Children’s Book Week review – Young Dark Emu: a truer history

 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year –

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books Notable List 2020

Announced March 30 – this book has been included in the 2020 Shortlist!

Link to Catalogue record for Young Dark Emu: a truer history

Young Dark Emu is the children’s version of the award-winning Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. It describes the history of Aboriginal Australians at the time of colonisation, and explains many parts of their lives that young people may not be aware of.

Aboriginal Australians have generally been portrayed as a hunter-gatherer society but Bruce Pascoe explains that the first Australians also used agriculture and built villages. His opinion is that the Britsh chose not to share this information so that they could declare the country ‘terra nullius’ (land belonging to no one).

There are many reference and sketches in the diaries of early explorers confirming that Aboriginal Australians did build housing and villages. These permanent settlements are “further evidence of Aboriginal people’s dependence on agriculture”.  The book includes images from explorer’s journals, including a sketch from 1840 of a village in south-western Victoria, and detailed descriptions of the size and construction of various buildings.

The book is beautiful as well as informative, with the ochre, red and black colours of the land and a mixture of sketches, close-up photography, and traditional images.

 Young Dark Emu is important reading for children and families, and will provoke conversation about the topics covered – The Land Grab, Agriculture, Aquaculture, Home, Food Storage, and Fire (very relevant after Australia’s recent devastating bushfires!).  The bibliography provides useful resources for those wishing to learn more.

There is also a detailed teachers resource provided by Reading Australia that can be used to further discuss the content of this book.

Publisher’s synopsis

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. Using the accounts of early European explorers, colonists and farmers, Bruce Pascoe compellingly argues for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. He allows the reader to see Australia as it was before Europeans arrived – a land of cultivated farming areas, productive fisheries, permanent homes, and an understanding of the environment and its natural resources that supported thriving villages across the continent. Young Dark Emu – A Truer History asks young readers to consider a different version of Australia’s history pre-European colonisation.


Awards for Dark Emu

WINNER – 2016 Indigenous Writer’s Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
WINNER – 2016 Book of the Year in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
SHORTLISTED – 2014 History Book Award in the Queensland Literary Awards
SHORTLISTED – 2014 Victorian Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing