Skip to main content

Gorilla by Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne has long been a favorite picture book author and illustrator of mine. Click here for a review of his 2012 book, How Do YOU Feel? that also includes a list of most of Browne's books and a mini-bio of his character Willy. If you know anything about Browne, you know that he frequently employs a surrealistic illustration style where gorillas and chimpanzees often stand in for humans. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Gorilla, which won the 1983 Kate Greenaway award, the equivalent of the Caldecott.

Browne's picture books often shine a light on the darker corners of childhood, from loneliness to anxiety to taking someone for granted. Retreating into imagination offers respite to Browne's characters, and there is always a loving connection at the end of his books. In Gorilla, we meet Hannah, who loves gorillas. She reads books about them, watches television shows about them and draws pictures of them - but she has never seen a real gorilla.

Hannah asks her father to take her to the zoo, but he is always either too busy or too tired. As her birthday nears, Hannah asks her father for a gorilla and wakes in the middle of the night to find a parcel at the foot of her bed - it is a toy gorilla. She throws it to the floor and goes back to sleep. As she does, the toy gorilla grows and grows and when Hannah wakes again he tells her not to be frightened, he just wondered if she'd like to go to the zoo.

On thing I especially love about Browne's books it the way that he bends reality, in his stories and illustrations. As Hannah and the gorilla head out the door to the zoo, we see that the gorilla is dressed just like Hannah's father. In the text, Browne never tells readers if the gorilla IS Hannah's father or if she is dreaming. We want Hannah's night with the gorilla, this loving, thoughtful attentive gorilla, to be real. We want the gorilla to be Hannah's father.

After a visit to the zoo, a trip to the movies and a feast at a restaurant, Hannah and the gorilla head home. They dance on the lawn and Hannah had "never been so happy." Nodding and smiling, the gorilla says, "See you tomorrow." And when Hannah wakes in the morning, her toy gorilla tucked in next to her.

Happy and no longer lonely now that she has a friend, Hannah's day gets even better when she wakes and her father asks if she would like to spend the day at the zoo.

Browne's books are often poignant, whether they are tinged with sadness or happiness, and they are utterly unforgettable. I hope that, on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Browne's Gorilla, the eighth book published in his long, distinguished career, there are more books to come from Anthony Browne.

Just in case you don't read my reviews of Browne's other books, here are a few that I highly recommend:

Source: Review Copy


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…