Just Imagine


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About the Author

Anthony Browne grew up in Yorkshire, and wanted to be a journalist, a cartoonist, or a boxer. He is now the award-winning author/illustrator of over 30 books, and was Children’s Laureate for 2009-2011. In 2000 Browne was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, an international award given to an illustrator for their body of work. This prize is the highest honour a children’s writer or illustrator can win and Browne was the first British illustrator to receive the award.

About the Book

This is a stunning new edition of the classic picture book by a Hans Christian Andersen Award-winner. Hannah loves gorillas, but has never seen one. Her father’s too busy to take her to the zoo – or for anything else come to that. For her birthday Hannah asks her father for a gorilla – but is disappointed when she discovers that the gorilla she’s given is just a toy. But then, something extraordinary happens…the toy turns into a real gorilla, who puts on her father’s hat and coat and takes her off for a magical visit to the zoo.

Gorilla is a complex picture book with themes of loneliness and friendship, which are explored through illustration as well as text. Readers of all attainment levels  are able to develop comprehension skills through reading this rich and multi-layered book.

Before Reading


Project the picture of Hannah from page 1 onto the IWB, or distribute copies of this image.

  • What can you tell about this character from this picture?
  • Encourage the children to think about the colour and patterns in the images
  • What do you think this character might do in our story?
  • Introduce the title and the front cover.


During Reading

If you have multiple copies of the book available, distribute them to the children. Allow them time to read or walk through the pictures and start to formulate their own ideas about the story. Distribute some small coloured Post-its (3 different colours)

When they have had time to read ask them to put one Post-it on:

  • a page that they really liked
  • a page that reminded them of something ( e.g. another story, something that has happened to them, something that have heard about etc.).
  • a page that they found puzzling or strange

In pairs, or small groups, invite them to share and talk about the pages that they have marked.

It can be useful for the subseqent discussion to photograph some of the pages, especially those marked as puzzling or strange. Also listen in to the children’s conversations and take notes of anything interesting, so that you can build this into the discussion, when you revisit the book.

The following prompts are suggestions of aspects you might talk about when you revisit the text. Choose those that build on and deepen the children’s own responses.

Hannah loved gorillas.

  • ‘Her father didn’thave time to take her to see one at the zoo. He didn’t have time for anything’. Why do you think Hannah’s father doesn’t have time for anything?
  • How would you describe Hannah’s father’s expression in this illustration?
  • What does the picture tell you about Hannah and her father? (Are they looking at each other? Notice how far apart they are seated).
  • What effect is created by the colour blue in this picture? Which colour stands out from the background (Hannah is pictured in red, which attracts the eye. Red carries many associations. Consider with the children the effect created by having Hannah dressed in red).
  • What sorts of patterns are there in this picture? (Notice the lines created by the check patterns, the stripes on the crockery).
  • How do the colours and patterns make you feel in this picture?
  • Are they different to the colours and patterns in the picture of Hannah reading by herself?

Not now, I’m busy…

  •  Where do you think Hannah’s father is going in the small picture?
  • What patterns can you see in this small picture?
  • What might Hannah be asking her father in the big picture?
  • Can you imgine the expressions that Hannah and her father might have on their faces?
  • What does her body language communicate?
  • Look at the distance between Hannah and her father – does ths tell you anything about their relationship?
  • How do you think he says, ‘Not now. I’m busy. Maybe tomorrow.‘ Encourage the children to think about tone of voice. In pairs, ask them to say this in the manner that they imagine Hannah’s father would say this. Try saying it different ways and find the one that you think best fits (tired, cross, impatient, cheery).
  • what do the small details in the picture add? There’s a photo frame. Is there anything in it?

They never did anything together…

  • Spend some time exploring the picture of Hannah watching the television. What does this add to your thoughts about Hannah?
  • What do you notice about the patterns on the wall and floor? (more stripes and bare floorboards, but there’s also a patterned wall paper)
  • Do the surroundings tell us anything more about Hannah?
  • encourage the children to look at the details, such as the map of Africa on the wall and the shadowy  shapes in the patterned wall paper.

The night before her birthday…

Share the children’s responses.

  • Do you think Hannah’s father thought that he was doing something nice for Hannah?
  • Think about Hannah’s size compared to the size of her bed. Does this give us information about how she is feeling?
  • Again think about the patterns created by the bedstead and the patterned bed quilt.

In the night something amazing happened.

  • Look at the three pictures on the left page. Why do you think Anthony Browne used three pictures instead of one here?
  • Now look at the picture on the right page. How would you feel if you woke up and saw a huge gorilla at the end of the bed?
  • How would you describe the gorilla’s expression?
  • Does the picture of King Kong make him seem even more scarey?

