Priscilla is not a gorilla, but she sure loves everything about them.Six-year-old Priscilla has made her dad read All About Gorillas to her a “million skillion times!” When her mom asks why she loves gorillas so much, Priscilla responds, “They always get their way.” Her mother opines that Priscilla gets her way a lot already. But at school, Priscilla’s enthusiasm for simians sometimes gets her sent to the Thinking Corner. When, on picture day, Mr. Todd has the class give reports on their favorite animals while in costume, Priscilla wants to keep her gorilla jammies on for the picture…and ends up out of the picture and in the Thinking Corner. Her classmates follow her lead, though, and soon the Thinking Corner is pretty crowded. Her parents point out some cooperative traits common in gorillas, sparking a change in behavior if not in heart. After Priscilla apologizes to Mr. Todd (sort of), the class trip to the zoo is a gorillastravaganza. Bottner’s tale of ape adoration is sweetly spot-on. Primary schoolchildren will identify with Priscilla, her obsession, and her multiracial classmates. Emberley’s watercolor-and-pencil illustrations telegraph every emotion, from childish exuberance to patient parental love. The four pages of the famous gorilla dance at the close are worth the price of admission. Priscilla and her dad have black hair and light brown skin; her black-haired mom’s skin is a shade pinker.
In a funny, empathic, and refreshingly unsentimental take on childhood, the team behind Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) and other titles introduces Priscilla, a gorilla-obsessed first grader. Priscilla’s passion goes far beyond a mastery of fun facts: gorillas “always get their way,” she tells her mother, and this perceived ability to call the shots speaks deeply to Priscilla’s independent spirit and skepticism of authority—especially when that authority is her put-upon teacher, Mr. Todd. But Priscilla’s silverback act soon starts taking its toll on the classroom—so many peers emulate her that everyone ends up doing time in the euphemistically named Thinking Corner—and something has to give. Emberley’s watercolors, which channel the mischievous intelligence of Sendak, are wonderful at conveying personality through body language: a single drawing of Mr. Todd putting on his coat while announcing a field trip instantly communicates that this is a teacher with a solution to the Priscilla problem. And Priscilla, with her outsize confidence and (eventual) willingness to see a different perspective, is the perfect heroine for our times. Ages 4–7.