Boy and the Gorilla (The Boy and the Gorilla)

boy and the gorilla

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.---from the publisher

48 pages                              978-0763698324                        Ages 4-8

Keywords:  death and dying, loss, grief, healing, gorilla, funeral, understanding others, comfort, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, 8 year old, mothers


“Those are people who died, died

Those are people who died, died

Those are people who died, died

Those are people who died, died

They were all my friends, and they died”

-- Jim Carroll (1980)

There will be ten thousand movies made about the year 2020. None of them are going to make us nostalgic, make us want to go back and do 2020 a second time.

220,368. That’s the US death toll currently listed on the John Hopkins Coronavirus website. It has increased by thousands since I wrote my rough draft a few days ago. Marking my significant sixty-fifth birthday at the beginning of the pandemic and then seeing all those people, including a family member, die, I’ve become far more attuned to mortality.

With so much death on the news, and in those homes where there is an empty space at the dinner table, we need a good book for little kids about death.


“How do you know when someone dies?

A person’s body stops working.

Like their heartbeat?


Will we all die?

Yes. We all do. But you have many more kites to fly.

Where did Mom go?

No one knows for sure.

Maybe Mom’s here. She liked the waves.

Can’t my mom come back home.

No. But she’s always with you.”

THE BOY AND THE GORILLA is equally notable for its acutely relevant discussion of death, and for its compelling visual story of an imaginary gorilla who arrives in the wake of a little boy’s mother’s funeral and becomes his constant companion. On the swings, in the house, at the shore, and on the bus, the gorilla is a steady, comforting presence, providing companionship, answers, and advice to the boy.

This is a notable picture book about death, published at a timely moment when it is needed.

Be well. Wear a mask.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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