get ready to singalong to a lovely celebration in colour of John Williamson’s hit song.

Most Australians have heard of the name John Williamson. 50 years ago he sang a song on televisions New Faces which he consequently won, launching his music career. Old Man Emu is still one of his most popular songs and loved by many. This picture book adaptation of Williamson’s song is to celebrate his long career.

In this song, Williamson sings about an emu and all the things it can and cannot do. But mostly, he can “run the pants off a kangaroo!” Along the way he meets other Australian animals including a kookaburra, galah, and dingo.

Many Australians know all the words to this song but illustrator Simon McLean has brought the song even more to life. His illustrations are comical and full of detail. The faces on the animals are hilarious and the animal bands singing and playing along to the song make it all the more interesting. Adults will find things in the illustrations which will make them laugh as well. It is a good walk down memory lane. The frontispiece has lovely lined drawings of what look to be the first drafts of the illustrations that made it into the book.

Old Man Emu does not pretend to be new or original but is nonetheless alovely fresh new look at a classic song and a celebration of a true-blue Aussie. It has managed to bring the song to life and maybe a whole new generation of Aussies will learn to love Old Man Emu again.

You will probably need to get out your old cassettes or CDs so you can sing along as you turn the pages.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: September 2020
RRP: $19.99


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