Perfect Picture Book Friday: THE BOY AND THE GORILLA Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends! Fall is definitely upon us here in New England – mornings are crisp and cold – days are sunny and warm. The days are getting shorter – and I’m definitely not a fan of that…but the good thing is that longer nights mean more time for reading great picture books…like this one by Jackie Azúa Kramer. The book launches October 20…and it’s already snagged THREE starred reviews. And if you leave a comment and share the post on social media, you might be the lucky winner of a brand-new copy!


Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer

Illustrated by Cindy Derby

Published by Candlewick

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Loss, grief, death/dying

Synopsis: From Amazon:

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.

As I mentioned, the book already has THREE starred reviews – here’s what they say:

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)

Why I love this book:

  1. The text – how does Jackie say so much with so few words? She’s definitely a master at capturing our hearts.
  2. The illustrations – they are absolutely perfect – so evocative and filled with emotion.
  3. The topic – kids need books like this that can help them deal with loss.


Paper Plate Monkey

Photo courtesy:

For detailed instructions go here

Loss is never easy to bear – and children can feel frightened, angry, sad…and a combination of all of those emotions. Many times they don’t express how they are feeling…or may act out in other ways. There are loads of websites with great tips…here is one:

Here are some things parents can do to help a child who has lost a loved one:

  1. When talking about death, use simple, clear words.
  2. Listen and comfort.
  3. Put emotions into words.
  4. Tell your child what to expect.
  5. Talk about funerals and rituals.
  6. Give your child a role.
  7. Help your child remember the person.

And read books like THE BOY AND THE GORILLA…reading with your child can create an opportunity to talk about feelings.

If you’d like to learn more about Jackie and her other books:

Jackie is an award-winning and internationally translated children’s author. She earned her MA in Counseling in Education, Queens College. She has worked as an actor, singer, and school counselor. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab. Her picture books include, The Green Umbrella, “2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year”. The Boy and the Gorilla— “Luminous.” Kirkus, starred review. If You Want to Fall Asleep and That’s for Babies. Jackie’s upcoming books- I Wish You Knew (Roaring Brook, 2021); Dorothy and Herbert- The Story of the Postal Clerk and the Librarian and their Extraordinary Collection of Art (Cameron Kids, 2021); We Are One (Two Lions/Amazon, TBD); Manolo and the Unicorn (Cameron Kids, TBD) and Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis, TBD). She lives with her family in Long Island, NY. When not writing, you’ll find her reading, watching old movies and travelling to her family’s roots in Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Spain. Visit or connect with her on social media:
Twitter @jackiekramer422

And please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway…and share on social media for extra tickets in the giveaway hat!

For more wonderful picture book reviews and activities, please hop over to Susanna Hill’s website.

Have a wonderful weekend – please stay safe and well.

27 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday: THE BOY AND THE GORILLA Plus Giveaway

  1. I plan to share this with my former teaching colleagues as well as the school’s psychologist and licensed clinical (family) social worker. Excellent picture books for young children that deal simply, sensitively, and relevantly with the death of a parent or loved one are not alway easy to find. THE BOY AND THE GORILLA will be certainly be a welcome and timeless addition to elementary classrooms and school libraries everywhere. Thank you so much for highlighting this book, Vivian!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am awed by just peeking into this book. The illustrations are so beautiful and moving. I can’t wait to read the text. Thank you Jackie and Vivian for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My grandchildren recently lost their grandfather. I wish this book had been available for them. I know it is going to help a lot of children. Thank you so much, Vivian for sharing it. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The first time I read this book I knew that it would be special! Beautiful writing and beautiful illustrations! Congratulations, Jackie and Cindy! Thanks for posting this, Vivian!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This book is in my TBR pile. Love the soothing artwork, but look forward to reading the story. Thanks for giving me an idea of what to expect. I love your sample discussion questions. I have reviewed so many grief books lately — but each very different.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am a fan of Jackie’s books and Cindy’s art–what a dream team! And this book looks so poignant! Congrats Jackie & Cindy!! And thanks for sharing, Vivian :).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Vivian,

    I remember that you were having Facebook issues :(. I just tried to share the link for the giveaway & FB wouldn’t let me. So annoying. I hope that you’re able to get this fixed soon. Good luck!!

    Maria ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just reading the synopsis and seeing that cover brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful to have a huge gorilla to help with the huge pain of death. Thank you ,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The illustrations in this book are captivating! I loved The Green Umbrella and I can’t wait to read The Boy and the Gorilla. Congrats, Jackie!


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