HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Coco the Koala
Author and Illustrator: Vera De Backker
Publisher: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2000
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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De Backker, Vera. Coco the Koala (published in 2000 by Gareth Stevens Publishing). Though reputed to be quite vicious in the wild, koalas are usually thought of in stories as some of the cutest and most cuddly creatures on earth. In this book, originally written in Dutch and translated into English. a little koala named Coco, that lives in the jungle and loves to cuddle with her Mama, has to amuse herself, so she goes off on a series of adventures, meeting all sorts of animals along the way, each with a special ability (i.e. swing, swim, slither, run). The possum swings through the trees by its tail, and the frog can leap to the other side of pond. Coco tries to imitate them, but ends up getting into trouble. An emu gives the little koala a ride home. She feels sad because she thinks that she has no unique talent, but then her mother gives her a hug and tells her what koalas do best.
We checked this book out of the library when our younger son Jeremy was beginning to read. He thought that the book was delightful. At one point, Coco misses a tree branch, falls into the water, gets her tummy stuck in the mud, and leaps right onto a crocodile who flings her through the air with his tail. Some have suggested that the crocodile could potentially be a little scary for little ones, with his big open mouth insinuating that he might eat the koala, but it didn’t bother our son and the book as a whole is not frightening. While Coco has a rather harrowing day, the illustrations in pastel colors and the sweet looking little koala soften the story line. The pictures give hints as to whom Coco is going to meet next, and as children begin to identify the pictures they can start reading some of the words on their own. It also has a nice message that we all are good at something, which is a bonus. Other books in the series include Coco’s Surprise (2000, with text by Karen Pellikaan) and Coco Makes Music (2000).