Recently I shared details of my fascination for Australian animals when I wrote about Big Red Kangaroo written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne. I immediately preordered their next title – Emu which was just released in North America in April (Candlewick Press 2015) Little did I know that I am absolutely enchanted by the emu but after reading this nonfiction book, I am. Fully and completely! These tall, flightless birds are the second largest birds in the world and are found only in Australia.
Byrne’s illustrations are so appealing. The emu’s feathers look as if they have been dipped in gold dust under the Australian sun. Grassland is dry and rugged. Shadows of trees, black silhouettes in the burning sunlight or pale blue hints of branches and leafy canopies. Papa emu has a starring role in this story of emu hatchlings from birth to adulthood.
I learned so much! Some highlights:
- The emu father is completely responsible for raising the emu fledglings. As soon as the eggs are laid, the female has nothing more to do with hatching or raising the young birds.
- The male emu spends 8 weeks on the nest, seldom leaving. During this time, without food or drink, he can lose up to 22 pounds.
- Emu chicks are born with brown and cream stripes perfect for blending in to the grasslands where they find food and shelter
- Adult emus can outrun most predators and will fight only if cornered.
- Adult emus are often solitary but are known as inquisitive birds.
I can see this book being used in a variety of ways in the classroom. Read it aloud and have students
- compare ostriches and emus in a venn diagram
- list fascinating facts and complete a new knowledge web or organize information into an informative paragraph
- draw and label an emu habitat
- draw and label (with important details) the emu’s body
- chart various ways emu fathers protect their young from predators (strategies for evading eagles, coyotes and goannas are explained in the book)
- complete an emu art piece in its habitat – I can see gorgeous pieces being done with watercolours and chalk pastel for accent
- inspire an inquiry project to discover what other species have males that take on such an important role in nurturing and raising young
Rich topics of discussion this book will inspire: nesting habits of birds, survival in various habitats, Australian animals, Australian eco systems, predator/prey dynamics, raising young, etc.
I really hope that author and illustrator have plans to collaborate again and create another book about a different Australian animal.
Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2015. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!