Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
Little Beauty

Little Beauty

Fall 2008 Picture Books
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Anthony Browne
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0763639594
Hardcover Price: $16.99
In Anthony Browne's surreal world, a nameless gorilla lives in a zoo but his surroundings include a television, flowered wallpaper, a floor lamp, and an overstuffed armchair complete with coffee mug resting on one arm and hamburger on the other. Clearly inspired by the story of Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language and befriended a kitten named All Ball, this version invents a story in which a gorilla adopts a kitten named Beauty. The two do everything together: taking naps, swinging from the chandelier, and even using the toilet/litter box à deux. Browne's hyper-realistic drawings of the pair are uneven in their execution (especially the one oddly unfinished sketch in the middle) but dramatic, especially the close-up that accompanies the line of text "But the gorilla was sad." which shows a very morose ape indeed. The weakest point is the storyline itself. When the gorilla becomes enraged at a TV show, the keepers (without explanation) announce that they are going to take Beauty away. The cat...who, up to this point, has been just a cat...suddenly speaks up and takes responsibility for the smashed set and "Beauty and the gorilla lived happily ever after." The real story of Koko and All Ball has been amply covered in books for children and is so innately fascinating that the overlay of fantasy found in this version seems unnecessary.
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2008 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

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