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Koala Hospital, by Suzi Eszterhas, tells about a wild animal rescue program in Australia

Koala Hospital – A Great Book for Young Readers

Koala Hospital
by Suzi Eszterhas
Owlkids Books (October 2015)

In Koala Hospital, wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas introduces readers to the world’s only hospital for the universally adored and incredibly cute marsupial: the Australian koala. In the delightful 48-page book, targeted for kids (ages 7–10), Ms. Eszterhas blends weighty matters like conservation issues with fun stuff like a fascinating walk-through a koala check-up.

The book documents the work of Cheyne Flanagan and volunteers at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, Australia.

Through well-organized and engaging text, the rescue, care and release of these injured, ill, and orphaned marsupials is laid out, as is the hard work of koala volunteers, including round-the-clock feedings from their human “foster moms,” where the koalas are sent after their initial exam and treatment until they can be released back into the wild.(Indeed, all the volunteers and animal vets of the Koala Hospital pictured are women.)

Splashy full-page photographs abound with plenty of loving interaction between caretakers and their charges.  Koala photos are so clear you expect to feel the fuzz on their pink chins when you touch the page. (Koalas, by the way. aren’t related to bears, but are a species of marsupials, found only in Australia.)

From my own experience as a wildlife rehabilitator, the first photo of hospital head Cheyne Flanagan with her smiling face just inches away from a wild, adult koala made me nervous. Wasn’t she risking a bite from the wild animal? But later, it’s explained that koalas seek reassurance by sniffing the nose of their mother or caretaker, a nice insight into wild-animal behavior.

Readers learn many fun tidbits such as how to get sick koalas down from treetops. They meet Buster, brought to the hospital after being hit by a car. They learn the reasons behind declines in koala populations, as well as actions that kids can easily take to help.

Every page of text is packed with enough information to spawn a full discussion: about the rather toxic eucalyptus leaves that koalas relish and consume in huge quantities, about the varied reasons that koalas wind up in hospital, about the long history of the species in Australia. Koala Hospital does a fine job of bringing important issues of wild animal conservation, through the story of the cuddly koalas, to kids’ consciousness.

Koala Hospital delivers an enlightening, warm-hearted insight into koalas and their keepers, and includes a page of glossary terms and an “Ask the Author” page.

The book is highly recommended for all interested in wild animal and habitat conservation and in animal rescue stories. While the book is perfect for kids in Grades 1 to 5, any reading in a school classroom, library, or home setting is sure to launch a series of great questions and concerns that will help all of us, young and old, to consider what we can do to help wild animals – and why it’s important to understand their special behavior and habitat needs so we can truly do a good job of helping!

Author Website: Suzi Eszterhas

Publisher Website: Owlkids – Koala Hospital page

The Hospital website: Koala Hospital – Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility in Australia

Koala facts: http://www.koalahospital.org.au/education/the-facts
and http://www.koalahospital.org.au/education/koala-faqs

National Geographic page with koala facts: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/koala

[This book review is by Cathleen Burnham, documentary photographer and author of Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon and Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica. ]

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