32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
If there is anything more than an Australian who hates hearing koalas being labelled “bears”, it is the koalas themselves.
I may be furry, fat and square-
but I am definitely not a bear!
In this joyful romp in rhyme Koala points out to the little bird trying to stick a “bear” label on his toe why he is not a teddy, a grizzly, a panda, a polar bear, or any other sort of bear – not even one from Goldilocks.
Who wants blue or yellow fur?
Grey is the colour I prefer!
he says in absolute disdain of teddies and as for wearing trousers!! Teddy bears may feel superior, but not when faced with my posterior!
Jackie French is a most gifted and versatile author, writing for and entertaining older readers with the fabulous Matilda saga ; the newly independents with her Secret History series; history buffs with her family’s story about Horace and of course the very young with the tales about her resident wombat and echidna. And now she has again drawn on the wonderful wildlife of her idyllic bush home to entertain and educate about koalas! For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Jackie’s writing apart from telling a ripper yarn which has to be paramount, is her ability to teach as she tells so the reader finishes the book so much richer for having read it.
But there is also a strong message that we are each unique and as individuals we shouldn’t be stereotyped or taken for what we are not. As a natural redhead I’ve been plagued with assumptions that I have a fiery temper when really I’m quite placid and reasonable, and if I fire up it’s the issue at hand and nothing to do with my hair colour. Everywhere we turn these days people are being labelled based on what they look like not who they are and this is a great story to start young readers thinking about the value of the individual rather than judging by how they are dressed or the colour of their skin.
Matt Shanks has emphasised the gentle but firm thread of this story with his soft lines and light palette using watercolours. Even the cover is soft to touch. The addition of the scholarly cockatoo taking notes on each page is masterful. Little ones will enjoy looking for him while others might predict what he has learned and recorded from each experience. There’s an opportunity to summarise right there – informal, in context and purposeful!
Apart from being a must-have addition to the library’s collection, this is the perfect gift for any little ones but particularly those who live overseas. Maybe it will help dispel the belief that koalas are bears and save the grating on the ears from all those who know they are NOT!
Teaching notes are available but whether the little ones for whom this is intended need to know the technicalities of ‘onset and rime’ baffles me. This is where schools stomp on the joy and wonder of reading – they have to teach a curriculum that focuses on deconstructing text rather than constructing imagination and wonderment! Shame, ACARA, shame!