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.