A boy receives a stuffed animal that he really doesn’t like—and it’s not hard to see why.
Koala arrives in an exciting, striped gift box, but still, Adam pulls faces and insists, “I don’t like Koala.” His parents don’t understand, but readers will. Koala doesn’t look soft or friendly, and he’s alarmingly mouthless. When Adam wakes up in the morning, Koala’s tiny claws are pressing into Adam’s cheek. It’s too bad that Santoso uses strabismus (in which one eye’s focus doesn’t align with the other’s) to portray the cold, yellow stare of Koala’s “terrible eyes.” Hijacking strabismus, a real-life condition, to indicate danger or symbolize creepiness is a distinctly questionable choice. Otherwise, the tale is hilarious, especially Adam’s (unsuccessful) attempts to banish Koala. At bedtime, “Adam puts Koala away. Away is a lot of different places”—inside a saucepan, atop the fridge, behind a plant and in a purse. Like that fabled cat, Koala always comes back. Even an intentional abandonment trip—over hills, around rocks, among trees—doesn’t work. Meanwhile, clever artwork shows that Adam may not have traveled as far as he claims. Santoso’s sly pencil illustrations, colored digitally in a mostly blue, gray and brown palette, resemble animation with shading and texturizing lines. The end features a twist and a closing line worthy of Sandra Boynton’s But Not the Hippopotamus (1982).
Slightly creepy, funny and fun. (Picture book. 4-7)