Written by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Pamela Lofts
Gulliver Books, 1988
There was once a baby koala so soft and round that all who saw her loved her. Her name was Koala Lou.
Did You Know? Male koalas have vocal folds outside of their larynx, enabling them to produce sounds at a pitch 20% lower than it should be for their body size.
Everyone loves her, but the one who loves Koala Lou best is her mother and she frequently tells how much she loves her, especially when she does something new or special. As the years go by, though, her mother has other babies and she doesn’t have quite as much time to spend with Koala Lou or tell her how much she loves her. So Koala Lou plans to compete in the Bush Olympics and win the gum tree climbing event, which she believes will cause her mother to hug her close and tell her that she loves her again. She practices and practices and on the day of the event, she climbs to the very top of the tree, but it’s not high enough to beat Koala Klaws and Koala Lou comes in second. She goes off somewhere private to cry and when she comes home, her mother is waiting to hug her close and tell her she loves her. She adds that she always has and always will.
On her website, Australian author Mem Fox cites this book as one of her very favorites and tells the story behind its creation. Ms. Fox was the oldest of three children, so the sibling rivalry depicted in this story was a very real part of her childhood growing up. When singer Olivia Newton-John approached her to write a children’s story called Koala Blue to sell in her retail store (Koala Blue), Ms. Fox was inspired by the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and her memories of sibling rivalry to write this story. The book deal with Ms. Newton-John eventually fell apart, so she changed the character’s name to Koala Lou and reworked it for publication on her own.
The artwork, from Pamela Lofts, incorporates lots of different Australian animal species, which is just wonderful since they have the most unusual and interesting animals in the world. Koala Lou is drawn just as adorably as she should be so that readers will love her just as much as everyone else is said to do. I love her use of color, as well, bringing lots of colorful flags, hats and flowers into the landscape, which might otherwise be just a collection of various shades of brown and green. I don’t feel that this book demonizes the busy mother or makes her look neglectful at all, which is important. It’s clear to me that Koala Lou understands that her mother loves her all the time, whether she’s explicitly saying it or not. And when she understands that, it reminds the reader that they are loved, too.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the ones who love you may not always say it multiple times a day, but you can usually tell that the love is still there.