Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann (Putnam, 1994 edition)

GoodnightGorilla1Recommended for ages 1-5

A zookeeper is followed home by all of the animals he thinks he’s locked up at the zoo for the night. The story begins with the zookeeper locking each of the animals’ cages for the night, wishing each of them a good night. He doesn’t realize that the gorilla has taken his keys and is leading a menagerie back to the zookeeper’s house! When his wife realizes that her house is full of animals, she leads them all back and goes home – but someone may have followed her back. The art appears to be watercolor, with bright colors against sparse white backgrounds. The endpapers lead readers into and out of the story, with the gorilla showing up and holding what we presume to be the zookeeper’s keys as he bounces around the book cover’s frame.

The book is sparsely worded, which makes for great interactive storytime potential as the leader can ask children things like, “What’s happening now?” “What do you think will happen next?” Each animal is identified as the zookeeper says good night, reinforcing different animal names for younger readers. Young audiences may also connect with the animals who resist both their bedtimes and being left in their rooms all night. The animals even have toys in their cages – a fun storytime task could involve asking the children to point out the toys in each animal’s cage. The book is also available as a board book, and would be good to have on hand for the littlest users to be able to see and enjoy.

This book could be part of either a zoo-focused read-aloud or a bedtime stories read-aloud. For a zoo-focused read-aloud, it would be great to bring in some toys – Fisher-Price’s Little People have zoo and animal sets that are easily washable and would be  great fun for little hands to play with and act out the story. There are Fisher-Price Little People school buses that could bring “students” on a school trip to the zoo! Decorating the storytime area with plush zoo animals, even small Beanie Babies, would add to the fun atmosphere. There are many fun fingerplays and songs that can be incorporated into the storytime as well.

Good Night, Gorilla has received numerous awards and accolades, including designation as an ALA Notable Children’s Book (1994); Bulletin Blue Ribbon (1994); Horn Book Fanfare Selection (1995); Parenting Magazine Best Children’s Book of 1994, and New York Public Library’s Children’s Books: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing (1995).

The author’s webpage provides award and review information about Good Night, Gorilla and her other books.



I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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