A few years ago, one of my friends told me I had to buy Little Beauty by Anthony Browne. We’d met at baby signing class and were talking about how amazing it was to see our children communicating before they could even speak. Knowing about my obsession with children’s books, she was amazed I’d never come across this one before, especially as we owned a few others by the same author. And so I bought it for my children, and we loved it.
Little Beauty is a gorgeous tale of an unlikely friendship between a gorilla and a kitten. Based on a true story, the gorilla has been taught to use sign language by his keepers and one day tells them he wants a friend. They bring him Beauty and the two become firm friends.
But then one day, the gorilla loses his temper and the keepers threaten to take the kitten away. However, Beauty has other ideas and her quick thinking prevents the two from being parted.
The book itself is a relatively simple one in terms of the text and language used. But there is so much depth here. I love the themes of friendship and loyalty – especially among two such different creatures.
So much of the storytelling comes via the illustrations. They’re typical of Browne’s other books – oversized, full of details and emotion. In keeping with the book’s theme, the pictures demonstrate that communication isn’t just about the spoken word.
It’s suitable to read to children aged two and above and perfect for those starting to read by themselves. It would also be a good one for older primary school-aged children, with its messages of how to convey difficult emotions, and building friendships with people who are different from ourselves.
In short, this is such a touching and heart-warming book, combining humour with deeper messages that can be appreciated by children of all ages.
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