Koala life lessons

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandmother’s lap while she read to me. I recall several of those old books, a favorite being the story of a koala.

I don’t know what happened to the original book, but a few years ago I found a vintage copy online and ordered it.

First of all, check out the 1968 price: 49¢. And secondly…yeah, koalas aren’t bears. Many a year passed before I realized this.

I loved Kobo the koala who sings to himself in rhyme and the story of what happens when he grows tired of living in trees, eating only “leaves for breakfast and leaves for dinner. It’s a wonder to me I’m not getting thinner.”

Kobo decides he will find a new home. Off he saunters (the vocabulary is so rich) for quite an adventure.

He encounters a platypus, another animal I loved at first sight. Kobo meets a number of other creatures: a kangaroo, a kookaburra, and Dingo, the wild dog who chases him back to his tree. Kobo learns in the end that his tree is exactly what he needs; he would not be happy living like the other creatures or having to eat what they do.

This is where Kobo belongs.

So all my life I’ve known where koalas live and what they need to eat…here is what I’ve learned about them in recent years:

They have fingerprints like humans.

They are the only living (extant) member the family Phascolarctidae.

Koala comes from indigenous language meaning “no-drink” or “no-water,” for these animals don’t drink much due to their exclusive eucalyptus-leaf diet. To see one drinking water isn’t a good sign.

In the times of drought and fires destroying their habitat, koalas have approached humans, begging for water.

Koala numbers are in decline due to deforestation, brushfires, vehicles, and yes…dogs.

In some parts of their eastern Australia home koalas are considered endangered.

I can’t help thinking how Kobo’s story would be so different, written today…he couldn’t return home if home is gone.

Of course koalas aren’t alone in this. I see it here on the other side of the world, with more and more land being cleared for neighborhoods. Not so long ago a white-spotted fawn came running through the yard to crash into my house, hard enough to dent the siding and leave a little patch of blood, before pivoting on its gangly legs and streaking back across the lawn to the woods. I never knew what became of it or its mother.

Then there are trees themselves, living things that actually communicate and work together to survive, until they are gone.

And then there are people. Refugees. Borders. Wars. One cannot go home when home is gone…

And children, so needing that sense of belonging…for our childhoods follow us all of our lives.

I suppose that was what was in my mind when I saw the stuffed koala at the store the other day and bought it to keep at my house for my granddaughters to play with when they come. Memories of my own grandmother. The books. The love. The sense of being wanted, valued, sheltered.

Micah, sixteen months old, immediately noticed it sitting atop the toybox in the living room on her next visit. Her face lit up. She toddled over to the koala, picked it up, and hugged it close. “Baby,” she said. “Baby.”

She is a baby herself.

But she already knows something about caring.

Kobo himself might say it’s the beginning of finding the way home, before too much is lost.

Mother and Child. jimbowen0306. CC BY 2.0.


with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the monthlong Slice of Life Story Challenge

and to Kobo the Koala Bear, written by Marjory Schwaljé, illustrated by Katherine Sampson

and to Grandma, for all the reading
and belonging

14 thoughts on “Koala life lessons

  1. What started out as a memory of your favorite book quickly turned into a reflection of the world today and what is happening to koalas and other animals as humans encroach on their space. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Definitely gives me lots to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kobo (and Grandma) taught me early on about respecting life and importance of belonging. Koalas pull hard on my heartstrings today…as do many facets of nature, as does story…for in the end, all our stories are connected. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fran, the deep stirrings and strings here are heartfelt. There is legacy, belonging, finding one’s way, identity, purpose, family, and most of all love. Your memories of your grandmother reading to you are cherished, I know. I remember my days of listening to stories at an early age, too, and I am convinced they shaped me into who I am today. No doubt. Micah and Scout are so blessed to have a grandmother who learned this early and knows that carrying on the tradition of reading begins early – – indeed, while they are yet babies. Those books of yesteryear taught us lessons. We need to rewrite the oldies that are the best. The 49 cent’ers offered the best wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post – I don’t know that book – but I have found childhood books that I loved and touched me. It’s so much fun to enjoy them again in a new way. And Micah being able to connect with them (in a baby Koala way) is so precious. Thank you, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The memories of the book made me think “oh, what a wonderful introduction to Australian wildlife and ecosystems!”. But then…the somber reminders of our failed stewardship of this beautiful planet. More and more, I am reminded that I need to do my part, too, as consumerism is a piece of this puzzle. A thought-filled and thought-prompting post, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stewardship is a perfect word to bring in here, Chris – a serious and sacred thing it is to care for the Earth and the diverse life it sustains. For all the hardiness and amazing cleansing, renewing capabilities of our planet, balances are more delicate than we realize. We’ve even gone beyond its borders and littered space with trash…there are lots of astonishing stats and graphics, but that’s a different post! Many thanks for your reflective words.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely post again, Fran. So cool that koalas are at the centre of your musings today. I think the commonest shriek in Australia from students today is that ‘a koala isn’t a bear’ but obviously back in 1968 it didn’t have quite the same ‘horror’ effect! I love how you have tied in so many threads around the idea of home and how important it is… and yet, if you don’t have a home to return to, what do you do? My heart aches for refugees worldwide and I teach the poor children in our school, you may be poor but you have a home to go to.


  6. I do believe your grandchildren will love this book, too. I enjoyed your story as you progressed from the book of your youth to current problems for koalas to sharing with the future generation-your grandkids.


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