The Boy and the Gorilla


‘When will I feel better?‘ asks the boy. For now he wants to be alone, other than with the huge gorilla shadow that has accompanied him ever since Mum died. What happened to her and why? Does it happen to everyone? Where is Mum?

Through the gorilla, the boy seeks answers and reassurance about what’s ahead. Could Mum be with the boy when he plays baseball? She loved baseball? What of when he’s in her garden?

What next? What of Dad/

We see Dad in profile, disguised. It’s as though he is in hiding too. Meanwhile, the boy is dwarfed by the gorilla of uncertainty, fear and shadow comfort. The colours are symbolic, the shadows lengthened and the aloneness of the boy, in an island of loss, so moving.

The Boy and the Gorilla is a beautiful book that seeks to explain, support and reassure, as much as it’s possible. Loss is too hard to consider, but picture books such as this one, reach beyond platitudes and silence to comfort and work toward sense. Bookwagon recommends The Boy and the Gorilla highly, for home and school.

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The Boy and the Gorilla

Jackie Azúa Kramer, illustrated by Cindy Derby

(Walker Books)– hardback

The Boy and the Gorilla wonder at the boy’s mother’s death. The gorilla first appears to the boy after his mother’s funeral, when the boy retreats to his mother’s garden. The world seems a sea of greyness with dots of black, faceless people. It seems to the boy that the gorilla has the answers he seeks such as how we ‘know when someone dies’. It seems as though the gorilla offers truths about death and life that he needs, like ‘Where did Mum go?‘ and why she cannot return. Furthermore, the gorilla is a solid comfort as he and his father, offered in profile, stumble around their loss.
The boy exists in a wall of walls and shadows and aloneness. He tells the gorilla that he wants to be alone, and thereafter that he might see Mum when he climbs high into the trees, again hoping for his mother.
The question and answer text and the role of gorilla are superb storytelling techniques to consider a difficult subject thoughtfully and respectfully. Furthermore, rather like The Pond the colourings are symbolic, with shadows, variations in perspective and direction.
The Boy and the Gorilla is a truthful, moving and complete picture book. Bookwagon suggests this book should be included within home and school bookshelves for reading, thinking about and discussing.


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