Magabala Books, 2021
3-4yrs, 5-8yrs, Lower Primary, Primary
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English, Gamilaraay / Gamilaroi / Kamilaroi language D23
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- Art motifs
- Gamilaraay / Gamilaroi / Kamilaroi people (D23) (NSW SH55-12)
- Glossaries and vocabularies
- Stories and motifs
Cultures worldwide create oral and written stories for young people. Some emphasise right and wrong behaviour and its consequences. Gregg Dreise has now created five such stories for his publisher, Magabala Books which describes ‘Awesome Emu’ as ‘a charming morality tale that reminds us to be humble about our successes’. Magabala Books also refer to this title and four others as ‘teaching morals. They address self-image, friendship, kindness, bullying and Indigenous culture.’
Emu (Dinewah), illustrated in glorious bright colours featuring Aboriginal art motifs, lives in the ‘once-upon-a-time time’. Overly confident, Emu boasts about his achievements to all the other animals. They consider him a ‘show-off’. One day, Black Crow suggests to Emu that he cannot simply proclaim what he can do. He must earn the right to claim achievements. Black Crow poses the ultimate challenge: bring back fire from the Sun! Emu foolishly accepts this challenge and fails to return to earth. Emu can now be seen on dark nights in the Southern Cross Milky Way where he appears in the shape of an emu’s foot.
Artwork spills across each double page landscape-shaped spread. Aboriginal artwork patterns feature. Various Australian birds and animals feature Aboriginal art motifs. Both landscapes and beach settings include wide-ranging bright colours. In the story’s climax, Emu appears in profile against a brilliantly illuminated sun opposite the words, ‘Sadly, Dinewah never made it to the Sun, and he never made it back to Mother Earth’. The following double page spread features a night scene and comments, ‘Awesome Emu’s head is located right near the Southern Cross – we know it as Djiraboo Dinewah Tjina – Awesome Emu Foot’.
There are seven traditional Gamilaray words throughout the story alongside their English equivalent. These are also listed at the beginning of the book.
Gregg Dreise is an artist, storyteller and musician. He is a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi people of southwest Queensland and northwest New South Wales.
‘Awesome Emu’ is the fifth in a series of picture books described as ‘morality tales inspired by wise sayings and the knowledge of Aboriginal Elders’. Previous titles include: ‘Silly Birds’; ‘Kookoo Koobaburra’; ‘Mad Magpie’; and ‘Cunning Crow’.
- Reading Time review by Laura Holloway of ‘Awesome Emu’, 26 Jan 2022 https://readingtime.com.au/awesome-emu/
- Kids’ Book Review, ‘12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Gregg Dreise’, 6 July 2021 http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2021/07/12-curly-questions-with.html
- Magabala Books, Kids Activities, one colouring-in sheet reproduced from ‘Awesome Emu’ https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0092/5043/9268/files/Awesome_Emu-Gregg_Dreise-Magabala_Books-Colouring_Sheet.pdf?v=1636517007
- CopyrightAgency Reading Australia, profile of Gregg Dreise and teaching resources for ‘Cunning Crow’ and ‘Mad Magpie’ by Gregg Dreise https://readingaustralia.com.au/authors/gregg-dreise/
- Constellation Guide, Crux (Southern Cross) Constellation, information about the Southern Cross significance in many countries in the southern hemisphere, including Australia https://www.constellation-guide.com/constellation-list/crux-constellation/
- ‘Through Our Eyes, Dhinawan ‘Emu’ in the Sky’ with Ben Flick https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzFYFutiwoA
- ABC Science, Beginner’s Guide to the Night Sky—the Southern Cross, includes several different Indigenous stories of the Southern Cross https://www.abc.net.au/science/starhunt/tour/virtual/