I just wondered if you’d like to go to the zoo?

  • What makes Hannah decide to go with the gorilla?
  • Hannah is wearing red boots. Is there any other red in this picture? (Notice how this connects the two characters who are wearing the same colour).
  • Where are Hannah and the gorilla looking? Mmaking eye contact unlike the pictures of Hannah and her father).
  • What do you notice about the coat hanging on the wall?
  • Why do they ‘creep’ downstairs and ‘whisper’?

The they were off, swinging through the trees…

Imagine what it would feel like to be swinging through the trees like this.

  • Do you think Hannah feels safe? Why? Why not?
  • Have you ever been out late at night and seen the night sky? Sometimes its hard to see all the stars when you are in the middle of a town or city.

They went straight to the primates

  • The text reads ‘Hannah was thrilled. So many gorillas!’ Does she look excited?
  • Where are the gorillas looking? How would you describe their expressions?
  • Do you think Anthony Browne likes to see animals in zoos? Why do you think that?

She thought they were beautiful. But sad.

  • Where are the orangutan and the chimpanzee looking? (Straight out of the picture at the reader. Hannah and the gorilla do not appear in these pictures, making it more of a direct communication with the reader).
  • What effect do the bars in the pictures have?

I’d love to go to the cinema

  • How do these pages contrast with the pictures of the zoo?
  • Which visit do you think Hannah prefers?
  • Can you recognise Hannah and the gorilla in the audience?

I’m hungry now

Compare the picture of Hannah and the gorilla’s feast with the picture of Hannah and her father in the kitchen.

  • What do you notice about the colours?
  • What about the patterns on the wallpaper?
  • Notice how close Hannah and the gorilla are. They appear to be looking at each other.
  • What do you imagine Hannah and the gorilla would talk about?

They danced on the lawn

  • What do you notice about the way Hannah and the gorilla are dancing?
  • Does the moon behind the gorilla’s head remind you of anything? (It appears to create a halo behind the gorilla).

The next morning Hannah woke up

  • Did Hannah’s outing with the gorilla really happen, or was it just a dream? Discuss your ideas with a partner.
  • Divide the class. On one side of the room have the children who think it was a dream, on the other the children who think it was real/magical. Invite children from each group to present their arguments to the other group.
  • Encourage the children to share different points of view, but encourage them to justify their thinking by making reference to the text and pictures.

Hannah rushed downstairs

  • How has Anthony Browne drawn the picture to show that Hannah is rushing?
  • How would you describe the scene with Hannah and her father in the illustration on the right hand page?

She was very happy

Contrast the picture of Hannah and her father at the end of the book with the first picture.

  • What are the differences?
  • How has Anthony Browne shown this through the words and illustrations?
  • Why do you think Hannah’s  father has changed?
  • Compare this picture with the image of Hannah and the gorilla walking hand in hand. Do you notice anything about these pictures?
  • How would you describe the ending of this story?

After Reading

Vocabulary- emotions

Look through the book again. This time make an emotion chart showing how Hannah is feeling in each of the pictures.

Emotion Evidence in the text Evidence in the pictures

Point of view

  • Although gorilla is a third person narrative, it is closely aligned with Hannah’s point of view. Invite the children to consider this. Through whose eyes are you seeing this story? Is it Hannah’s or her father’s?
  • If Hannah’s father was telling the story, how might it be different?
  • Look at specific pages (e.g. breakfast, going to work, desk, birthday, end of the story). What might he be thinking in each of these pictures?


  • What changes in this story?
  • What causes the change? (Is it magical or something else?)

The gorilla and Hannah’s dad

How are the gorilla and Hannah’s dad similar? How are they different?

Use a Double Bubble thinking map (David Hyerle, 2008) to note your ideas.



Which two of these words best fit the themes in Gorilla? In pairs, have the children discuss and select the words they think most appropriate.

Ask them to find three pieces of evidence from text to illustrate their choices. They can either make notes or stick Post-its on the pages they think best illustrate their word choices.

Loneliness Imagination Freedom Friendship
Boredom Bravery Adventure Home

Text to world knowledge: gorillas and primates

Hannah is fascinated by gorillas. she reads and writes about them and draws them. At the zoo, Hannah and the gorilla see the primates in the cage. Use the internet and other sources to find out about primates.

  • How many different types of primate are there
  • Where do humans fit in the primates classification?
  • Where do gorillas fit?
  • Can you find orangutans and chimpanzees?

Report writing

Hannah is writing in her gorilla notebook. Use what you have learnt about gorillas to write a report about them or one of the other primates.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy…

Anthony Browne Zoo

Anthony Browne The Tunnel 

Levi Pinfold Greenling