Meet the Koala!1 A warm breeze blows through a forest in Australia. Leaves rustle asthe branches sway back and forth. Between one of the branches and thetree’s trunk, you can see a furry creature. Even though the tree movesgently in the breeze, the creature stays still—it’s asleep! What is thissleepy animal? It’s a koala!
What Are Koalas?
2 Many people think koalas are bears, but they are not. Instead, theybelong to a group of animals called marsupials. Kangaroos and opossumsare marsupials, too. Marsupials are animals that have a pocket of skin forcarrying their babies. This pocket is called a pouch. Only femalemarsupials have pouches. A female koala’s pouch is on her stomach.
3 Marsupials are also mammals. Mammals are animals that have warmblood, have fur or hair on their bodies, and feed their babies mother’smilk. People, dogs, and cows are mammals, too. [ … ]
Where Do Koalas Live?
4 Koalas live only in the eastern half of Australia. They live in forests ofeucalyptus (yoo-kuh-LIP-tuss) trees. A koala’s body is perfect for life inthe trees. Each of its hands has two thumbs. These thumbs are ideal forgrabbing branches. Sharp claws on the koala’s hands and feet also helpthe animal climb.
5 Koalas move about by climbing across branches. When they want tomove to a nearby tree, they leap across and use their claws to grab onto abranch. If the trees are farther apart, the koala must climb down the treeand walk on the ground to reach the new tree.
What Do Koalas Eat?
6 Koalas are very fussy eaters. In fact, just about the only thing they willeat is eucalyptus leaves! Koalas will also eat acacia (uh-KAY-shuh) andmelaleuca (mel-uh-LYOO-kuh) leaves, but eucalyptus leaves are by fartheir favorite.
7 There are many kinds of eucalyptus trees, but koalas eat the leaves ofonly a few types. They are even fussy about which leaves they eat. Beforethey eat a leaf, they carefully check and smell it. If it isn’t quite right,they leave the leaf alone and move to the next one.
8 Koalas aren’t very active. They spend most of the day sleeping in thetrees. When a sleepy koala moves, it often looks as if it’s in slow motion.Why don’t koalas have a lot of energy? It’s because of their food.Eucalyptus leaves don’t provide much energy, so koalas move slowlymost of the time.
9 Eucalyptus leaves do provide a lot of water, though. In fact, they holdalmost all the water a koala needs to drink. Every once in a while, a koalamight climb down to the ground for a drink. But it doesn’t stay on theground for long! As soon as it can, it climbs back up into the safety of thetrees. […]
Do Koalas Have Any Enemies?
10 Koalas spend almost all of their lives high in the treetops. There theyare safe from most enemies. Sometimes, however, koalas are attacked bylarge owls, wedge-tailed eagles, pythons, or even giant lizards. Wild dogscalled dingoes also eat koalas if they find them on the ground.
11 The koalas’ worst enemy, however, is people. Many forest areas wherekoalas once lived have been destroyed to make room for cities, roads,and farmland. With fewer eucalyptus trees, koalas have less food to eatand fewer places to live. Many koalas are also hurt or killed trying tocross roads to reach new trees.
Are Koalas in Danger?
12 In the early 1900s, koalas were hunted for their thick fur. Laws werefinally passed to protect koalas from hunters. Even so, the number ofkoalas stayed low because of the loss of their forest homelands. Today,koalas have made a slight comeback, but they still need people to protectthe forests in which they live. If the koalas lose more of their forestareas, they might be in danger of becoming rare once again.
13 The people of Australia are now trying to protect koalas. They have setaside special areas with plenty of eucalyptus trees where the koalas canlive. These special areas are called preserves. In preserves, theeucalyptus trees are safe, too. If people continue to take care ofAustralia’s eucalyptus forests, koalas will be munching leaves for a long,long time.
1 The best thing about living on 20th Avenue South was everything. […]
2 But the very best thing about living on 20th Avenue South was Oscar.Oscar was Ruby’s baby brother. When he was brand-new, he felt as solidas wrapped tuna from the Pike Place Market and smelled like fresh baked daan taht.He was more beautiful than Ruby had imagined. Shehad waited a very long time for him. And when he came home from thehospital, she had nearly forgotten that she had wished for a puppy.
3 The second very best thing about living on 20th Avenue South wasEmma. […] Emma also had a baby brother. When he was brand-new, he,too, felt like wrapped fish and smelled like something freshly baked. Samwas more beautiful than Emma had imagined. She had waited a very longtime for him. And when he arrived, she and Ruby became as close assisters.
4 Sam weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces, at birth. So did Oscar. Sam scored a9.5 out of a perfect 10 on his Apgar test.So did Oscar. […] Sam sat up.So did Oscar. Sam cut his first tooth. So did Oscar.
5 Sam said his first word.
6 “Da,” he said.
7 Emma beamed.
8 “Da da da,” he said. In case nobody heard, he said it louder, “Da dada!”
