STARRED REVIEW
April 14, 2015

Hate at first sight for a creepy toy

By Sean Ferrell, illustrated by Charles Santoso
Review by

It’s not often you see picture books capable of both humor and genuine creepiness.

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It’s not often you see picture books capable of both humor and genuine creepiness.

Before we even get to the title page of Sean Ferrell's I Don't Like Koala, readers see a boy, with glee, opening a present. Then, lo and behold, on the title page itself, staring out of the box it came in, is a stuffed koala. On the next spread, Adam is well on the other side of the room, far from the box: “Adam does not like Koala,” the narrator tells us.

Koala is “the most terrible terrible.” His eyes follow Adam, no matter where he goes, and Adam repeatedly tries to get rid of him. But he just keeps reappearing. Unless readers want to make the leap that Koala is somehow ghoulishly sentient and ambulatory when no one’s looking (hey, anything’s possible in fiction), I suppose we are to assume that poor Adam has a love-hate relationship with his stuffed animal. He’s just not willing to accept the love part. Either that or his parents are the ones repeatedly placing the toy next to him. After all, every night—despite all his protestations—the creature ends up on his pillow, “closer than close.” In one laugh-aloud spread, dominated by copious white space, readers merely see the boy’s arms, bottom left, and Koala flying through the air.

Therein lies the book’s greatest charm: its very understated humor. This works well, in large part thanks to Charles Santoso’s illustrations: The colors are restrained, yet Adam’s expressions are often off-the-chart funny. In one spread, Adam’s father tells him it’s clear he really loved his snack. Adam, who is playing away from the table, acts confused, and readers see behind him on the table an empty plate and—you guessed it—Koala. He’s lying there and staring straight at the reader. BOO. Adam’s face on the next spread is comedy gold.  

In the end, Adam finds comfort in Koala, and Ferrell wraps it all up with a very funny and unexpected comic rimshot.

It’s a story with a lot to like.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

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I Don’t Like Koala

I Don’t Like Koala

By Sean Ferrell, illustrated by Charles Santoso
Atheneum
ISBN 9781481400688

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