#aww2019 · 2019 Reviews · Australian · children · new release · Picture book

Children’s Book Review: Top Koala by Jackie French and Illustrated by Matt Shanks

Title: Top Koalatop koala small

Author: Jackie French

Illustrator: Matt Shanks

Published: November 18th 2019

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 32

Genres:  Children (3+)

RRP: $24.99

Rating: 4 stars

This Koala just has to be on top!

I am top of every tree!

Top is always best to be.

And this koala is determined to be at the very top of EVERYTHING. From a mast in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race to the Parliament House flagpole in Canberra, this koala travels around Australia and tops it all!

The sequel to the delightfully funny Koala Bare, internationally renowned author Jackie French and talented illustrator Matt Shanks have created another … top-notch book.


Top Koala, is the latest collaborative story for young readers, aged three years up, from the team that released Koala Bare. Jackie French and Matt Shanks have worked in harmony to produce Top Koala, a tale about striving to be at the top of everything. This funny, whimsical and heartwarming tale will delight readers – far and wide.

Koala dreams big in Jackie’s French latest offering. Koala must be at the very top of absolutely everything. It begins with the need to be at the top of every tree, to the iconic flagpole in our nation’s capital, and big red Uluru. It seems no place or animal is unable to be conquered by this mighty Koala. We take the ultimate trip around Australia with this daredevil Koala. Along the way, we bump into a number of quintessential Aussie animals and we stop at some of our nation’s most beloved locations. A book about travel, and self-belief, Top Koala is a loving tribute to one of our most iconic native animals.

Internationally renowned author Jackie French and Matt Shanks, an incredibly gifted illustrator, have paired up again for the sequel to their highly regarded picture book, Koala Bare. What a wonderful character to revisit, I just adored this cute as a button Koala. I also loved Koala’s attitude, strong desire to be at the top of everything, daredevil antics and clear love for our country. What an inspiring story to encourage our early readers.

Jackie’s French has employed simplistic, but on target prose, which is perfectly in tune with the audience level. The book is punctuated by rhyming text, which rolls off the tongue with ease, especially if you are conducting a read aloud with this novel. There are some variances in the text, with selected words highlighted in different fonts and colours, emphasising key moments of the text. The narrative was gentle, but at the same time it was full of adventure and promise. There are funny escapades, poignant places, surprising events and sweet moments that worked to extend my enjoyment level of this text.

The illustrations of Matt Shanks perfectly offsets Jackie French’s engaging prose. The vitality and authenticity of the watercolour style artwork of Matt Shanks is so very easy on the eye. I genuinely looked forward to each turn of the page, a sense of anticipation washed over me as I wondered what place I would encounter next. My favourite page spread was the Tasmania tribute double page offering, featuring the Tasmanian devil and a gorgeous owl. While I also had a soft spot for the dedication to my own state, with the cuddly quokkas making a scene stealing appearance in Top Koala’s expedition.

I feel that there is great deal we can take from this text. From the values and personal achievement of Top Koala, there is a lesson to be learnt about self-worth, self-determination, confidence, personal attainment, goal setting and resilience. From an educational point of view, Australia’s geography and mapping skills could easily be covered, using this book as a stimulus. There are also plenty of opportunities to discuss the variety of native fauna and flora that is carefully inserted within rich text.

A truly gorgeous tribute to one of our much loved native animals, Top Koala celebrates the big things in life. It is a book that I would dearly love to see shared in all family rooms across Australia.

Top Koala by Jackie French and illustrated by Matt Shanks was published on 18th November 2019 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Top Koala, Jackie French, visit here.

I wish to thank Harper Collins Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Top Koala is book #142 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge 


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