Wednesday 14 October 2020

Old Man Emu

Old Man Emu
by John Williamson, illustrated by Simon McLean (Puffin) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN

To celebrate Australian John Williamson’s 50-year career and his legendary hit song’s ‘Old Man Emu’ 50th anniversary this year, comes this new picture book adaptation for young readers aged 5+ years. The song launched Williamson’s career in 1970 when he performed it on the TV talent quest of the day, ‘New Faces’ and won. This resulted in a number one hit and a recording contract.

This rollicking iconic Australian song tells the tale of the emu and its many traits – good and bad: ‘He can’t fly, but I’m telling you, he can run the pants off a kangaroo!’ The emu encounters many other Australian birds and animals (dingo, galah, cockatoo, wedge-tail eagle, kookaburra) and, of course, the kangaroo, as he travels the country in search of a female emu.

Accompanying this lively, fast-paced story with its strong lyrics, are humorous illustrations by talented new illustrator Simon McLean who makes good use of white space in which to capture the wide variety of wildlife the old man emu encounters. His illustration which celebrates the line ‘I keep my two feet on the ground’, is eye-catching with a view of the bespeckled emu from the perspective of a mouse looking up its long legs to his feathered body high above. Another zany illustration is old man emu meeting up with a ‘silly galah’ and a flock of budgerigars, some of which are holding signs (‘Be nice to budgies’, ‘Budgies are birds too!) Strong use is made of different typefaces to add to the riotous action. The publishers seem to have chosen the right illustrator for this iconic song.

Williamson’s ‘Winding Back Concert Tour’ is due to resume in November 2020 across Australia. You can read more about the locations and dates at


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