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donnaodonnellfigurski.com - GORILLAS by MEISH GOLDISH

Written by Meish Goldish

Publisher: Bearport Publishing Company
ISBN 13: 978-1-59716-369-9
ISBN 10: 1-59716-369-4
Ages: 6-12

When I think of gorillas, I think of wild, jungle beasts. My guess is that most folks do, too. Gorillas are massive animals. Some males stand as high as six feet and weigh as much as six hundred pounds. That’s a lot of gorilla! Though gorillas are intimidatingly huge and look rather fierce, most gorillas are peaceful, non-aggressive animals, unless provoked, of course.

They live in the lowland rain forests or mountain cloud forests of central Africa. Gorillas live in family groupings much like humans and they are very social creatures. In Meish Goldish’s book, entitled Gorillas, you can learn so many facts. He tells how Diane Fossey, an American zoologist, studied gorillas for nearly eighteen years. She went right into the jungle and did just what the gorillas did. She scratched her head, beat her chest, made their sounds and even ate the same foods they ate . . . like leaves and twigs. Gorillas also eat rotten wood and small animals, but I bet that Fossey didn’t go that far. I know I wouldn’t . . . even in the name of science. But, she did gain their confidence, which allowed her to study these giant mammals.

Goldish tells how Binti Jua, a gorilla who lives in the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois, saved a three-year old child who fell into her cage. He tells how Bongo, a Columbus Ohio Zoo gorilla, grieved when his partner, Bridgette, died and how he cared for their young son, making the infant’s bed of hay each night. Goldish also writes about how Koko, a gorilla who lives in the San Francisco Zoo, learned sign language using (ASL) American Sign Language. She can sign more than 1,000 words and understands more than 2,000 words.

Say no more, Meish Goldish has convinced me that gorillas are intelligent, sensitive, and caring animals. But, he also frightened me. No, not of six hundred pounds of gorilla, but that the gorilla species has become endangered. There are only about 740 gorillas alive today. Now, that’s a scary thought! Poachers encroach upon gorilla habitats and capture and kill them for their meat, called bushmeat, and they use their body parts for souvenirs. That’s an even scarier thought.

You can see these gentle beasts in their natural habitat in the Bwindi Forest National Park in Uganda by booking one of their many safaris. If you can’t go in person, then click on Gorillas to view a video by Tanya Petersen to see gorillas doing what gorillas do. Me? I’ll be going to the Erie Zoo in a few weeks and heading straight to the gorilla exhibit to see Samantha—the Queen of the Zoo.

This review can also be seen on: SmartWriters

FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“When I read this book I learned some really cool things about gorillas,” said Sarit.

“Yeah!” agreed Mikaela. “Gorillas have five fingers.”

“No,” said Abby waving her hands in the air. “Four fingers and one thumb just like people.”

Mikaela giggled and rolled her eyes as if to say, “I knew that!”

“One gorilla, Koko, even learned sign language,” said Ethan.

“Yeah, she learned how to communicate with people,” said Jane.

“She wasn’t the only gorilla who could do that,” said Melia. “Her friend Michael could, too.”

Nina looked like she was bursting. “In first grade, in Mrs. Figurski’s class, we learned sign language,” she said, “like Happy Birthday.”

“Koko learned more than one thousand sign language words,” said Jake. “WOW!”

“Gorillas are very smart,” said Johnny. “They use branches and rocks for tools.”

“One gorilla used a thin branch, probably from a tree, to measure how deep the water was because he didn’t want to drown,” said Abby.

“One gorilla used a rock to smash open hard nuts,” said Jewel.

“Using tools is another sign of smart animals,” said Johnny.

“Some people see gorillas as violent, brutal beasts,” said Ethan.

“Those people are wrong,” Jake nearly shouted.

Ethan nodded. “Really they’re the exact opposite,” he said. “They are caring, interesting, and loving creatures.”

“Gorillas have feelings just like people,” announced Abby.

Mikaela nodded. “They are able to feel fear and love and joy,” she said.

“And . . . confusion and jealousy,” added Andreo.