9 Ruby looked at Oscar. Oscar looked at Ruby. Oscar really was thecutest little brother on 20th Avenue South. He had headlight eyes, adrippy tongue, and a runny little nose. Ruby liked doing her magic tricksfor Oscar, who cooed and drooled and clapped under their plum tree.Ruby’s magic show had many fans, but Oscar was the best one of all.When everyone else went home, Oscar was still there. Oscar loved Ruby.And Ruby loved Oscar. But Oscar was not producing, as Emma haddelicately put it.
10 “Please,” Ruby pleaded. “Say something…Anything.” […]
11 To make matters worse, Sam said his second word. And then his third.And his fourth. Soon, he said what sounded like the longest sentenceRuby had ever heard. […]
12 So Ruby tried candy. And presents. She promised fireworks. She triedhypnosis.[…] She borrowed language tapes and videos. She put Oscar infront of the mirror. She moved his lips. He moved his hips. Ruby was aconvincing ventriloquist.And Oscar was ready for a nap.
13 Ruby was close to tears. Oscar gave Ruby a yawn. And a burp. ButOscar did not say boo. […]
14 It was just the same old Oscar. And Ruby felt her love for him gettingthin around the edges.
15 Now the worst thing about living on 20th Avenue South was Oscar.Oscar was not talking. If only Oscar would say something—oneword—everything would be right again. Rain would fall. Slugs wouldooze. Plums would grow. It was all Ruby wanted. It was all she couldthink of. She wished for it with her cigar box full of old birthday candlesand Thanksgiving wishbones. And just before falling asleep, she wishedfor it upon all the stars in the sky.
Footnotes:1 daan taht - a sweet egg dessert2 Apgar test - a test that is given to babies3 hypnosis - the act of putting someone in a dreamlike state in order to get them to do something4 ventriloquist - someone who can make it look like someone else is speaking
from “Chapter 2: Ruby’s Magic Madness”by Lenore Look
1 One day, when Ruby was busy, Oscar spoke.
2 “See,” he peeped. “Seeeeeeee.”
3 His words were glass-noodle1clear. Ruby froze.
4 “See,” Oscar repeated. “Seeeeee.” He pointed at Ruby’s sleeve whereshe had hidden her coin for Ruby’s Vanishing Quarter trick.
5 Ruby could not remember what she was doing. Clink! A shiny quarterfell out of her sleeve and rolled away.
6 Everyone laughed. Ruby’s audience thought Oscar was very funny.Oscar clapped and blew bubbles through his lips. Everyone laughedagain. Almost everyone, that is. Ruby did not laugh.
7 Ruby moved on to her next trick, Magnetic Ruby, in which a spoonsticks to Ruby’s hand as though she is magnetic.
8 “See,” Oscar said. “Seeeeee Bee!” “Bee” was Oscar’s second word (Hecould not quite say “Ruby.”). And he pointed right at where she washolding the spoon.
9 The crowd roared. Plums dropped from the tree. Oscar clapped. Hewas very clever. Now everyone could see that “Bee’s” finger was secretlybent around the spoon.
10 Ruby closed her eyes. She wished with all her magical powers that shecould make Oscar disappear. But when she opened her eyes, he was stillthere. [...]
11 Now Ruby was no longer truly amazing on 20th Avenue South. Oscarwas. And Ruby felt all her love for him drying up like spilled soda on ahot sidewalk. [...]
12 Until … Emma made her announcement.
13 “Sam can walk,” Emma bragged. “Sam can talk. Sam knows his colors.Sam knows his shapes.” Then the big sister of all announcements: “Sameven knows magic tricks.”
14 Ruby could see that Sam could walk … when he wasn’t crawling. Samcould talk … if you considered baby babble talking. Sam knew his colors… except for orange and purple. And his shapes … well, he knew squares.But magic tricks? No way! Sam showed Ruby his Mummy Finger in a Box.He pushed his finger through a hole in the bottom of a little box. Heopened the box. Ta-da! There was his finger! He wiggled his fingeracross the cotton in the box, phh-phh. He closed the box. His little fingerwent phh-phh. Now you see it, and now you see it again. Sure was cute.But everyone could see that it was not magic.
15 Ruby couldn’t stand it.
16 She ran straight into her house and grabbed Oscar from behind thesofa. [...]
17 She was no ordinary magician. She had a baby brother assistant whocould walk fast, talk even faster, and now he knew real magic tricks. Shetaught him how to blow a half-dollar into a standing position, just likethat. (A secret wire attached to the back of the coin and falling through acrack in the table let Oscar pull it upright.) It beat Mummy Finger in aBox any day.
18 Ruby’s Magic Madness was never the same again. It became Ruby’sMagic Madness, Featuring the Amazing Oscar. It was famous on20th Avenue South, where Ruby was truly amazing and Oscar was prettyclever too. But most important of all, Ruby loved Oscar and Oscar lovedRuby, and they loved being together … at least for now.