Thursday, December 19, 2013

One Gorilla by Anthony Browne

British illustrator Anthony Browne seems to have a particular affinity for painting primates. His recent counting book, One Gorilla, shows off his talent in superb form. The first three examples (one gorilla, two orangutans, three chimpanzees) also happen to be the three that are studied by the scientists in the book Primates that I just finished reviewing.

Within each group, Browne portrays individual animals with care; special attention is given to facial details like noses and eyes. They each have their own personality. Four mandrills, 5 baboons, 6 gibbons, 7 spider monkeys, 8 macaques, 9 colobus monkeys and 10 lemurs. And then...

"All primates. All one family. All my family ..." accompanies Browne's self-portrait on a two page spread. The final page ("and yours!") is filled with human faces of all kinds (including some from his earlier picture books). Look closely at them and you will find one who could be closely related to a macaque. Another man in a Russian hat looks a lot like a colobus monkey.

I love, love, love this! Yes, it is a counting book suitable for very young children. It also visually explores another concept: the science of species classification. It's Anthony Browne at his subversive best.

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