Young Dark Emu: A book review

Bruce Pascoe has collected a swathe of literary awards for Dark Emu and now he has brought together the research and compelling first-person accounts in a book for younger readers, writes Natalie Moutafis.

As I looked for ways to ensure our bookshelf was diverse and inclusive, I added Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu to our collection after reading wonderful reviews and hearing this interview on Radio National.

This is the version of Dark Emu aimed at younger readers in years 5 and 6 and above, but really, suited to any age. While my own children are still too young for this book (at almost four and almost two) to be read to them cover-to-cover, it’s one we can still enjoy together.

We turn the pages and admire the illustrations and photos, mostly in ochre and black tones, and I describe some of the content in age-appropriate terms. I’m gently expanding on their understanding of First Nations peoples that they are already being taught in their early learning centre, and truthfully, I too am learning so much more than I was taught at school.

This book is research-based and includes first-person accounts that ask the reader to consider a ‘different truth’.

Dark Emu is a shape in the dark areas between the stars of the Milky Way. It’s a different way of seeing.

With an introduction titled ‘The Land Grab’ followed by sections addressing pre-colonial Indigenous civilisation on agriculture, aquaculture, home, food storage and fire, readers are invited to consider how Indigenous peoples lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

There is a final section on ‘Sustainable Futures’ that encourages readers to think of ways we can tap into some 120,000 years of knowledge and experience and gives hope for Australia and our place in the climate change battle.

It’s a thought-provoking book that allows people of all ages to begin to understand in clear and accessible language the ‘different truth’ and Australian history. It would also be the perfect introductory point for adults yet to read Dark Emu.

This is the next in a series of reviews of children’s books, both new and released in recent times.

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About the author and book

Bruce is a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man, and currently lives on his farm in Gippsland, Victoria. He most recently won the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books by the Children’s Book Council of Australia for Young Dark Emu.

Young Dark Emu: A Truer History by Bruce Pascoe, published by Magabala Books, RRP $24.99