GREENAWAY MEDAL WINNER – 1983
London: Julia MacRae, 1983
Age: 4 +
Interests: gorillas, single parent families
Also by this author: Zoo
Hannah loves gorillas. She also loves her father but he doesn’t have any time for her. “They never did anything together.” On her birthday he gives her a small toy gorilla, which she is not entirely impressed with, until he comes to full-sized life that night. He finds her father’s coat and hat are a perfect fit and the two of them go off to the zoo, a movie, dinner in a restaurant, and a dance in the moonlight. “Hannah had never been so happy.”
The next day all is back to normal, except that her Dad suddenly asks her if she wants to go to the zoo. And off they go, Hannah shining with happiness.
This book has a rather bleak and unhappy start – the illustration of Hannah watching tv all alone at night is heartbreaking. In the light of the tv the wallpaper pattern consists of butterflies but in the shadow it’s filled with monsters and wolves.
The people, both Hannah and her father, are remote, their faces not clearly seen, but as soon as the gorilla comes to life we are treated to a full page closeup of his expressive face, full of emotion. The outing is magical and other-worldly, the illustrations haunting. And at the end one comes away with the impression that Hannah’s father has somehow changed for the better as a result of the gorilla’s visit.
A touching look at the life of a lonely child, and how animals can be more human than human beings.