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Growing Up Gorilla

Growing Up Gorilla: How a Zoo Baby Brought Her Family Together

Clare Hodgson Meeker
Millbrook Press
2019
48 pp.
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Baby gorilla Yola faces a singular challenge: Her mom, Nadiri, was raised by humans and does not know how to parent. Growing Up Gorilla tells the story of the pair’s blossoming bond as the keepers at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo care for the newborn gorilla and gently encourage Nadiri’s maternal instincts.

Clare Hodgson Meeker’s deft storytelling weaves together Yola’s first few months of life and Nadiri’s experience of being raised by humans. The zookeepers explain that they are eager to develop the bond between mother and baby because Yola will best learn life skills that way. The result is a gentle but surprisingly gripping narrative with finely drawn central characters.

Animal-mad children will love both the story and the abundant photography. Close-up shots of Yola and her family offer insight into the emotional bond and life of the gorillas. Sidebars that explain gorilla biology, society, and behavior serve as either useful breathers or mildly jarring distractions, depending on the reader’s attention span.

This is a book that packs a hefty educational punch in a delightful package. Readers will finish with an understanding of the close evolutionary relationship between humans and other primates and the precarious conservation status of gorillas. Most importantly, as they watch Yola flourish by “growing up gorilla,” they will learn that the best way to love and respect nonhuman animals is by keeping a little bit of distance.

About the author

The reviewer is a news intern at Science.