cover image Painting Gorilla

Painting Gorilla

Michael Rex. Henry Holt & Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5020-2

In this comically far-fetched picture book, a talented gorilla's paintings of other zoo animals and their visitors earn her fame and fortune, which she's not sure what to do with: ""But what does a gorilla need money for? A gorilla doesn't need expensive toys or fancy clothes."" Cartoon illustrations in solid colors of acrylic paint reveal the gorilla's fantasies of operating a remote-controlled flying plane, and of dubiously modeling a frilly dress. When she asks her animal friends what they most want, she grants their wishes and buys their freedom, converting the zoo into a playground for children (populated by paintings of animals). Rex (illustrator of Floating Home) creates a fable-like tale that sails rapidly toward its conclusion. He sprinkles vignettes of the gorilla painting various subjects throughout as well as double-page spreads of bustling crowds observing the painting primate or wandering the ""playground,"" or like Gauguin, escaping with his paints in densely green surroundings. The book's emphasis on art as a commercial enterprise may be news to the picture-book audience, but in the end, this joyful painting gorilla reminds us that the best things in life are free. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)