Rainbow the Koala

Holt. (Surviving the Wild). Apr. 2022. 112p. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781250785442.
Gr 1-3–One of two books in a new wildlife-focused graphic novel series from critically acclaimed author Lai, this tale follows a young koala named Rainbow as he spends the first year of his life learning the ins and outs of surviving the wild with his mom, until the day she sends him off to live on his own. After a few false starts, Rainbow’s search for a new, unoccupied tree proves fruitful; however, his search for water in the dry, parched climate takes him beyond the bush and into human territory. Escaping a curious family (and their angry dog) puts Rainbow into the path of a bigger danger—a ravenous, quick-spreading bushfire. This thoughtful and emotional adventure from Lai emphasizes self-reliance and learning through experience in order to find one’s way in the world. The increasingly serious story line is made more palatable for young readers thanks to gentle, soft-lined illustrations depicting adorable animals, along with some occasional mild humor. The negative impacts of climate change, such as rising temperatures, lack of water and sustenance, and fires, are an important reoccurring element within the narrative. In particular, the intense bushfire scenes and pages of wordless, starkly illustrated aftermath are standout moments that will drive home the large toll that climate change events take on wildlife and their ecosystems. Following Rainbow’s tale is an informative section that covers the 2019–20 Australian bushfires, koala facts, and ways that kids can make a difference.
VERDICT Though high on the adorable factor, this is also a powerful, stirring example of the devastating impact of climate change.

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