When Gorilla Goes Walking

writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Shane Evans
Orchard Books, 2007

Find this book at your favorite library or used bookseller.

When Gorilla Goes Walking

About the Book

Goril­la is an affec­tion­ate, jeal­ous, lov­able cat who con­stant­ly wants to play with Cecil­ia. Expe­ri­ence their unique rela­tion­ship through Nik­ki Grimes’s lyri­cal poet­ry and Shane Evan­s’s vibrant art work. Read­ers will fall in love with Goril­la and wish they could bring her home with them!

From the Book

When Goril­la goes walk­ing,
the neigh­bors laugh and stare
at her tail­less rump
and her very proud air.

from When Goril­la Goes Walk­ing
© 2007 by Nik­ki Grimes

Lis­ten to Nik­ki Grimes read “Best Friend” from When Goril­la Goes Walk­ing:

Awards and Recognition

  • Bank Street Best Books for Children
  • Book­list, starred review
  • Cal­i­for­nia Read­ers Collection
  • Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, starred review



  In inter­linked poems, Cecil­ia, a young African Amer­i­can girl, intro­duces her “cool cat,” — a fierce, tail­less, gray short­hair named Goril­la. Writ­ten in a vari­ety of forms, from rhyming cou­plets to haiku, the poems cel­e­brate Goril­la’s idio­syn­crasies and “everycat” habits. Grimes’ skill­ful­ly cho­sen sounds and rhythms echo the dis­tinct­ly feline behav­ior, from errat­ic, zoom­ing action—“skate ‘cross the floor. / Sail by the win­dow, / leap through the door” — to sooth­ing, purring com­forts: “Goril­la raised a paw / and pet me.” In spare, expres­sive lines and bold col­ors, Evans’ dynam­ic paint­ings cap­ture the messy inti­ma­cy of the cat and human bond. Also evi­dent is the sense that Goril­la isn’t just a pet; she’s also a mir­ror. Like many chil­dren, Cecil­ia sees her own best and worst qual­i­ties in her bossy, beau­ti­ful cat, who is, she says, “like stub­born me.” A fill-the-page por­trait of dread­locked, brown Cecelia, arm and arm with a blue-eyed, white best friend opens this play­ful, insight­ful poet­ry col­lec­tion (clas­si­fied as fic­tion) with an image of open-heart­ed friend­ship. (Gillian Eng­berg, Book­list)

   A  girl’s keen and lov­ing obser­va­tions of her auda­cious, “rain-cloud gray” cat — the Goril­la of the title — are the inspi­ra­tion for this won­der­ful suite of poems by Grimes (Dark Sons). The book also serves as a kind of primer on poet­ry, prov­ing that the medi­um is infi­nite in its ver­sa­til­i­ty; Grimes offers up every­thing from mul­ti-stan­za paeans (both rhyming and not) to a sort of haiku (“Goril­la gazes/ into a pud­dle. Does she/ know she’s beau­ti­ful — ”). Her word choic­es are always live­ly and evoke an appro­pri­ate­ly feline com­bi­na­tion of affec­tion and enti­tle­ment (“I scratch Goril­la’s bel­ly when/ she com­man­deers my lap”). Of course, it helps to have such a rich sub­ject — Goril­la loves to fight with Ivy, cud­dle on a sick bed, inter­rupt home­work, eat soul food and pine for a tom cat. Evan­s’s (Here We Go Round) poster-like paint­ings are the per­fect accom­pa­ni­ment — the illus­tra­tor beau­ti­ful­ly cap­tures the many moods of both the supreme­ly con­fi­dent Goril­la and her ador­ing mis­tress. A win­ner for young­sters, cat fans and poet­ry lovers of all ages. (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly)

Enor­mous, live­ly illus­tra­tions are paired with an equal­ly boun­cy text in this win­ning pic­ture book. In a series of delight­ful poems, a girl intro­duces her cat, Goril­la, and describes her pet’s many inter­ests, tal­ents, and behav­iors. A fierce meow,/a tiger’s claws — /Gorilla ain’t/no San­ta Paws … .She has no tail./She’s rain-cloud gray./I love that cool cat/more each day. While the feline is decid­ed­ly the star of this show, Cecil­ia also shares tid­bits about her own life, such as get­ting into trou­ble for mak­ing a mess and feel­ing sad when her best friend moves away. The rich and reward­ing rela­tion­ship enjoyed by cat and human comes through loud and clear. From a breath­less entry about the ani­mal chas­ing a fly, to an ele­gant haiku (Goril­la gazes/into a pud­dle. Does she/know she’s beau­ti­ful?), the poems vary in style and mood. Grimes’s use of lan­guage and point of view are con­sis­tent­ly refresh­ing and child­like. The bold car­toon art­work endear­ing­ly por­trays the African-Amer­i­can nar­ra­tor and her smoke-col­ored pet as they play togeth­er, com­fort one anoth­er, and expe­ri­ence life’s ups and downs. This book is an excel­lent choice for cat lovers, bud­ding poet­ry enthu­si­asts, and just about any read­er who enjoys a fun-filled romp with words. (Andrea Tarr, Coro­na Pub­lic Library, CA in School Library Jour­nal)

Find this book at your favorite library or used bookseller.