Emus Under the Bed
Leann J Edwards
The Little Big Book Club/ Allen & Unwin 2014
hbk., 24pp., RRP $A19.99
On Saturdays I visit Auntie Dollo. ‘What would you like to do today?’ she says. ‘Do you want to help me make some feather flowers?’ Auntie Dollo has all kinds of feathers. She has feathers from moorhens, magpies, galahs and cockatoos.” But the greatest surprise is what is under Aunty Dollo’s bed – six little emu chicks!
This is a vibrant story which shows how a modern indigenous child continues to connect with the traditions of the past through her family. The relationship between the environment and the people is very clear as they make a headdress of feathers dropped by local birds, and as they create it, Aunt Dollo tells the story of its origins. Written by a descendant of the Mara tribe from the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Wiradjuri tribe from central New South Wales, it celebrates the handing down of an ancient culture through its people and ensuring “They are the pool of inspiration all the time.” Having tried various ways of expressing her family history and culture, particularly through a career as an Indigenous artist, Leann Edwards was inspired by others to write and tell her story and this book was produced through the Emerging Indigenous Picture Book Mentoring Project, a joint initiative between The Little Big Book Club and Allen & Unwin, assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. The artwork is most striking and has many of the elements we associate with indigenous art, and shows the artist’s experience both in Australia and overseas, with colour and pattern predominating against blocks of solid colour.
Most importantly, this book ticks all the selection criteria for acquiring and using indigenous literature that Lorraine MacDonald identifies in A Literature Companion for Teachers (p122-123).
There has been a number of books produced recently which feature our first peoples celebrating their landscape, culture and heritage in the most exquisite ways. How wonderful if we could use these as models for our non-indigenous students to tell their own stories so they could leave a similar legacy.