Archive | May 7, 2024

The Buffalemu

The Buffalemu

The Buffalemu











The Buffalemu

Paul de Guingand

Nandina Vines

Little Steps, 2023

3pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


“Out East of Oodnadatta, where the elder animals meet, 

On past the towns, beyond the downs, and endless fields of wheat…'”

the band of old animal mates (Chewy the one-eyed red ‘roo, Smokey the wombat, Johnno the crow, Roosta the three-legged dingo, Sad-Eyes the ancient goanna) have gathered  together because they heard that their mate Aggie the emu is feeling upset and unhappy, and so like good mates do, they resolve to do what they can to help her.

‘We’ll go sort it out, with a chinwag, a yarn, have a chat. We’ll head up the creek, hear out her deep thinking, and figure out where her head’s at.’

For three days and nights, they head out to find her  – “They’d arrive when they got there, no sooner, no later; that’s how things should be in the bush” – and discover that Aggie is having an identity crisis.  To her, she doesn’t seem like a real bird with her long, thin wobbly legs and she feels she would be much better if she were strong with four legs, like a buffalo.  ‘I’d be Buffalemu!’, she says.

But no matter what her friends say, she is not comforted and begins a long walk of her own – one that takes her to the edge of a town and there she discovers that she not only fits in just as she is, but has a special place in the scheme of things.

Accompanied by appealing illustrations that really portray the sense of place of this story, this is one that young readers will enjoy as they not only identify the Australian fauna that they already know, but also begin to understand that no matter what we look like, our age or our impediments, who we are as we are is enough.  Many stories are written in rhyme, often contrived, that adds little to the story but the rhythm of this one carries the story along at pace and the choice of language is familiar but used so well. Common phrases like ‘barking up the wrong gum tree’ and ‘flown the coop” are embedded seamlessly but then you have stunners like this…

“Now Sad-Eyes , the ancient goanna, sat high on a pile of stones.

So old, they day, that the dreamtime could be seen written deep in her bones”.

Surely, for those who have never seen the weathered, wrinkled skin of this creature for themselves, there is an instant image of patience and wisdom, knowledge and understanding. What a model to use for aspiring young writers looking to develop their vocabulary! 

Stories about Australia’s unique wildlife abound, and the concept of being yourself is a common trope for this age group to explore, but the combination of the two in this one is a winner.