Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: Koala Lou

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Find at Amazon.ca
Title: Koala Lou
Author: Mem Fox (website)
Illustrator: Pamela Lofts
Publisher: Sandpiper
Year: 1994
ISBN: 978-0152000769
Format: Paperback, also available in hardcover
Pages: 32
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader
Kid Love Factor: 4/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 4/5

Koala Lou is the cutest koala around. Everyone loves her, especially her mother who, no matter what Koala Lou gets into, repeats the refrain “Koala Lou, I DO love you.” Eventually Koala Lou’s mother gets so distracted by her younger children (5!) that she no longer has time to tell Koala Lou how much she loves her. Koala Lou yearns to hear it again and sets out to win the gum tree climbing event at the Bush Olympics to make her mother proud.

The years passed and other koalas were born -- brothers and sisters for Koala Lou.
Soon her mother was so busy she didn’t have time to tell Koala Lou that she loved her.
Although of course she did.

Koala Lou trains very hard for the Olympics and performs admirably, but it’s not enough. She comes in second and having pinned all her hopes on winning and regaining her mother’s love, she is devastated. All is well in the end, however; Koala Lou creeps back home in despair only to be greeted by her mother, who throws her arms around her and announces “Koala Lou, I DO love you!”

The story is cute and cuddly, as are the illustrations. The opening pages give a nice sense of how much Koala Lou’s mother cares for her, and it’s hard not to feel bad for Koala Lou as she struggles to regain her mom’s attention. The rhyming repetition of “Koala Lou, I DO love you” is charming without being overly sweet, and Koala Lou’s despair at losing comes across loud and clear.

The book holds three important lessons that I can see, two for the kids and one for the parents.
1) Winning isn’t everything, effort is often just as important;
2) Parents love their kids, even if they don’t always take the time to say so; and
3) For goodness sake, remember to tell your kids how much you love them, repeatedly, even if you’re stressed to the gills.

For those of us who don’t live Down Under, this is a wonderful book to introduce animals different from the norm in most zoo books. Koalas and emus and platypuses, oh my! [Memo to the English language: please sort out the mess that revolves around pluralizing platypus and octopus. Thank you.]

Boo loves this story. After we read it, there’s a 95% chance his immediate response will be “Adain?” (to translate, replace ‘d’ with ‘g’).

Autism Spectrum Bonus: The repetition of “Koala Lou, I DO love you!” is a great place to pause and encourage imitation or verbalization once you’ve read the story through a few times. If your child has a Special Interest in animals, there are an abundance that he or she may be less familiar with, unless of course you’re Australian. In addition, the value of explicitly telling any child you love them is priceless, but even more so for children who may not make the connection between hugs (assuming hugs are desired or tolerated) or other fond body language and love. For older kids, the disconnect between how Koala Lou’s mother feels and what Koala Lou understands may also be a good start to a discussion on differing perspectives and assumptions. And Koala Lou’s devastation at losing and her subsequent cheering up may lead to helpful discussions if you’ve got an overly competitive and/or easily discouraged child on your hands.

Bottom Line:
Koala Lou, we DO love you!

Links:

Koala Lou at Amazon.ca

Koala Lou at Amazon.com

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