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