The Boy and the Gorilla

The Boy and the Gorilla
Jackie Azúa Kramer and Cindy Derby
Walker Books

Profound in its impact, this is a story of loss, mourning and grief told entirely in dialogue and through a sequence of absolutely beautiful, understated illustrations.

We see a young boy, his grief palpable, on the day of his mother’s funeral as he envisions a companion – a gentle gorilla

– that accompanies him through those dark hours ready to answer all the questions that the little child is reluctant to put to his father. The creature’s wisdom is demonstrated through its responses to ‘Where did Mum Go?’ ‘No one knows for sure.’ Can’t my mum come back home?’ ‘No but she’s always with you.’ ‘I wish my Mum was here to read to me.’ ‘It’s a good story. Your father might like this book too.’ 

And little by little, through this unlikely friendship, the boy starts to open up and express his feelings: ‘Sometimes I want to be alone.’ … ‘Mum and I loved baseball.’ He also begins to find comfort in such activities as biscuit baking and tending to the garden flowers: ‘The seeds you planted together are like your mother’s love, a gift to keep forever.’

What this gentle gorilla shows is the importance of being able to talk about what you’re going through, particularly with those (like dad) who will be feeling equally sad and alone, as yet unable to open up.

Eventually, we see father and son beginning to feel their way forwards together through sharing a story and planting new flowers

and finally, walking off together, taking those first steps on the path to healing.

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