October 2008 Indie Next List
“A beautifully told story of a sad, lonely gorilla living in a zoo. Using sign language, he tells his keepers, 'I want a friend,' and the zookeepers give him a little kitten to care for. The illustrations express clear emotion in this perfect read for young children about friendship.”
— Kristi Tiedt, Butterfly Books, De Pere, WI
This is the story of a very special gorilla, which learned to communicate with his hands. If he wants something he can ask for it using special hand signs. This gorilla has everything and yet he is sad. One day he asks his security guards to get him a friend. That is how little Beauty comes into his life. Soon she will become his best friend and both will do anything to stay together.
About the Author
I was born in Sheffield, England, in 1946 and moved at the age of one when my dad opened a pub near Bradford. As I got older, I apparently used to stand on a table in the bar and tell stories to customers about a character called Big Dumb Tackle (whoever he was). I spent much of my childhood playing sports, fighting, and drawing with my older brother.
I went to a grammar school in Cleckheaton, then studied graphic design at Leeds College of Art. At this point in my life, my father died suddenly and horrifically in front of me, and this had a huge effect on me. I went through a rather dark period, which didn't sit very well with the world of graphic design. After leaving college, I heard about a job as a medical artist and thought that it sounded interesting, and it was. I worked at Manchester Royal Infirmary for three years, painting delicate watercolors of grotesque operations. It taught me a lot more about drawing than I ever learned at art college, and I believe it taught me how to tell stories in pictures. I thought that it was probably time to move on when strange little figures started appearing in these paintings, so I began a career designing greeting cards. I continued to do this for many years, working for the Gordon Fraser Gallery. It was at this time, in 1972, that I moved south to Ramsgate, and shortly afterwards I met a local violinist, Jane Franklin, who was to become the mother of our two children. They are both at university -- Joe, who is studying music and English, and Ellen, who is studying fine art.
Gordon Fraser became a close friend and taught me a lot about card design, which was to prove very useful when I started doing children's books. I experimented with many styles and many subjects -- from snowmen, to dogs with big eyes, to gorillas. I sent some of my designs to various children's book publishers, and it was through one of these that I met Julia MacRae, who was to become my editor for the next twenty years. She taught me much of what I know about writing and illustrating children's books.
In 1976 I produced "Through the Magic Mirror", a strange kind of book in which I painted many of the pictures before I wrote the story. I followed this with "A Walk in the Park", a story I was to revisit twenty years later with "Voices in the Park". Probably my most successful book is "Gorilla", which was the first of my books to receive the Kate Greenaway Medal, and it was during this period that I was badly bitten by a gorilla while being filmed for television at my local zoo. Two of my books are loosely based on outings my own family took when I was a child: " Zoo", the Winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, and "The Shape Game". "The Shape Game" was also partly inspired by work I did as the writer-and-illustrator-in-residence at Tate Britain in London. And after finding my dad's bathrobe, I created "My Dad", which I've recently followed up with "My Mom".
I have published over thirty books and have received the Kurt Maschler 'Emil' Award three times. In 2000 I was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, an international award given to an illustrator for his or her body of work. This prize is the highest honor a children's writer or illustrator can win, and I was the first British illustrator to receive the award.
My books have been translated into twenty-six languages, and my illustrations have been exhibited in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, and Taiwan. I've had the pleasure of visiting these places, working with local children, and meeting other illustrators.
Anthony Browne lives in Kent, England.
Theresa Mlawer is a widely respected translator and the president of Lectorum Publications, the largest distributor in the United States of children's books in Spanish.