Old Man Emu: A book review

The Australian song that launched John Williamson's career celebrates its 50th anniversary with a children's book adaptation, writes Natalie Moutafis.

Do you remember the song Old Man Emu by Australian singer/songwriter John Williamson? No? Me either. It seems it might’ve skipped a generation or two. I know John Williamson for some of his other popular songs (remember Rip Rip Woodchip? That was the John Williamson song of my generation) but not this.

Never fear, the refresher is here in the form of a new picture book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the song, and John’s 50th year of performing.

On my first reading of the book, I wasn’t sure I was a fan. I then listened to the song and read it a few more times to my children (almost 4-years-old and 18-months-old) and was won over. The book, with humorous and fun illustrations by Simon McLean, will be sure to enthrall the next generation with the story of ‘Old Man Emu’.

Follow along with the song as you turn the pages to discover how the emu ‘can run the pants off a kangaroo’. Children will love seeing how the emu is compared to lots of other Australian birds, while parents will no doubt find themselves launching into song as they read this aloud to their kids.

Old Man Emu, while a classic Australian song, also lends itself the opportunity to discuss our differences and while the emu might not be able to fly, it can certainly run. It also gave me the opportunity to ask my boundary-pushing almost four-year-old what the emu could’ve done instead of ‘kicking the dingo in the shin’ – with a resounding, ‘stomp his foot Mum!’. The review on this book from said almost four-year-old is that it’s ‘fun and about racing and chasing, just like me’.

This is a delightful picture book filled with Australiana and euphemisms. Suited to ages 3+ the third children’s book from John Williamson is sure to put a smile on the faces of both young and old.

This is part of our series of reviews of children’s books, both new and released in recent times.

John Williamson’s Old Man Emu illustrated by Simon McLean is published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and retails for $19.99.

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