Dumb creatures ISBN: 9780330418041
Willis, Jeanne
Published by Macmillan, 2005
Tom is dumb. Inside he's sharp as sharp, but when he tries to speak, 'it sounds like a dog bark. Or a cat yowl. Or a rat squeak.' He uses sign language to his parents and to Ruth, his speech therapist, who is convinced he will talk one day. Told by Tom himself, this beautifully lyrical story explains how it feels to be considered stupid and not to be able to communicate the 'big feelings, all bottled up'. At the zoo, he can communicate with the animals, particularly the gorillas, one of whom actually signs to him. When Zanzi becomes a mother at the same time as Tom's mum produces Daisy, the two babies' lives run parallel until one unhappy day when Tom arrives at the gorilla enclosure to find that Beautiful, the baby gorilla, has been removed and is to go to an American zoo. How Tom convinces the zoo keepers that this must not happen in a daring and poignant (as well as dangerous) climax, is the crux of the story. Such is the power of the writing that one has no problem in accepting the unlikeliness of the boy/gorilla relationship. Tom does speak in the tension of the stand-off, justifying Ruth in her belief in his abilities. A short, completely successful novel.
Age: 9+