Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book #330: Koala Lou by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Pamela Lofts

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From the day she was born, all the bush animals loved soft and cuddly Koala Lou, but it was her mother who loved her the most. All day long her mother would praise her beloved baby saying, “Koala Lou, I DO love you!” But the years pass and Koala Lou’s mother has many other children that take up her time. Her mother is too busy to express her love as she used to and Koala Lou longs to hear those words again, so she decides to train to win the gum tree climbing event at the Bush Olympics. Even though she loses the event Koala Lou learns that her mother loves her, “Koala Lou, I DO love you! I always have, and I always will.”

Koala Lou’s universal desire for attention and love will be recognized by readers of all backgrounds. The message of the book is that you don’t have to do anything special, win any awards, or be the best at anything to be loved. All you have to do is be yourself. Children will feel reassured by the ending, which shows a mother’s unconditional love for her daughter. The story will be especially meaningful to older siblings who know what it feels like to share their parents with a new sibling. Fox’s storytelling voice is intimate and warm, as though she’s telling the story just for you. As the plot progresses the pacing of the book increases and by the time the Bush Olympics come around, readers will be cheering Koala Lou on as she climbs the gum tree. The repetitive refrain, “Koala Lou, I DO love you!” gives Koala Lou a tangible goal to strive for and provides a touchstone for readers as well.

The illustrations are eye-catching and appealing. Lofts utilizes blending, color, and shading to render the wide-eyed creatures and the spectacular plants of the Bush. Filled with Australian animals including, emus, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, platypuses, etc., Lofts’ illustrations convey the heat and sun of the Australian Bush. Lofts’ use of yellow sunlight and purple shadows, not only illustrates the time of day as described in the text, but also adds a whimsical, playful touch to Koala Lou’s world. The animals are drawn true to life, although Lofts’ gives them anthropomorphic facial expressions that convey the emotions of the story and expand the personality of Koala Lou. At times Lofts seems to break the fourth wall because some of the characters seem to be staring right into the eyes of the reader.

Use this book for an Around the World or Australian themed storytime. Try pairing it with Diary of a Wombat, Possum Magic or Hunwick’s Egg. Bring in non-fiction books about Australia for kids to check out. Teach the kids the Kookaburra Song. This is a wonderful musical connection because the lyrics not only mention the “laughing” Kookaburra, but gum trees, which feature prominently in this book.

The book does not include a list of all the Australian flora and fauna in the illustrations, so bring photos and information when you share this story. Elementary school aged kids could work together to put together a supplementary booklet that would include information about each animal and plant for other classes/groups to use. Each child could pick an animal or plant to research. Information could include a photo, where the plant grows, where the animal lives, what it eats, and any other fascinating facts. The Wild Kids section of the Australian Museum website and the website for the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary are great online resources.  


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