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Koko's Kitten

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  784 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
The real life experience of Koko, a gorilla in California who uses sign language, with a young kitten whom she loved and grieved over when it died.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published June 1st 1987 by Perfection Learning (first published 1985)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sep 17, 2009 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I originally rated this book five stars because it moved me to tears. Then I saw a couple of documentaries about Koko. It turns out that Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson is an incompetent psychopath who doesn't know the first thing about primatology. She says things like, "I don't care what the critics say. I'm not 'humanizing' Koko, I'm peopleizing her." She also slaps a very young Koko in the face when she "misbehaves" (ie, acts like a gorilla and plays rough with Michael, another gorilla). Even ...more
Amy Rae
I remembered this book vaguely from childhood (I knew it existed, but I had no memory of having read it), and when I decided to do a booktalk on real-life animals, I thought it might be a nice one to include. The story itself is sweet, though I probably would have given it three or four stars rather than five, because in places, it wasn't clear to me how Patterson had conveyed such complex questions and comments to Koko.

However, this review unsettled me, and this article didn't help that. In ret
Sep 08, 2011 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
Koko is a gorilla; her kitten was “All Ball.” This is a true story, written for children. Who couldn’t love it?

Back in the 1970s Koko was born and soon thereafter was taught sign language. Yes, she really could speak with her keepers in this way. So, when they asked her what she wanted, she told them, “Cat.” They got her a tiny gray, tailless kitten.

The story of KOKO’s KITTEN by Francine Patterson tells of Koko’s early life and how she came to learn sign language. Then we learn about her reques
Apr 20, 2008 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Nicole by: My mom
Koko's Kitten is a must read for every human who eats, votes, or shops. This book inspired my respect for the rights, dignity, and intelligence of animals, and led to heated arguments with my teacher in 6th grade and my friends in college. Koko's ability to express her unique thoughts and feelings - and her friend Michael's ability to remember and describe the death of his mother - contradict widespread assumptions about the differences between animals and humans.
First sentence: Koko's full name is Hanabi-Ko, which is Japanese for Fireworks Child.

Premise/plot: Koko's Kitten is a nonfiction picture book for elementary-aged readers. Though the book is called "Koko's Kitten," the picture book biography (of a gorilla) tells much more than just that one little snippet of her life. It tells of how Koko was/is the subject of a special project, how she started learning sign language, the special bonds she's formed with the humans in her life, etc. The climax of
Part of me loves this sweet story, accompanied by photographs, of a signing gorilla interacting with its pet kittens. But I am also left a little unsettled by how unnatural this is. A few minutes of internet research on Koko's trainer leaves me more disturbed. I would like to do more research to sort out my feelings on Koko's life and this book.
Rosa Cline
This is a true story about a gorilla that a zoo had worked with with sign language and knowing her personality. They gave her a kitten to care for and she did take care of her feeling all the emotions a human does with deep friendships.
Chris Blocker
Oct 09, 2009 Chris Blocker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book when I was about eight years old. Its tenderness touched me, changing my perception of the power of a book forever.
Alex Roth
Dec 09, 2014 Alex Roth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tch-lrn-307
Koko is a gorilla that has the ability to communicate through sign language. Being able to communicate with humans through sign language, Koko is able to express what he likes and does not like. One year for Christmas Koko expresses he wants a cat as his Christmas present. Eventually Koko gets a Kitten that she names Ball and takes care of as if she is her own child. Koko and ball create a very strong and loving relationship with one another, until a tragic day in which Ball is taken away from K ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Dolly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is an informative and entertaining book about a gorilla who has learned American Sign Language and communicated with her caretakers that she wanted a pet cat. The story is a bit long, but we really enjoyed learning about this amazing animal and her ability to learn and communicate with humans. The fact that Koko was so kind and gentle with the kittens (and even gave them names) really shows us how little we really know about other species.

The photographs appear to be somewhat dated, but the
Lea Cornman
Sep 22, 2016 Lea Cornman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I knew nothing about Koko until I read this book Summer 2016. We read it to a class of students in summer school, and I fell in love with Koko and her story!! If you want a quick "Kids" book that adults will enjoy as well, read Koko's Kitten. Its a true story of Koko, a gorilla that was taught sign language to communicate back in 1972. I did a little research of Koko and discovered that she is still alive. This is a great read aloud story for the entire family and it can be re ...more
Nov 30, 2009 Ericka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pb-easy-to-read
1st-4th grade

Patterson wrote a book that all children will love. She tells the story of Gorilla that became good friends with a kitten. This story is filled with pages of real pictures taken by Ronald Cohn of the Gorilla, Koko, and her kitten friend. There is about one picture a page and most of them have titles explaining what is happening in the picture. The reading is easy for 1st-3rd graders because it is about 30 pages of large font reading. There is about 15-25 sentences per page and it is
Sep 22, 2011 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I gave five stars, because it is a really good book. Because it's about a gorrila who was tought sign language and so I thought that was just cool. On koko's birthday I came to see him and I said koko what do you want for your birthday koko sign, "Cat". Karren went and called up a friend of hers and she came over so Karren gave koko all kinds of kittens but she picked brown tabby tailless one instead. realation ship whith the with kitten? Sas good they bonded and really liked eachother so then o ...more
The Reading Countess
Based on the "story" of Koko and Dr. Patterson, this is a 5 star tear-stained narrative nonfiction read.

But further probing on youtube and several reviews later, though, I am giving it a 3.

