|Fox, Mem. 1998. Koala Lou Book Cover. Illustrated by Pamela Lofts. From http://www.memfox.com/uploads/koalalou.gif|
Fox, Mem. 1988. KOALA LOU. Ill. Pamela Lofts. Orlando: Voyager Books & Harcourt Inc. ISBN 978152005021
2. PLOT SUMMARY
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.”
3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
This is a universal story set in a very specific environment. 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 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.
The most obvious cultural marker is that all the animals and plants in the illustrations and text are native to Australia. Filled with Australian animals including, emus, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, platypuses, etc., Lofts’ illustrations convey the heat and sun of the Australian Bush. There is no doubt where the story takes place. There are also a few subtle cultural markers in the text, such as the slang phrase Koala Lou’s mother uses, “How’re ya goin’, blossom?”
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. Fox’s descriptive text creates vivid mental images by telling readers how, as well as what, a character is doing. For instance, Koala Lou doesn’t just walk, she “bravely went down the path all by herself.”
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. 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.
Color is a key element in the illustrations. For instance, readers can tell the Bush Olympics is a very special occasion because the animals dress in brightly colored hats and festive flag garlands are strung between the trees. 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.
4. AWARDS/REVIEW EXCERPTS
A To Zoo 4th & 5th Editions
Best Books For Children 6th Edition
Best Books For Children 6th Edition
Kids Own Australian Literature Award (KOALA) 1999 Short-List
Review in PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY: “Lofts's colored-pencil drawings portray the Australian flora and fauna beautifully, including a few of the more exotic species.”
Review in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “Fox brings out the best in her characters, and also conveys an important message about competition without being strident or didactic. Lofts' illustrations are realistic, whimsical, and almost textured; she gives an additional depth to the animal characters by making their faces (especially the eyes) so expressive.”
Review in HORN BOOK MAGAZINE: “Pamela Lofts creates a sympathetic, sometimes zany, cast of animal participants and observers, adding many humorous touches in the attire and actions of the animals. . .”
Review in KIRKUS REVIEWS: “This satisfying reworking of a familiar and ever-important theme is appealingly illustrated--bright colors, soft-edged sculptural forms, precise detail, dozens of expressive animals. Another winning import from one of Australia's favorite authors.”
*Other picture books by Mem Fox:
Fox, Mem. 1989. WILFRID GORDON MCDONALD PATRIDGE. Ill. Julie Vivas. ISBN 9780916291266
Fox, Mem. 1992. HATTIE AND THE FOX. Ill. Patricia Mullins. ISBN 978-0689716119
Fox, Mem. 1998. TOUGH BORIS. Ill. Kathryn Brown. ISBN 978-0152018917
Fox, Mem. 2003. HARRIET, YOU’LL DRIVE ME WILD! Ill. Marla Frazee. ISBN 9780152045982
Fox, Mem. 2006. THE MAGIC HAT. Ill. Tricia Tusa. ISBN 9780152057152
*Other picture books that feature animals from Australia as protagonists:
Fox, Mem. 1991. POSSUM MAGIC. Ill. Julie Vivas. ISBN 9781467642927
Fox, Mem. 2005. HUNWICK’S EGG. Ill. Pamela Lofts. ISBN 9780152163181
French, Jackie. 2009. DIARY OF A WOMBAT. Ill. Bruce Whatley. ISBN 9780547076690
Knowledge, Sheena. 1998. EDWARD THE EMU. Ill. Rod Clement. ISBN 9780064434997
Vaughan, Marcia K. 1986. WOMBAT STEW. Ill. Pamela Lofts. ISBN 978-0382092114
*Non-fiction books about Koalas:
Hannalore, Sotzek & Kalman, Bobbie. 1997. A KOALA IS NOT A BEAR! ISBN 978-0865057395
Kalman, Bobbie & Levigne, Heather. 1997. THE LIFE CYCLE OF A KOALA. ISBN 9780778706854
Lee, Sandra. 1998. KOALAS. ISBN 978-1567663969
*Teach the kids the song, Kookaburra. 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.