Edward the Emu


Written by Sheena Knowles, Illustrated by Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 1988

Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,

There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do,

And compared to the seals that lived right next door,

Well being an emu was frankly a bore.

Did You Know? An emu egg can weigh about the same as 12 chicken eggs.

When the zookeeper goes home for the night, Edward moves into the seal’s pen and spends the next day being a seal, balancing a ball on his nose and diving into the water. Then he overhears someone saying lions are better than seals. So the next night, he tries to become a lion, roaring and growling at visitors. He enjoys himself until he overhears someone say they prefer snakes. Of course, the next day, Edward is doing his best at being a snake, curling himself around a tree and hissing. This time, he overhears a guest saying they like emus the best. He returns to his pen, only to find a new emu in his place. She introduces herself as Edwina and tells him he’s the best thing she’s seen in the zoo.

This was the first book from author Sheena Knowles and she followed it up several years later with Edwina the Emu, which takes place in this story’s future, when Edward and Edwina have a family. I really liked this story and the self-acceptance message that it conveys. I suppose everyone has had that ‘grass is always greener’ moment when you look at someone else whose life seems so much more interesting and awesome than yours. I appreciate that Ms. Knowles made this story circular, with Edward continuing to try new and ‘better’ species until he finds he’s right back where he started. Without coming out and saying it, it shows that the quest for what’s best for you can lead you right back to something you’ve taken for granted.

Snake and emu

At least they see eye to eye.

Rod Clement’s illustrations are just fantastic. Each species is drawn with a meticulous eye for capturing everything about their particular physiology, which adds to the comic appeal of the story but also makes the reader consider the ways that each species is similar and different. For example, the beautiful image of a lion sleeping in a tree is directly opposite a hilarious picture of Edward trying to sleep in the same way. Having another emu there when Edward gets back also sends the subtle message to be careful what you give up, since you may not always have the chance to get it back. It’s a simple and fun to read book that I think anyone would enjoy.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that you should never try to be anything but exactly who you are, because the people who think you’re special wouldn’t have it any other way.


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