When a friend gifted my daughter Good Night, Gorilla for her third birthday, I had never heard of the classic bedtime tale — and had no idea how much my daughter would fall in love with it. The mischievous little Gorilla, who gathers up his animal friends for forbidden nighttime fun while the grown-ups around him remain completely oblivious, is pretty much everything my daughter aspires to. With his knowing smile and “hush” signals, the little Gorilla knows exactly what he’s getting away with — and my daughter cannot get enough. Seven months later, the book is still a nightly go-to.
Good Night, Gorilla is also an outstanding way to practice dialogic reading, an interactive read-aloud style that helps pre-readers engage with the story instead of being passive listeners. The book has few words and detailed illustrations — perfect for kids who are ready to search for context clues in the art so they can tell you the story. (Me: “How does the Gorilla get out of his cage?” Daughter: “He’s taking the keys from the zookeeper!” Insert high-pitched toddler squeal here.)
One day, I was reading a friend’s edition which had a forward by author Peggy Rathmann. “I have been repeatedly amazed and impressed by what the very young find in this book,” she wrote. The next time I snuggled with my kiddo for our nighttime reading, I read the book with new eyes. And that’s when I spotted a delightful subplot that starts on page one, when the mouse is biting the balloon string: