Koala Jo Publishing

Australian Marvel Helps Create Compassion for All Living Creatures

Bringing an understanding of the natural world that is lacking in today’s hectic pace

San Mateo, CA, March 08, 2007 --(PR.com)-- A World War II duty station in Brisbane, Australia for an American naval officer has borne unexpected and surprisingly peaceful fruit more than sixty years later: a book on Australian Aboriginal legends by his youngest daughter, already an award-winning novelist.

Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings, to be released by Koala Jo Publishing in San Mateo this spring, offers a new glimpse of the Dreamtime, the Aboriginal Creation period, in eight stories that offer explanations for everything from the Great Flood to how the koala lost its tail. The ancient wisdom of native Australians offers explanations for all the natural phenomena they lived with before the coming of the British to the continent, and these glimpses into eight of these tales display an understanding of the natural world that is lacking in today’s hectic pace. Most of the stories focus on the koala, probably Australia’s most famous marsupial and the embodiment of gentle good nature.

Lee Barwood, daughter of Captain Henry J. Barwood, USN, became fascinated with koalas while still a toddler because of the toys her father sent to his two older daughters during the war. That fascination grew into a lifelong love and admiration for a creature so accepting that it willingly allows itself to be held by strangers. While there are biological reasons for the koala’s tranquil nature--its sole food, the eucalyptus, is hard to digest and has a soporific effect; the koala also lacks a “fight-or-flight” response--there is also an undeniable Zen-like quality to its gentle nature. Koalas have charmed people all over the world with their wide-eyed regard, and with the adorable babies that cling to their backs.

Barwood’s childhood love of these furry creatures progressed naturally enough to a deep love of other animals, then to vegetarianism and a drive to preserve the environment. Her novel A Dream of Drowned Hollow, an environmental suspense/thriller from Double Dragon Publishing, won Andre Norton’s Gryphon Award (presented in San Diego) for its heroine’s battle against a ruthless developer to preserve the Ozark hills and hollows she loves. Barwood regularly writes about the need to treat animals--and each other--with love and respect; her stories touch on everything from puppy mills to care of the elderly, and she is currently at work on a novel that deals with domestic abuse.

But koalas are her first love, and while she may not yet have retraced her father’s journey past California to Hawaii and beyond to Australia and New Zealand, she has certainly been there in spirit.

Publisher Joanne Ehrich, however, has made the journey to Australia, where she was able to make the acquaintance of its wonderful people and koalas firsthand. Her own love of the gentle animal led her to found Koala Jo Publishing, and the company’s first title won rave reviews for its unique photographs of koalas taken by people the world over. This year sees the launch of Koala Jo’s Klassic Koalas imprint, books designed to introduce this charming creature to a wider audience. Barwood’s book is the first in this imprint, but several more titles will be released this year. Titles planned include a cookbook, a postcard book, and a gift book of photos accompanied by quotations from everyone from Einstein to Schweitzer.

It may surprise readers to learn that, in Aboriginal lore, the koala is regarded not just as a cute and cuddly “native bear,” but as a great and powerful figure, with strong arms powerful enough to row across an ocean or to throw a boomerang farther than any warrior--and even possessing the power to sing the rains to stop and the trees to grow. There is so much more to the koala than most people know, and this book is just an introduction to its very special magic.

One Aboriginal story says that if the koala is not treated with respect, a drought will result. As koalas and other Australian animals suffer from habitat degradation, disease, and non-native predators, perhaps that ancient wisdom contains a grain of truth: Australia has been beset by drought and the deadliest of wildfires. But it is not too late; support for wildlife rescue and habitat restoration, as well as environmental protection to reverse the trend of global warming, can make the difference--not just for the koala, but for all animals.

A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings will go to the the Australian Wildlife Hospital, a major project Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide Ltd, for the preservation of the koala and other Australian creatures under threat.

Titles by Koala Jo Publishing:

Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings | Klassic Koalas: Vegetarian Delights Too Cute to Eat Klassic Koalas: Mr. Douglas’ Koalas and the Stars of Qantas | Klassic Koalas: Vintage Postcards and Timeless Quotes of Wisdom | Koalas: Zen in Fur | Koalas: Moving Portraits of Serenity

Joanne Ehrich