“They show happiness and sadness, too,” said Callie. As an afterthought she added. “A gorilla saved a boy.”

Ethan’ face lit up and he nodded. “People looked differently at gorillas when Binti Jua, a gorilla from an Illinois Zoo, helped an unconscious boy who fell into the pit where he lived . . . instead of attacking him,” he said.

“When Binti Jua saved the boy, I was amazed,” said Sarit.

“If I were stuck in a cage with a gorilla,” said Pritka. “I would go mad because I get scared very, very easily by massive animals.”

“I would be scared if I were down there, too,” said Eric.

“But even though gorillas are smart intelligent mammals, they are still killed by humans,” said Ethan.

“That means that people are killing harmless animals,” said Nina. “They are so MEAN!

“And, they sell their body parts for souvenirs,” explained Andreo.

Ethan looked incredulous. “Imagine saying, ‘Hey, Mom, I got a gorilla head while I was in Africa.’ Weird!” he said.

“Who wants to buy gorilla insides?” asked Jake, shaking his head. “I mean what is wrong with people?”

“Poachers are sick and cruel!” said Jewel.

“And now, gorillas are endangered,” said Pritka.

“It’s hard to believe that they are only 740 gorillas left in the world,” said Johnny. “When you think about it, that’s not really that many. People are a danger to everything.”

“Gorillas are very interesting,” said Becky.

“Yeah, one gorilla took a kid’s toy keys and the zookeepers were going to give him ice cream for them, so he broke off one key at a time,” said Jake. “He’s my kind of gorilla. He’s going places!”

“Do gorillas really like ice cream?” asked Andreo.

“If I were a gorilla, I know I would,” said Jake.


GORILLA GLOSSARY GAME: Science/Language Arts

Kiddles love to learn gorilla-size words, and the book Gorillas by Meish Goldish sure has some gigantic ones. Gorilla Glossary will help expand your kiddles’ minds while they learn interesting facts about gorillas.

1. Choose ten vocabulary words from the back of Gorillas.
2. Write one vocabulary word on a green 3” x 5” index card.
3. Write the corresponding definition on a pink 3” x 5” index card.
4. Pass the cards out to your class.
5. Have them sit in two rows facing each other.
6. A child with a definition card reads his/her card.
7. A child with the matching word calls it out.
8. Read all definitions until all matches are made.
9. To have children play the game independently, code the cards by writing a small matching
    number in the corner of each card.
10.Place the game in a center area for learning fun
     all through the year.

1 illegal            1 against the law
2 poachers       2 people who hunt illegally
3 savage          3 dangerous or violent

Science/Language Arts/Writing/Math

After reading Gorillas by Meish Goldish have your kiddles sit in small groups to discuss the book. Have each group write two or three facts that they can remember from the book. Allow sufficient time, and then gather the groups together. Make a list of their facts on chart paper.

Next tell them they are going make a counting book of gorilla facts using the following example.
One gorilla lives in the African forests.
Two gorillas live in the zoo.
Three gorillas crack nuts.
Four gorillas play King of the Mountain.

Each child will need one piece of lined paper.
Have them follow the example above.
They may use the facts from the charts to compose their books.
When each child has completed the desired number of facts, (recommended 5 to 10) type their facts in a large font. (16 or 18 is usually good for young students)
Each child then cuts out his or her own facts in order and glues them into a ready-made book.
When all the facts are glued down, the book may be illustrated.
Upon completion of all books, have a Gorilla Publishing Party and have each child read his/her book.
Laminate for durability and keep in the KIDDLE Library for all to read.

(Although I examined these websites and found them to be very helpful, please use them at your own discretion.)

Creature Feature
Mountain Gorilla
Koko’s Kids Club
All About Gorillas
Mammals: Gorilla


Good Night, Gorilla written and illustrated by Peggy Rathman
Gorillas by Michael De Medeiros                   
The Heart of the Beast: Eight Great Gorilla Stories written by Nancy Roe Pimm
Gorillas in Danger by Helen Orme   
Amazing Gorillas! written by Sarah L. Thomson

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