Thursday 4 August 2011

The Great Emu Chase

The Great Emu Chase by Sarah Palmer, illustrated by Emma Stuart
(Sarah Palmer)
PB RRP $14.95
Reviewed by Anke Seib

Seagulls stealing the odd chip is something many of us find familiar, so Sarah Palmer’s all Australian story is easily identified with. The simple concept has a whole new twist, however, if the bird that steals the chips is both flightless and large enough to take off with the whole bag. And because young children enjoy seeing adults goof up, the valuable lesson that comes through this totally non-didactic telling is excellent—for Gar was the one who fed the emu a chip to begin with. Big mistake!

The narrator follows Gar as he pursues the emu and chips all over the wildlife park, the familiar setting for this story being another aspect of its appeal. Both narrator and park inhabitants are highly amused as Gar is forced to enter various animal enclosures in order to continue his pursuit. The worst one has to be that of the crocodile, but being wedged in a burrow and having to be pushed out by the wombat is pretty funny too—though not so much when this sees Gar land face-first in a prickle bush.

Colourful and lively illustrations capture both Gar’s frustration and the spritely spunk of the emu. The emu is daring and cheeky, leaving Gar rather worse for wear. By the story’s end, Gar is dishevelled and covered in leaf litter, with pants torn and face scratched, BUT he has rescued his chips. The other characters are also well illustrated and sure to delight children. I particularly liked the finer details in the work, like the corrugated iron and paling fences that are so Australian.

Told in rhyme, the story includes a fun refrain that is likely to be embraced quickly by young readers. Recommended for children aged three to eight, the availability of excellent teaching notes on the author’s website will make this book well worth including in every pre-school and primary school collection.

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