A true international animal fantasy.
Co-written and illustrated by an Aboriginal author from the Walmajarri people of Western Australia in collaboration with a white author from Broome, Australia, and set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this story follows Steve, a huge brown gorilla, as he escapes from the zoo for a night of dancing at a jazz club during Carnival. As he searches the city for Antonio, his favorite zookeeper, a yellow hat effectively disguises Steve until his boisterous dancing with “a beautiful dancer with zigzag hair” makes it fly off his head. The hostess cries, “Opa! A Gorilla!” but the dancer continues, unfazed. And Steve actually does find Antonio, the zookeeper, who loves music and dance as much as Steve does. Portuguese words that appear throughout the text are translated in a closing glossary. While this is not an #ownvoices story, Button and Wells accurately portray the art, yellow trams, food (coconut sweets, bonbons, black bean soup, etc.), and the celebration of Carnival. Less accurate is the focus on jazz music, when samba figures more prominently than jazz during Carnival. Despite this minor inconsistency, the book’s Raschka-esque art—lively, childlike, colorful, and full of movement reflective of music and dance—will keep readers interested and engaged.
A compelling, child-friendly tale that will increase readers’ global awareness while it entertains. (Picture book. 5-10)