Thursday 16 September 2021

Grandfather Emu

Grandfather Emu written by Aunty Rhonda Collard-Spratt and Jacki Ferro, illustrated by Aunty Rhonda Collard-Spratt (Boolarong Press) PB HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 978 1 925877861

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks 

Poor old Grandfather Emu can barely walk or see.  He asks other bush animals to lead him to the creek for food and water but they are all too busy. Only Mother Yonga Kangaroo makes time to help him. This is an Aboriginal Dreaming Story that is rich in culture and shares knowledge of how the Kangaroo got her pouch.


Grandfather Emu is an Aboriginal Dreamtime story told by Aunty Rhonda Collard-Spratt (Aunty Curlew), a proud Yamatji-Noongar woman who is both a talented storyteller and artist. Her words resonate with wisdom as she opens our hearts to a wonderful Indigenous perspective about our land and animals. As you read you can feel Collard-Spratt’s voice speaking directly to you. Her deep connection to country is conveyed so well. Tree shadows grew long, and the sun set in the west. Her sentences evoke great imagery and emotion. I love that as you read you learn Aboriginal words from the Noongar language of Western Australia. In this text we are immersed in both story and Aboriginal culture. Among the Balga trees, Mother Yonga bent the long, thick grass to shelter her baby. The tension in the story builds beautifully and instils a great love for our Aboriginal culture and land. This story develops a wonderful appreciation for our First Nations people and their rich culture.


The book's illustrations are bold and bright and captivating. Aunty Rhonda's colours of pinks, golds, reds, oranges, browns and more draw the reader into the story. She uses Aboriginal storytelling in her illustrations that add multiple layers of meaning. The use of dot and line technique and white or black outlining are powerful. The front cover with its vivid purple and pink background with Kangaroo and Grandfather Emu with his blind eye make you want to dive inside this book. The patterning and dot work immediately let the reader know this is an Indigenous story. Each inside spread is filled with so much character and culture that Aunty Rhonda’s illustrative voice adds many layers of meaning to the text. I particularly loved the spread with The Great Spirit of the Dreaming with a starry night and the darker colours contrasting with the white. Aunty Rhonda's work is stunning.


Grandfather Emu is a generously sized, beautiful picture book for children 3 to 8 years that would be a great addition to any home or library bookshelf. It is a wonderful resource to be used in classrooms that fits our school curriculum. It has a song and Aboriginal Words in the back pages and is a perfect gift for anyone interested in our Indigenous culture.


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