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When Gorilla Goes Walking
illustrated by Shane Evans
Orchard Books, 2007
ISBN: 978-0439317702
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From the book

"When Gorilla goes walking,
the neighbors laugh and stare
at her tailless rump
and her very proud air."

from WhenGorilla Goes Walking
© 2007 by Nikki Grimes

Teaching Guides
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Gorilla is an affectionate, jealous, lovable cat who constantly wants to play with Cecilia. Experience their unique relationship through Nikki Grimes's lyrical poetry and Shane Evans's vibrant art work. Readers will fall in love with Gorilla and wish they could bring her home with them!

In interlinked poems, Cecilia, a young African American girl, introduces her "cool cat,"—a fierce, tailless, gray shorthair named Gorilla. Written in a variety of forms, from rhyming couplets to haiku, the poems celebrate Gorilla's idiosyncrasies and "everycat" habits. Grimes' skillfully chosen sounds and rhythms echo the distinctly feline behavior, from erratic, zooming action—"skate 'cross the floor. / Sail by the window, / leap through the door"—to soothing, purring comforts: "Gorilla raised a paw / and pet me." In spare, expressive lines and bold colors, Evans' dynamic paintings capture the messy intimacy of the cat and human bond. Also evident is the sense that Gorilla isn't just a pet; she's also a mirror. Like many children, Cecilia sees her own best and worst qualities in her bossy, beautiful cat, who is, she says, "like stubborn me." A fill-the-page portrait of dreadlocked, brown Cecelia, arm and arm with a blue-eyed, white best friend opens this playful, insightful poetry collection (classified as fiction) with an image of open-hearted friendship. —Gillian Engberg in Booklist

A girl's keen and loving observations of her audacious, "rain-cloud gray" cat—the Gorilla of the title—are the inspiration for this wonderful suite of poems by Grimes (Dark Sons). The book also serves as a kind of primer on poetry, proving that the medium is infinite in its versatility; Grimes offers up everything from multi-stanza paeans (both rhyming and not) to a sort of haiku ("Gorilla gazes/ into a puddle. Does she/ know she's beautiful—"). Her word choices are always lively and evoke an appropriately feline combination of affection and entitlement ("I scratch Gorilla's belly when/ she commandeers my lap"). Of course, it helps to have such a rich subject—Gorilla loves to fight with Ivy, cuddle on a sick bed, interrupt homework, eat soul food and pine for a tom cat. Evans's (Here We Go Round) poster-like paintings are the perfect accompaniment—the illustrator beautifully captures the many moods of both the supremely confident Gorilla and her adoring mistress. A winner for youngsters, cat fans and poetry lovers of all ages. —Publishers Weekly

Enormous, lively illustrations are paired with an equally bouncy text in this winning picture book. In a series of delightful poems, a girl introduces her cat, Gorilla, and describes her pet's many interests, talents, and behaviors. A fierce meow,/a tiger's claws–/Gorilla ain't/no Santa Paws ... .She has no tail./She's rain-cloud gray./I love that cool cat/more each day. While the feline is decidedly the star of this show, Cecilia also shares tidbits about her own life, such as getting into trouble for making a mess and feeling sad when her best friend moves away. The rich and rewarding relationship enjoyed by cat and human comes through loud and clear. From a breathless entry about the animal chasing a fly, to an elegant haiku (Gorilla gazes/into a puddle. Does she/know she's beautiful?), the poems vary in style and mood. Grimes's use of language and point of view are consistently refreshing and childlike. The bold cartoon artwork endearingly portrays the African-American narrator and her smoke-colored pet as they play together, comfort one another, and experience life's ups and downs. This book is an excellent choice for cat lovers, budding poetry enthusiasts, and just about any reader who enjoys a fun-filled romp with words. —Andrea Tarr, Corona Public Library, CA in School Library Journal

Bank Street Best Books for Children
Starred review in Booklist
Starred review in Publishers Weekly
2009 California Readers Collection

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