[Nonfiction Wednesday] Celebrating our Connectedness with All Creatures in Martin Jenkins’ and Vicky White’s “Ape” and Anthony Browne’s “One Gorilla: A Counting Book”

1419902958986

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.

We have just launched our new reading theme for July – August: Diversified – Rainbow Colours of Literature.

11698648_995769550468521_1991778473344985840_n

I was about to return these two nonfiction titles to our library when I took a chance and checked whether they could fit our reading theme – and I was so glad I did. These two gorgeously-illustrated nonfiction titles celebrate our connectedness to all creatures, making us realize the enormous responsibility we have as humans (and relatives to the apes) – to protect our environment and ensure our kins’ well-being and safety.

IMG_2677Ape

Written by: Martin Jenkins Illustrated by: Vicky White
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2007
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

The first nonfiction book by Jenkins and White that I have read was Can We Save The Tiger? – a beautiful title that prompted me to seek out more of their picturebook collaboration. In Ape, Jenkins and White deliver again with such astounding art work and sparse text that would draw in even the most reluctant readers or those who simply avoid nonfiction titles like the plague despite their being avid fiction readers.

Instead of overwhelming the reader with too much information, Jenkins focused on the “five kinds of great apes in the world” and he took careful note of how four of the five are rare: the subjects of this book. These are the orangutan, the chimp, the bonobo and the gorilla. What the fifth one is, I will leave for you to discover.

IMG_2678

What I particularly liked about this book is how both Jenkins and White imbued each creature with their own particular traits and characteristics – how the orangutan mother offered protection, nourishment, and undisguised affection towards her baby; or how the chimps seemed a little bit like hormonal teenagers with the angst and occasional skirmishes among chimp gangs:

IMG_2679

The bonobos were described to be the chatty ones, calling out to their friends; and quick movers too as they listen and look out for predators nearby:

IMG_2681

It was the gorilla that made me gasp in all its fierce dignity:

IMG_2682

I felt that this book would still be a good fit to our theme as Jenkins and White speak out for the apes and how humans have been changing the world so much that “we haven’t left enough room for the other great apes. And we’ve hunted them – for food or to keep as pets.” There is also a backmatter that indicates in a map where the great apes could be found and how many of their species are left in the world.

One Gorilla: A Counting BookIMG_2684

Written and Illustrated by: Anthony Browne
Published byWalker Books, 2012
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I have always been a huge fan of Anthony Browne. We featured his Zoo, Me and You, Willy the Dreamerand Willy’s PicturesHe is such a prolific picturebook maker, that it’s difficult to keep up. I am also familiar with his other concept books such as My Mom and My Dad. 

His Voices in the Park is a staple book that I feature to my higher degree students to discuss layering of text and image and how complex a picturebook can actually be. What is clear though is how he always manages to evoke some kind of raw emotion from the reader with both his art and text.

In this concept book, I was once again floored by Browne’s brilliance. Unlike Ape, this one featured more types of monkeys from macaques to mandrills, from gibbons to spider monkeys:

IMG_2685

IMG_2686

IMG_2688

While deceptively-simple, you can see from the images I shared above how Browne manages to infuse some kind of unique trait or characteristic across each of the creatures despite their belonging to the same species: from the sleepy to the friendly, the tender to the indifferent. What made me gasp aloud though was the last two pages:

IMG_2689

IMG_2690

Anthony Browne is a master of portraits – see those gazes looking up at the reader. There is something so basic here that touches a nerve, prompting the readers to look at themselves and see how we all belong to one family indeed. This is a book that is perfect for all ages – from the infant to the elderly. It is a celebration of kinship and connectedness – definitely a must-have in any library.

IMG_8056

One Gorilla: Longlisted for the 2014 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal

Ape: A Book Sense Children’s Pick, A Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, A New York Public Library: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing Selection, An ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award Winner

#AWBRead2015 Update: 75-76 (35)

1419902958986

#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 49-50 (25)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: