DUMB CREATURES by Jeanne Willis

This is the flawlessly written story of Tom, who can’t talk, although he can hear and is perfectly intelligent. Tom’s disability leaves people – not his mum or his speech therapist, but others – thinking he’s not dumb only in the sense of being silent, but also stupid.


Tom spends a lot of time at the zoo, where his signing skills allow him to hold conversations with Zanzi the gorilla, mother of a baby whom she and Tom call Beautiful. But Beautiful disappears and Tom protests in the only way he can; silently, but dramatically. He risks several lives, both human and gorilla, until his stand-off is beautifully resolved. This short novel is simply but compellingly written and utterly believable, a lovely book about the power of trust and the importance of not underestimating those we cannot always understand.

DUMB CREATURES by Jeanne Willis
Represented by
Published in the UK by
Macmillan Children's Books
2 April 2004