Old Man Emu
32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99
Fifty years ago teacher John Williamson wrote a ditty about an old emu racing across the Australian countryside in pursuit of a female friend. As he goes he meets many iconic creatures such as a galah, cockatoo, wedge-tail eagle, kookaburra and the kangaroo, but while they all they have their unique characteristics, none is as charismatic or as fast as Old Man Emu.
“He can’t fly but I’m telling you, he can run the pants off a kangaroo.”
Such hilarious and well-known lyrics, which not only launched Williamson’s career as a singer and songwriter but became essential singing in classrooms, demand to be illustrated and Simon McLean has done an outstanding job bringing them to life so that a whole new generation can sing and laugh along and be introduced to the work of the man who gave us True Blue , regarded as one of our national anthems, and the haunting Raining on the Rock.
Over the past half century, Williamson has given us so many songs, each with such a unique message about this country, its people, its places, its past that they cry out to be the basis of investigations to discover what it is that makes us unique. What is he saying in Rip, Rip Woodchip? What is the story behind A Flag of Our Own? So to have this very first one in picture book format to open up a study of not only emus but a whole range of fauna is just precious, and I’m sad that I’m no longer in a classroom or library to make it happen.
Something special for any child, Australian or otherwise.