Books & Literature

Book Review: The Emu Who Ran Through the Sky, by Helen Milroy

CHILDREN’S BOOK: Lofty, a young emu desperately wants to win a big emu race, but he is slow and clumsy – and his first race ends in disaster. So he enlists the help of his Bush Mob friends!

An Australian animal story about resilience and working together suitable for any school library.

Dr Helen Milroy is a storyteller and artist. She is a descendent of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia but was born and educated in Perth. She is the 2021 Western Australian of the Year and is recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor in 1983. Helen Milroy comes from a long line of storytellers, including her sisters Sally Morgan and Jill Milroy and her niece Ambelin Kwaymullina. 

The Emu Who Ran Through the Sky is the second book in the series Tales from the Bush Mob, about a group of animals that work together to solve problems, the first being “Willy Wagtail”. 

This story is aimed at 5-10 year-old children and is about an Emu named Lofty, who desperately wants to win the weekly emu race with the prize being a breakfast of fruit and insects, served by all the other emus. Unfortunately, Lofty is slow and clumsy and the other emus tease him. In his first race, he unfortunately trips over and, consequently, all the other emus fall over him. It is a disaster. And so begin his efforts to find a way to win the race, and together with the help of the other animals, they come up with a plan. 

The Emu Who Ran Through the Sky is unusual in that it is both a picture book and a chapter book. The slightly longer text is divided into three chapters plus an epilogue. This allows the reader to enjoy the pictures along the way, but also have a sense of reading a book for older readers with the ability to stop and pick up the story at a later date. 

The illustrations are clear and often amusing. Each picture has dot circles as part of the sky and earth—a lovely touch which reminds the reader that the story is emphasising the value of respect for the First Nations culture and country. The frontispiece has a beautiful map, and there are many things to learn from the illustrations along the way: animal footprints to discover, the unusual double plume of the emu feathers, flora, and landscapes. Children also learn about animals and how the ability to fly is different for birds, sugar gliders and bats. 

The Emu Who Ran Through the Sky has underlying themes of working together, finding the courage to be different and never giving up. It teaches children to be resilient. It would make a lovely addition to any school library with lots of discussion points for the parent or teacher.    

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Magabala Books
Released: 1 April 2021
RRP: $22.99

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