cover image The Boy and the Gorilla

The Boy and the Gorilla

Jackie Azúa Kramer, illus. by Cindy Derby. Candlewick, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9832-4

Following a mother’s death, a gorilla lumbers slowly into the family’s house, then the garden, as grown-ups wearing somber colors disperse. “Your mother’s garden is beautiful,” the gorilla says to her young son, who is working there. “May I help?” The gorilla stays close, answering questions and shoring up the mourning child emotionally. “I wish Mom was here to read to me,” the boy says. The gorilla hunches over a book: “It’s a good story. Your father might like this book, too.” As the boy climbs a tree, hoping his mother will be at the top, the gorilla murmurs, “I’m right behind you.” Derby (Outside In) paints loose washes of quiet colors, with the gorilla’s solemn features and commanding presence drawing attention throughout. Kramer (The Green Umbrella) successfully walks a delicate line between foregrounding the boy’s sadness (“When will I feel better?”) and the gorilla’s miraculous presence. Somehow, the gorilla’s words sound less treacly than a human grown-up’s might (“Each bite is like a memory,” the gorilla says when the boy makes his mother’s favorite cookies), and they offer meaningful support and comfort to the boy until he’s ready to reach out elsewhere. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Oct.) [/em]