Initially, I wanted to pair this book, along with some video of Koko, with some books of Dr. Goodall's work with chimpanzees next semester when we unpack informational text. Now I'm left with the quandry of whether it is a greater good to give the information about Koko to my kids and let them wrestle with t
Apr 09, 2008 jenna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, including all the gorillas i know
Recommended to jenna by: my mom I believe...
Shelves: kiddie-books, 2008
I just bought this book for my step-son, but I can't deny my selfish motivation to re-read it myself. Even as an adult I am awestruck by Koko's story, that is so relatable.

I remember this story being so validating to me as a child who whole-heartedly believed in the equality of all living things (at least the mammals, or cute ones) and the ability of other animals to experience emotions. As an adult the book is not only scientifically fascinating and wonderous, but also a reminder of how a chil
Oct 20, 2010 Lois rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children, all-ages
I read the first book about Koko to my now grown daughter, and I loved it although it didn't become one of her favorites. Now I hear that one of my grandchildren is into all things primate, so i immediately thought of Koko the Gorilla. This newer book, about Koko and her love for her kitten was one I had never read before today. Simple straightforward story of a caring team of humans who live and work with Koko, a now grown Gorilla full of the desire to care for another creature, and able to com ...more
May 03, 2010 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a true story about Koko, a gorilla who learned to sign and can communicate love, anger, sorrow and joy. Her trainer reads picture books to her and her two favorites are “Puss In Boots” and “The Three Little Kittens.” This leads to Koko asking for a cat for her birthday. She eventually receives her kitten which she names All Ball (it doesn’t have a tail). This story about Koko and All Ball, accompanied by photographs, is not only heart-warming, it demonstrates the gorilla’s intelligence a ...more
Barbara Brien
Sep 07, 2013 Barbara Brien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember hearing about Koko's cat when I was a kid. This is the story of that cat, and the details about Koko choosing him. The book even has the "Reading Rainbow" logo on it.

I am amazed at Koko's, for want of a better word, humanity. She is not of course, she is "Fine animal gorilla." And she should never aspire to humanity, we have too many faults.

But being able to understand another species to this extent leads us - human and gorilla both - one step closer to true compassion. I am inspire
Dec 02, 2013 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids-read-aloud
I don't log or review kids' picture books on here, but I'm making an exception for this one. Last weekend I read Koko's Kitten out loud to my younger kids - it's a nonfiction account of a woman who communicates with a gorilla through sign language and carefully gives the gorilla a kitten for a pet. It's educational for both kids and adults, and I found it moving and I'm not even much of an animal person.
Shannon Tisone
Be prepared because this one is a tearjerker. I think that the storyline behind this book is great since it is a true story. Individuals of all ages will enjoy this book. It is very sad when the first cat dies, but it'll help show students sympathy. It'll also be very interesting for my students to see how well two completely different animals react to eachother. All around I think this is a great book and it made me want to learn even more about Koko.
Feb 03, 2014 Sophie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Koko has a choice of kittens! She has one named Lipstick and one named AllBall. Lipstick is very red. She's really cute too. Koko's choices are: no tail, short tail, or long tail. She draws a picture of AllBall. It doesn't really look like anything but was really cute.

Koko keeps AllBall on her back. And Lipstick sometimes, too. Penny reads Koko a book about kittens so she knows what kittens are. She is so cute!
Aug 15, 2015 Carson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I was obsessed with Koko when I was young. This book is barely together from the so many times I've opened its pages. All Ball and Lipstick. It has been years since I've even looked at this book and I still remember the cats. Animal communication is truly amazing and though Jane Goodall doesn't work with gorillas, it is amazing to see her work.
Koko was one of my favorite things when I was younger. She still is.
Jun 07, 2011 Cheryl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheryl by: El Paso Public Library
Cute pictures. Lots of text.

I'm feeling very unsettled about this book and not sure I can succinctly express why. There is something creepy that left me feeling like something is wrong with this picture but I don't exactly know what. The more I searched on the web, the stronger the feeling. It felt unhealthy so I wouldn't have kept the book in our family's library.
Potsie81 (Mary) Will
When I was in elementary school, I would check this book out every week. It was when books had those little yellow cards in the back that the librarian would write your name on each time a book was checked out. The card in my elementary school copy had my name listed all the way down, front and back. I love it!!! Definately one of my top five favorite books of all time!
I LOVE this book. It shows the humanity of the gorilla, Koko, and her sweet attachment to her pet/baby kitten All Ball. I could read it over and over and not get tired of it...and I do! Great pictures accompany simple yet touching words. Koko says what she has to say in few words yet her meaning comes through loud and clear.
Bonnie Tesch
So, ASL to English translation, if done word for word, sounds like the smooth, educated grammar of a three that old. Or a gorilla, apparently. I feel like in writing this, they either were not familiar with ASL grammar, only vocabulary, or thought people wouldn't believe the gorilla could really convey anything if they followed conventions and actually translated it idiomatically.
Feb 04, 2010 Erica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is humanity? Can animals have it? Why do we want them to? What difference can one little kitten make? What constitutes a tragedy? A romance? "Koko's Kitten," a tale of stewardship, hope, motherhood, love, loss, and renewal, raises these questions with subtlety and humor in this book of colorful photos and black and white text. You'll laugh, you'll cry - it will change your life.
Sarah Morrison
Apr 12, 2012 Sarah Morrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Toni Taylor
Jan 31, 2011 Toni Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember going into my elementary library and knowing, without even thinking, where this book would be on the shelf. I read it ALL the time! I loved how Koko cared for her kitten. Even though I am almost 30 years old, I still remember Koko and her kitten!
Feb 21, 2012 Carla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readin2012
I think I read this as a child--I certainly heard about Koko--but my boss brought it into work today because she thought it was so sweet. Turns out, I've only become more of a sap with age. This is a very sweet story.
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