POINTS: 3 out of 10.
Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.
Okay, full disclosure. Anthony Browne is one of my all time favourite picture book creators. We own a lot of his books. So I am predisposed to love everything he does. In my own defense though he’s one of my favourites with very good reason.
It doesn’t pass the Bechdel (there are only three characters, really, Hannah, her dad and the gorilla), and there isn’t any diversity to speak of, so it scores lower than I believe it deserves to.
Gorilla is the story of a little girl whose dad is very busy and doesn’t have a lot of time to take her to the zoo, or really do much of anything with her. She is lonely. She also loves gorillas. Her father gives her a toy gorilla for her birthday which comes to life and steps into her dad’s shoes, taking her to the zoo, and to a movie, and even dancing (in that ages-old her feet on his way). But when she wakes up on her birthday, it turns out her dad has stepped up, and off they go to the zoo for her birthday.
There is so much going on here. Is it a dream? Is it real? Does it matter? There’s the small child story of an adventure with a gorilla in the night. There’s the message straight to the parent about doing your job and being there for your kids. And it’s all so beautifully, brilliantly ageless and subtle and perfect.
On top of all of that, Browne’s illustrations are masterful, and full of hidden Easter eggs. There are gorillas hidden throughout the book. And small whimsical details like a light switch that is a smiling face and the banana in dad’s pocket. Wait.. is Dad actually the gorilla? 😀
It’s one of those books that asks as many questions as it answers and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. C loved it, but then I’ve been exposing him to Browne’s work since he was born, basically. (We actually don’t have this one, so this was new to him, but there are a lot of themes and echoes through his books.) It operates on so many levels, and I feel like as kids get older they’ll see more and more in it.