Jul 6, 2009

Gentle Gorilla

The Story of Patty Cake
by Susan Green

I've read many books over the years on great apes- chimpanzees and gorillas- marveling at their social intelligence and abilities. This is the book that began it all, back one day as a teen browsing the public library. I'd never had much interest in gorillas before, and didn't know much about them. I saw this title and stopped short. I thought gentle? How could a gorilla be gentle? So I read the book. And read it again. Probably four times over the years. It's an interesting, thoughtful and touching story.

Gentle Gorilla began as an artist's journal. Susan Green visited the Central Park Zoo daily to sketch the animals, and one of her favorite places was in the Lion House, where the gorillas were. She was such a regular visitor the animals came to accept her, and the keepers permitted her to stay when other zoo-goers were denied admittance. Green was present when the female gorilla Lulu surprised everyone with the birth of a baby, named Patty Cake. She spent hours at the zoo watching the gorilla family- Lulu, Patty Cake and the father, Kongo- observing their interactions, feeling part of their joys and sorrows. This was back in the seventies, when the animals still lived in bare, concrete cages. One of the things that I liked most about the story was seeing how the animals would express their curiosity or find things to entertain themselves with, even in a rather barren environment. I remember one scene in particular where Lulu had a bunch of beets and instead of eating them, rubbed them against the floor to leave red marks... It's a lovely book, and if you haven't read anything about gorillas, I'd recommend this as a start.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 303 pages, 1978


bermudaonion said...

That sounds very appealing to me since I love animals.

Gentle Reader said...

This sounds like a lovely book! I think I might read it with my son, who loves animals :)

Nymeth said...

I can't thank you enough for all the nature/animal books recommendations I get from you. One more for my wishlist!

Jeane said...

Bermudaonion- I think any animal lover would enjoy this book.

Gentle Reader- You may want to know that the author has no qualms about describing the gorilla's sexual behavior. It's not explicit, but may not be appropriate for younger children (I don't know how old your son is).

Nymeth- Glad to give you more book recc's! This one can be hard to find- I think it's out of print- but if I ever come across another copy it's definitely going up here for giveaway.

Callista said...

I agree you read so many good animal books, I wish I had time to read them all. Maybe if I stopped saying yes to review books LOL.

Susan Kohn Green said...

It's so nice to know that Gentle Gorilla is still being read. Thanks so very much.I have seen it on Amazon every once in a while. Patty Cake is still alive at an ancient age at the Bronx Zoo and I do stop by to see here every once in a while, now with my grandson.
Susan Green

Jeane said...

Mrs. Green- I'm so pleased you visited my blog! I love your book; it remains one of my very favorites about gorillas. It's wonderful to know that Patty Cake is still living. Does she recognize you when you visit?

Susan Kohn Green said...

Jeanne! I just came across your blog again !And it brought back so much. It ws a wonderful time in my life. As you know, PC died at a very old age...... When I would go to the Bronx Zoo I doubt she recognized me.. she would come to the front of the glass and look at me, but it's hard to know. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you... 6 years? But still thrilled to see how Gentle Gorilla touched you. Thanks.