Sinister Plush Stalker? I Don't Like Koala by Sean Ferrell
ADAM DOES NOT LIKE KOALA.
HE IS THE MOST TERRIBLE TERRIBLE.
It's his eyes--yellow-orange, slightly cockeyed, staring.
Koala is freaky spooky.
Adam's parents are appalled when his first reaction is to throw the plush animal across the room. That's not the way to act about a nice gift....
"I DON'T LIKE KOALA," ADAM SAYS.
Those eyes seem to follow Adam wherever he goes. Koala is just creepy.
Nobody understands. Each night before he goes to bed, Adam tries to get rid of Koala. He sticks him in his mom's big purse. He hides him at the bottom of the clothes hamper. He stuffs him under the sofa. But when Adam opens his eyes each morning...
KOALA IS ALWAYS THERE.
IN BED. ON HIS PILLOW.
CLOSER THAN CLOSE.
AAARRGGHHH! Adam can't take it anymore. He decides that Koala needs to go on a long, long walk to nowhere. With Koala crammed in his backpack, he hikes high into the hills and leaves Koala leaning against a tree, his yellowish eyes staring off into the opposite direction. Adam hightails it back home without a backward look. Mission accomplished.
AND THERE IS KOALA!
Okay. This is clearly freaky deaky. It's clearly not Mom, tidying up before bed, putting Koala next to him every night. Adam lies in bed, trying not to look at Koala staring at him, and tries to be brave. But now even the shadows of the leafless tree outside his window seem sinister.
Surprisingly, Adam finds he is kinda glad to have Koala on watch with him.
MAYBE KOALA ISN'T SO TERRIBLE AFTER ALL.
But when his fond parents peep in on him, snoozing comfortably with his plush pal, Mom smiles tenderly at the cozy sight. Dad, though, suddenly gets a gander at Koala's weird eyes glinting back at him in the moonlight.
"I don't like Koala!." he whispers to Mom.
Sean Ferrell's I Don't Like Koala (Atheneum, 2015) is a sly, layered story that requires just the right illustrator, and artist Charles Santoso is that man. Into his quintessentially homey setting, Santoso's colored pencil drawings subtly juxtapose Koala, superficially a cutesy stuffed animal whose gaze is both goofy and somehow sinister, but with just enough of the look of the horror movie dummy Chucky to plant a humorous sleeper of a gotcha ending for savvy readers. Some kids may be all too happy to close the cover on Koala, but fans who savor Jon Klaas's wickedly funny books will wish Koala a rapid return appearance to the picture book page.