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This profoundly moving tale about a grieving boy and an imaginary gorilla makes real the power of talking about loss.
On the day of his mother’s funeral, a young boy conjures the very visitor he needs to see: a gorilla. Wise and gentle, the gorilla stays on to answer the heart-heavy questions the boy hesitates to ask his father: Where did his mother go? Will she come back home? Will we all die? Yet with the gorilla’s friendship, the boy slowly begins to discover moments of comfort in tending flowers, playing catch, and climbing trees. Most of all, the gorilla knows that it helps to simply talk about the loss—especially with those who share your grief and who may feel alone, too. Author Jackie Azúa Kramer’s quietly thoughtful text and illustrator Cindy Derby’s beautiful impressionistic artwork depict how this tender relationship leads the boy to open up to his father and find a path forward. Told entirely in dialogue, this direct and deeply affecting picture book will inspire conversations about grief, empathy, and healing beyond the final hope-filled scene.
About the Author
Jackie Azúa Kramer is the author of The Green Umbrella and If You Want to Fall Asleep. She was previously an actress, singer, and school counselor. Jackie Azúa Kramer lives with her family in Long Island, New York.
Cindy Derby is the author-illustrator of How to Walk an Ant and the illustrator of the poetry collection Climbing Shadows by Shannon Bramer. Before she was an illustrator, she went to theater school and performed all over the world as a puppeteer. Cindy Derby lives in San Francisco.
In the wake of Mom’s death, a gorilla helps a child process grief and open up to Dad so they may heal and find hope again together...The gorilla’s honest yet reassuring responses offer the child relief in the quest to understand. Feelings of hurt, confusion, isolation, and even resentment are acknowledged, but the gorilla’s gentle presence and wise responses help to recenter the soul...Derby’s flowing application of paint conjures a sea of emotions, and the paintings appear as if viewed through a wall of tears. Well-placed pops of bright color are both striking and uplifting. As father and child (both present White) hug, talk, and walk hand in hand under a sweeping sky, the gorilla fades into the distance. Luminous.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Kramer deftly controls the text, allowing touches of evocative language in the gorilla’s responses without losing the plainspoken groundedness of the boy’s questions and quintessential shock and pain. Derby...uses fluid, graceful, light-filled watercolors that prevent the story from becoming overheavy...The book tacitly addresses the problem bereaved kids struggle with—how to draw on your parent when your parent is grieving too—while walking youngsters gently but surely through both hard and comforting truths about loss. This is honesty with a feather touch, and both kids and adults will welcome the book’s artistry and compassionate candor.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Following a mother’s death, a gorilla lumbers slowly into the family’s house, then the garden, as grown-ups wearing somber colors disperse...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.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A gorilla approaches a young boy after the death of the boy’s mother and stays with him as the boy begins to process what happened and work through his grief...Gorgeous collage illustrations, splotchy and watery almost as if tear-stained, follow the boy and gorilla from garden to beach to playground to classroom to treetop...Kramer’s text is understated and powerful, and Derby’s art, whether depicting a glorious seascape or a mundane school-bus interior, is invested with emotion. The gorilla—enormous in comparison to its surroundings, standing out on each spread in deep colors of purple, blue, and gray—is both a reassuring presence and a symbol of the immensity of the boy’s grief.
—The Horn Book