So a package arrived the other day from my Aunt Claire. Like most parcels these days, it mostly included stuff for my soon-to-arrive son and already well established daughter. Amongst this particular treasure trove was a book. An Australian book to be exact. And inside said book was a note; a request to review it right here in this ol’ blog o’ mine.
Challenge accepted Claire.
Now if you’ve read my previous book reviews you know that I often find myself reading the same books over, and over, and over again. It can get to be tiresome. And as a result, I have learned to be a bit critical with their content, ranking them on the following dad-centric criteria:
- How fun is it to read?
- What is the quality of the artwork?
- How high is the reading level?
If a book scores highly in all three, I’m much more likely to indulge Audrey’s book reading whims and drive a particular book into the ground. So with that in mind, let’s peck our way into Sheena Knowles’s “Edward the Emu” and see what tasty nuggets we find inside.
How Fun is It to Read?
“Edward the Emu” is the tale of an emu at a zoo who finds himself bored with his lot in life. As a result, he decides to try life out as a seal, a lion, and finally a snake, only then realizing that just being himself was not so bad after all. This rinse and repeat structure–followed by a true revelation–is not new to anyone who has read their fair share of children’s books. It’s pretty tried and true. But it works! It’s fun.
Why? Part of it is the rhyming. Knowles is no Seuss, but the rhyming found within “Edward the Emu” definitely elevates the book’s enjoyment level in my opinion. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m going to read a book a million times over, I’d rather have it rhyme.
The second part is right in the title: the emu. It’s an unusual protagonist for…well, anything. The word itself is fun to say too. Why is this important? Well, that comes from my daughter. “Emooooo! Emoooooo!” she’ll cheer as I read the book. If that ain’t fun, I don’t know what is.
And the final part? Well…
What is the Quality of the Artwork?
I generally don’t like realistic artwork in the books I read to Audrey. I’m more of a fan of the cartoony style. So, on the surface you might expect that I would not approve of Edward’s visuals. Happily this is not the case at all. While the style is more true to life, the joy of it comes from the content.
For example, here is a lion with an emu’s feet on its head:
And behold, a mildly perplexed seal:
Fun, right? I think so. And my daughter does too.
How High is the Reading Level?
At risk of sounding snooty, I generally try to read books to my girl that are a bit beyond her reading level. This is not only because I feel that they stimulate her to a greater degree, but because they interest me more as well. And if they interest me, I’m more likely to read them to her. Simple.
So how does Edward stack up? It’s suggested for ages 4-8 first of all, so that should give you some sort of indication. It also features the word “detest”. How many kid’s books can say that? But beyond the sophistication of the grammar and text, the material itself lends itself to a slightly older audience. The theme of the book is about finding oneself in the face of jealousy toward others, after all. Fairly heavy stuff for a 2-year-old. Of course, that all goes right over her head. She’s more interested in the animals involved, the artwork, and the discovery of this strange new bird called an emu. But I appreciate the deeper elements, and that helps me put it near the top of her nightly reading list.
So all in all, Claire, I think you did pretty darn well here. “Edward the Emu” is a book that works on many levels. It’s simple enough for the youngsters, deep enough for older children, and fun to read for a jaded thirty-something father like myself. If you’re looking for something new to read your child, you can’t go wrong with this one at all.