Fox, Mem. 1989. Koala Lou. Illustrated by Pamela Lofts. New York: Voyager Books. ISBN 0-15-200502-1
Koala Lou was a very loved koala bear. However, it was her mother who loved her best and often said, “Koala Lou, I DO love you.” As mother’s life got busier with more children, Koala Lou heard that phrase less from her mother. In an effort to provoke her mother into saying it again, Koala Lou trained for and competed in the gum tree climbing event of the Bush Olympics. When she didn’t win, Koala Lou was devastated but was later thrilled to hear her mother profess her love all the same.
This sweet story serves to reassure young readers that even when they don’t say it, moms love us. It also serves as a reminder to moms that kids need to hear it – a situation true around the world, it seems. The story progresses at a good pace and contains great vocabulary. The illustrations support and add to the text beautifully.
An intriguing aspect of the book is its setting of Australia. The continent is represented first through its characters. The koala, kookaburra, emu, and platypus make an appearance in the text and the illustrations depict even more of the native animals. Koala Lou doesn’t compete in just any competition, she competes in the Bush Olympics and her event is to climb a Gum Tree, both of which are quite Australian. Koala Lou’s mother uses the phrase, “How’re ya going, blossom?” which rings of Australian dialect. The story is a quite universal tale but the details definitely give insight into the landscape of Australia.
From Children's Literature
The koala heroine enters the Bush Olympics and hopes to win the gum tree-climbing event so that her mother--overwhelmed by the birth of many, many koala babes--will tell her eldest daughter "Koala Lou, I DO love you." Even though Lou loses the event, she gains what she most wants: the knowledge that her mother loves her--and always will. My favorite illustration shows fluffy Lou racing in red sneakers and pumping weights. 1989, Harcourt, $14.00 and $6.00. Ages 3 to 7. Mary Quattlebaum
There are many ways this book could be used outside of just a good read aloud. First, it could be used in Geography or Social Studies if studying Australia. It could also be used by the counselors to reassure students of the love of parents even when it is unspoken. There are many vocabulary words that could be taught through the book such as splendid, ached, and spectators. Finally, the book would be a wonderful tool for teaching the use of descriptive phrases in writing. Phrases such as “cried her heart out”, “flung her arms”, and “a hush fell over the crowd” would be welcome additions to any fourth grade writing prompt.