Review Blog

Nov 20 2012

The emu that laid the golden egg by Yvonne Morrison

cover image

Ill. by Heath McKenzie. Little Hare, 2012. hbk., RRP $A24.95. ISBN 9781921894008.
'A long time ago, amid hills dry and brown
A flock of wild emus moved into town
They were hoping to find something wholesome to eat
So they set up their base at the end of Main Street . . .'

Because of the drought, these emus weren't fussy so they tried everything that looked like food, even cans of soft drink carelessly thrown away. But Emma decided she wanted a big, fat juicy, black beetle and when it escaped her snapping beak she set off on its tail and trail. The beetle escapes but Emma found something else instead . . . some kernels of corn in a creek.

'It was strange-looking corn, oddly heavy and bright
And before long her stomach no longer felt right'.
The rest of this hilarious story is about what happens to Emma, creating a uniquely Australian version of Aesop's classic The Goose that laid the Golden Egg. Poor Emma! She falls victim to Nasty Ned and Pongo Pete who decide rather than stealing a golden egg from the nest every day, it would be much easier to kidnap the bird. And to use that time-honoured cliche, you'll have to read the story to find out what happens. But it is a tale that has to be told. Miss 6 and I loved it!!
Yvonne Morrison and Heath McKenzie have teamed up previously to write other Australian parodies of legendary tales such as The Cocky who Cried Dingo, and Town Possum, Outback Possum and their magic and chemistry just keep getting better. This is my favourite so far. I love the use of the word 'flummoxed' and the other superb vocabulary that has been woven into the rhyme - just fabulous for extending young minds, and their own writing. How much richer and engaging is 'The pair hoisted Emma on top of their nag' than 'They lifted Emma onto their horse'? Perfect picture books are those where the text and illustrations enhance each other into a seamless whole, and the Morrison-McKenzie combo achieves this brilliantly.
On the surface, it is just a rollicking good yarn but there are so many themes that could be explored such as the impact of drought on our native creatures; littering and unexpected consequences (and this could be compared with sea creatures swallowing plastic or the bears scavenging rubbish bins in Canada); greed and honesty - the list goes on. Even though its primary audience is younger children, this is definitely a picture book for older students as well as they can compare the original to the parody and all the literary avenues that that opens up. But, better still, have the students put their Nasty Ned and Pongo Pete hats on to devise a plan to kidnap an emu! Think of the creative and imaginative thinking such a task would produce.
This books fits into the Australian National Curriculum on so many levels, it's a must-have. (And for those of you with little people, it would be just perfect for the toe of the Christmas stocking!)
Barbara Braxton

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