From School Library Journal
Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 3—This reworking of the classic tale of a beast transformed by unconditional love depicts the protagonist as a lumbering gorilla and Beauty as a petite cat. A red rose on the title page hints at what's to come. But wait! Alert readers will recognize this relationship, these very poses: here are Hanabi-Ko and All Ball from the real-life story of the sensitive, signing gorilla described by Francine Patterson in Koko's Kitten
(Scholastic, 1985). Browne melds fact and fiction into a story that reads simply, but offers layers. Luscious, creamy pages provide contrast for the large, well-spaced font and the dark, furry figure that often bleeds off the page. Watercolor and pencil renderings capture the animal in moments of profound loneliness and extreme anger; he reacts to King Kong
by smashing the TV in a page red with rage. Zookeepers fear for Beauty's safety, but her surprising intervention saves the day. Children will chuckle as they view the pair doing everything together, from using the bathroom to swinging from the lamp, like the mythical figure flying too close to the sun. (Bruegel's Fall of Icarus
hangs in the background.) Browne's exquisite interpretation of a real-life gorilla is a welcome progression.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
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*Starred Review* As in Willy and Hugh (1991) and many other animal fantasies, Browne once again tells a picture-book story with exquisitely detailed art that blends magic and realism. Full-page pictures in pencil and watercolor show a gorilla seated in a floral armchair watching TV with his mug of tea and a hamburger. The ape’s human keepers have taught him sign language, and when he signs that he is lonely, they give him a small white kitten. He names her Beauty, and the two bond in bliss. He holds her in the palm of his hand and feeds her milk and honey. The cover shows Beauty perched on the gorilla’s head, and one delightful spread shows him on the toilet, her using the litter box (“They did everything together.”). Then, in a fury after seeing a King Kong movie on TV, the gorilla smashes the set. The keepers come to take Beauty away after the outburst, but when Beauty signs that she broke the TV, everyone laughs at her improbable claim, the mood lightens, and the friends live happily ever after. With the beautiful close-up views of each hair on the gorilla’s furry body, his gentle eyes and soft hands, and then the sudden uncontrollable anger that all kids fear—in themselves and others—this is the stuff of “Beauty and the Beast,” as terrifying as it is tender. Preschool-Grade 3. --Hazel Rochman