Gregg Dreise, Awesome Emu, Magabala Books, October 2021, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925768732
Awesome Emu tells the story of Djiraboo Dinewah, a boastful Dreamtime emu. Annoyed with his showing-off, Waan the black crow challenges Dinewah to prove he’s as awesome as he claims. Despite being the fastest and most cololurful of all the birds, Dinewah eventually takes on a challenge that is too great, even for him.
The vibrant and appealing illustrations combine traditional Aboriginal art elements (such as Dreaming Circles) with contemporary colours. The story is written in the clear and straightforward style typical of Dreaming stories, and the message of humility is relevant to readers young and old. An explanation of how to find the spirit of the Awesome Emu in the constellations is a great addition, as it will encourage readers to form a real-life connection to the story.
Traditional Gamilaray words are used throughout, which are easily understood in context and are also listed at the start of the book. At the end of the book is information about author/illustrator Greg Driese and the origins and significance of the story. There is also a note to readers reinforcing the message of the story, and encouraging everyone, Indigenous Australians or not, to work together with the sky, the planet, the plants, the animals, and each other.
Awesome Emu is the fifth book in a series of morality tales by Greg Driese, with other titles in the series winning numerous awards including Indigenous Children’s Book of the Year. This book would make a great addition to school libraries and classrooms, as well as home bookshelves.
Reviewed by Laura Holloway