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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Edwina the Emu

Author: Sheena Knowles
Illustrator: Rod Clement
Publisher: Angus Robertson, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 1996

I was passed this book on a bookstall at a school fayre; 'here'said the bookstall mum, 'you'll like this one, it's about a feminist emu, and it's pretty funny'. And she was right, it's really funny, Australian dry humour funny, and a 'feminist emu', why of course!
With loud, brash and garish illustrations, we meet Edwina and Edward, emus in love and expecting a brood of ten. On realising the news Edward shouts, 'YEEK!' and so starts the catchphrase of the book: 'he seemed to be choking, 'Ten litttle emus? you've got to be joking.' being the more collected of the pair, Edwina offers to leave the nest and go and seek work, in order to afford the brood. Edwina tries several jobs, as a ballerina, a chimney sweep and as a waitress. As each ends in an emu related drama, Edwina realises her calling is to sit on the nest (part time only, in a job share with Edward!)  I love this portrayal of a strong, independent thinking, progressive female, and the turn the story takes without compromising the central protagonist's empowerment. 

The bawdy carictures of other job seekers fit well with the laugh-out-loud storyline, an emu being equal to man in a queue at the bus stop, for example. The text is fun also, with simple rhyming couplets ( Some times the rhyme itself is a little over worked and tenuous, but again, this adds to the amusement!) The book looks and feels very Australian, with this loud swaggering humour and moments of irony, such as Edwina gettting a job as a chimney sweep and using her body to sweep the the whole chimney. 

My daughter dislikes Rod Clements' use of starring, googly and bloodshot eyes, which do, I think, put young people off the book. The faces of shock in the book, just aren't the more refined British interpretation of 'shocked face', they're too confrontational. The messages in the book are, however, hugely welcome, insighting a positive sense of womanhood, and promoting shared roles and duties as parents. I like that when Edwina returns to the nest, partner Edward is exhausted; a commment on the stresses of running a home for either gender. 
All in all, an uplifting read, embracing working women and equality in relationships.

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