Finding Home book cover image

Finding Home

  • 795

By: Sandra Markle / Illustrated by: Alan Marks

A remarkable story of survival

The creators of A Mother's Journey and Little Lost Bat, Sandra Markle and Alan Marks team up again to chronicle the challenges faced by a mother koala: protecting herself and her joey from a raging bushfire, and finding food and a new home after their home range is destroyed. Based on a true story.

Back matter includes facts about koalas, an author's note about Cinders, the real-life koala that survived two bushfires, and resources for learning more about koalas and their habitat.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Sandra Markle, author

Sandra Markle is the author of more than 200 nonfiction books on science topics for children and her books have won over 30 awards, including the NSTA and CBC's list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, the International Reading Association's Young Adults Choice Award, the Society of School Librarians International Book Award for Language Arts K-6, the Parent's Guide to Children's Media Nonfiction Award, The Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year Award, and Nick Jr. magazine's Best Books of the Year Award. Markle has been named Georgia Author of the Year five times and was honored as one of 1999's Women of the Year by Women in Technology International for her contributions to science and technology.

Read more about Sandra.

Alan Marks, illustrator

Alan Marks began his career illustrating for magazines and newspapers in England. His first children's book Storm, written by Kevin Crossley Holland, won the Carnegie Medal. Alan now illustrates a wide variety of subjects, from nursery rhymes to war poetry.

Read more about Alan.

Awards & Honors:

  • Junior Library Guild - Premiere Selection
  • NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
  • Booklist's Top Ten Environmental Books for Youth
  • Red Clover Award Program
  • John Burroughs List of Nature Books for Young Readers
  • CCBC Choices
  • KIND Children's Book Award Honorable Mention
  • Bank Street College's The Best Children's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:

Booklist, starred review

Based on the true story of a koala that survived multiple bushfires and wandered into a residential area, this picture book, narrated in dramatic free verse, tells a gripping story of animal survival. The words are immediate and filled with sensory detail: "The air smells of eucalyptus leaves and smoke." When flames lick through the forest, a mother koala shields her baby from the fire, and after the charred branches cool, she leaves--with her baby on her back--in search of a meal. Her hunt for "just one tree that is right" is long and dangerous, particularly after she finds herself among humans and houses. But concerned people block traffic on a busy highway and guide the mother and baby to a safe wild ecalyptus grove. As in A Mother's Journey (2005) and Little Lost Bar (2006), Markle's smooth, elegant poetry and Marks' expressive, realistic mixed-media images five a strong sense of the animals' terror and the mother's intense bond with her child and show how humans can protect the increasing numbers of wildlife that are pushed by shrinking habitats into our neighborhoods. Koala facts suggestions for further research close this powerful title.

Kirkus Reviews

The creators of the award-winning penguin trek, A Mother's Journey , now trace the odyssey of a koala parent with the same attention to detail and broadly appealing illustrations. Subsisting solely on the leaves of eucalyptus (did you know that there are different kinds?), a New South Wales koala and her large joey are forced to search for a new feeding ground after a bush fire leaves all the trees stripped. The trip takes them into human territory. Punctuated by irresistible close-ups of the mother's face, Marks's impressionistic watercolors follow the two as they weather a dog's attack, then resolutely try to ignore the gathering crowds of curious people that trail along. Ultimately, having crossed a highway on which traffic has been stopped (the whole episode is loosely based on a true story), the koalas find a new patch of forest. Markle tells the tale in measured, sensitive, carefully non-anthropomorphic prose. Capped by an explanatory afterword, extra koala facts and several recommended print and web resources, this makes another fine choice for budding naturalists to read alone or aloud.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

When a koala and her baby joey lose their habitat in a brushfire, they must seek a new home. Struggling to carry her heavy baby, the mother ventures forth, finding the nearest edible trees to lie within a human enclave. The curious suburbanites gather around to see animals not usually found in their backyard but try to avoid interfering with the koalas, who finally find a new home range of eucalyptus in which to settle. Loosely based on the adventures of a real koala, the story is quiet but intense, the present-tense, animal-centered narration hushed yet concrete. The book refreshingly eschews portraying humans as saviors or saboteurs, instead making clear through the koala's-eye-view that it's their mere presence in the habitat, no matter how benign their intentions, that's distressing to wild animals. Marks' watercolor, pencil, and ink illustrations are dominated by landscape, tinted in sweeping washes of color, but they effectively foreground the mother and baby; the change from wild to settled areas is subtly flagged by increasingly geometric elements of house silhouette and road and fence lines. This will likely elicit youngsters' own stories of animal encounters, but it's also a useful entree into discussion about the erosion of habitats and its effect on the wild.

School Library Journal

Markle surmises what the days immediately following two bushfires might have been like for a female koala and her joey. The story begins on a spring day when "the air smells of eucalyptus leaves and smoke." With her joey on her back, the mother koala climbs and escapes the fire but afterward finds her home destroyed and no food left for miles. Realistic watercolor illustrations depict the intensity of the fire and the skeletal trees that remain as the koala travels through moonlight for hours, sniffing for food. The trek leads to a swamp mahogany tree, an encounter with a pet dog, and more civilization than wild animals prefer. The language and illustrations throughout feel as gentle and reverent as the representation of the gathering suburban crowd, painted in muted colors that suggest respect for the koala survivors. Suitable for reading aloud or independently, this story of one female's risky journey makes a good choice for animal, survival, or Australian studies.

The Horn Book

Caught at the edge of a bushfire, a koala and her joey escape the flames and then begin a long search for a new habitat. The arduous journey takes them out of the bush and into a suburb, where they find a few proper trees for feeding. They also find humans, who first startle them (and perhaps the koalas also startle the humans) and then respectfully help them (by halting traffic on a busy roadway) as the marsupial duo finds a territory where they can live. Based on a true story, this account downplays the "aren't they cute" factor and emphasizes the struggles of these wild animals to survive. Marks's soft watercolors depict the drama of this mother-and-child story but also convey much information about koala life. Appended with an author's note outlining the actual koala's journey, a couple of facts about koalas, and two books and two websites for further inquiry.

NSTA Recommends

In this real-life story, readers join a koala mother and her baby joey as they flee a raging fire in a fight for survival. Leaving their destroyed home in the bush and encountering the edge of the risky world of humans, the frightened animals finally find a safe new home.

As students follow the journey of these attractive animals, they can learn more about life cycles, habitats, and ecosystems. The behaviors that are portrayed are authentic and accurate. It is appropriate for both group and individual reading. This book was an NSTA/CBC outstanding science trade book winner for 2009.


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ISBN: 978-1-58089-123-3

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-035-5
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 4-8
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy these:
Little Lost Bat
A Mother's Journey
Family Pack