Koala (not) bears

I am currently reading a book that came highly recommended. I have to say, I’m really enjoying it – except for one, teeny, tiny, niggling point… koala’s aren’t bears!

In the book the author makes a reference to “koala bears”. She did that many pages ago but I can’t let it go. So please excuse my little lecture.

I know they look like real-life teddy bears, but they are just called koalas. I’m not being pedantic. They aren’t called bears because they aren’t bears.

Bears are mammals. They give birth to live young who have developed in-utero receiving nutrients via a placenta.

Koalas are marsupials. They give birth to live young who haven’t received nutrients in-utero via a placenta. Instead the young are born much earlier than mammals (an earlier embryonic stage) and travel to a pouch where they attach themselves to a teat and remain there for weeks or months to complete their development.

Like I said, only a teeny point. But as an Australian reader it grated and pulled me from the story. Not helped by the fact I am also an environmental scientist, which is probably why I haven’t been able to let it go.

I guess it just shows that readers will notice any error that slips through edits.

Has an incorrect fact in a book ever distracted you from the story?

12 comments on “Koala (not) bears

  1. Yes! This has happened to me but I can’t put my finger on the book or what it is. And you are so right – it yanks you right out of the story. In fact, it can be quite jarring when this happens.

    I either did not know or have forgotten that koalas are actually marsupials. I have probably referred to them as koala bears in the past, but won’t do so again, so thanks for the lesson!

    • It’s easy to understand why people might think they are bears. They look like the sort you’d find in baby nursery (just much more vicious in real life).

  2. Guilty as charged, AJ. But, like Deb, I do appreciate the lesson and will never repeat the mistake. In fact, I know that I’ll be one of those people who corrects friends when they make the mistake in future 🙂

    Also like Deb, I’ve been really pulled from stories when there are factual errors but can’t remember either the errors or the books right now.

  3. I remember as a kid them being referred to as koala bears. Which is probably why that term slipped through. Even though I was told fairly early that koalas are marsupials.

    Yes, I know what you mean about one little bit of false information distracting from the whole. I will rant and rave as well.

    • It’s a shame when something (often only a minor little thing really unrelated to the story as a whole) can cause such distraction. I just hope there’s no where in my writing where I make a similar mistake!

  4. No examples come immediately to mind, but I know there are some book I havn’t been able to finish because of it. Mary, who does a lot more reading than I do, will actually sit there and read the incorrect passages to me so I can be mad, too. I finally ask her, “why don’t you just put the book away?”

    • Hah, I do that to my husband. I tell him if I have to be annoyed than so does he *grin*.

  5. I think I knew that once. I will still have difficulty with the name. Maybe I can mumble, b….

    • Some habits are hard to break. A long time ago when I was holidaying in the US I got caught asking for the toilet (you guys ask for the bathroom). I got some really odd looks and then was directed to what turned out to be a store selling…toilets. The rest of my holiday I’d ask for the toilet, get an odd look and then remember.

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