The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azua Kramer

 

The Boy and the Gorilla

Jackie Azúa Kramer, Author

Cindy Derby, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Oct. 13, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Loss, Grief, Hurt, Loneliness, Anger, Imaginary friend

Publisher’s Synopsis:

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, flying a kite, climbing trees and walking along the beach. 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.

This profoundly moving tale about a grieving boy and an imaginary gorilla makes real the power of talking about loss.

Why I like this book:

A deeply sensitive story about a grieving boy who asks his imaginary gorilla friend questions about his mother’s death. The  gorilla is reassuring and helps the boy deal with big emotions. Grief is tricky and the gorilla’s presence makes it possible for the boy to approach his grieving father. Together they begin to share memories and start the healing process.

The first four pages of the story are wordless, allowing Cindy Derby to set the somber tone of the boy’s grief with her moving and breathtaking watercolors. The opening pages are intimate and contemplative. Jackie Azúa Kramer’s simple text and Derby’s artwork don’t hurry you along — they provide time and space to study what’s happening and gives children the opportunity to ask questions.  As the story progresses, the artwork appears more luminous and hopeful.

This is a timely book and beautiful book during this time of COVID. It is a book that would be a wonderful gift to families dealing with loss.

Resources: The book alone is a wonderful resource for families.  It opens the doors for families to work at healing together. Encourage your child to make a memory box filled with things that remind them of the person they miss.

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. She lives with her family on Long Island, New York.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick in exchange for a review.

The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa Kramer

The Green Umbrella

Jackie  Azúa Kramer, Author

Maral Sassouni, Illustrator

North South Books, Inc., Fiction, Jan. 31,  2017

2017 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year

Suitable for Ages: 4 – 8

Themes: Elephant, Animals, Favorite objects, Sharing, Imagination, Friendship

Opening: One rainy day an Elephant was taking a walk with his green umbrella. Along came a Hedgehog. “Excuse me,” said the Hedgehog. “I believe you have my boat.” “Your what?” asked the Elephant.

Synopsis:  When Elephant takes a peaceful walk with his green umbrella, he’s interrupted by Hedgehog, Cat, Bear, and Rabbit — all claiming that they’ve had exciting adventures with his umbrella. After all, it is an umbrella, and it certainly hasn’t been on any adventures more exciting than a walk in the rain. Or has it?

Why I like this book:

A charming and humorous debut picture book for Jackie Azúa Kramer about the power of imagination and sharing. It is a playful and clever story about friendship and compromise. Each animal in the book believes that the green umbrella belongs him or her. After all it was hedgehog’s boat, Cat’s tent, Bear’s flying machine and Rabbit’s sturdy walking cane. Elephant is a good sport and patiently indulges his friends as they each tell grandiose stories of how they used his umbrella.

This book has heart. Through lyrical text it teaches children compassion, how to play together, share, and have fun planning a whopping adventure.

Wow, what a beautiful and whimsical cover by Maral Sassouni. The cover drew me to this charming story along with her lively, colorful acrylic illustrations that will tickle young imaginations. The book is a perfect read-aloud.

Resources:  This story is about encouraging kids to use their imaginations as they play together. Give kids a box, a jump rope, chalk, a bottle of bubbles and let them create something together.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.