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GROWING UP GORILLA by Clare Hodgson Meeker


How a Zoo Baby Brought Her Family Together

by Clare Hodgson Meeker

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5415-4240-2
Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Readers learn about gorillas in general and also how staff at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo managed two rare coups: getting a mother gorilla to bond with her rejected baby and incorporating baby Yola into the zoo’s existing gorilla family.

The layout, charts, and colorful photographs are enticing. A bright table of contents establishes six chapters, which hint of the story to come, starting at “Firstborn” and ending with “A Family at Last.” Nadiri, the 19-year-old gorilla who gives birth to Yola, was herself raised by humans in a sterile nursery, so it is no surprise to staff when Nadiri gives birth and walks away. Judy, Harmony, and other staff members have come to understand in the interim that “mothering is a learned behavior.” The text gives many examples of the ways that these dedicated people work to teach Nadiri mothering skills, including providing dolls to hug during pregnancy and tempting her with sweet treats to get her closer to her baby. Readers become familiar not only with Yola and Nadiri, but also with family members Akenji—an extroverted female—and Leo, a shy silverback male. Although slim and full of pictures, the book demands fairly able readers. There is a great deal of text—albeit with simple syntax—and many detailed explanations, not only of the changes in Nadiri’s family, but of several related topics.

Will provoke “content grunts” in nature lovers.

(endnotes, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)