Koko's Kitten

Book review by
Mary Dixon Weidler, Common Sense Media
Koko's Kitten Book Poster Image
Amazing true story of pet loss helps kids understand grief.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 2+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows a gorilla that communicates through American Sign Language and experiences the death of a pet and expresses anger and sadness over that loss.

Positive Messages

Losing a pet is hard, but expressing your feelings can help you get through it. Even animals can feel sad. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Koko is kind and loving to All Ball the kitten. Koko expresses her feelings of anger and sadness when Koko dies. 

Violence & Scariness

Gentle Koko occasionally looks fierce and frightening, especially in pictures taken while she mourns for All Ball. All Ball is run over by a car and dies. Koko's grief is discussed thoroughly.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Koko's Kitten is the true story of a gorilla who asks -- via American Sign Language -- for a pet cat, and then expresses anger and sadness when the kitten dies suddenly. This book, illustrated with photographs, can help kids who have experienced loss themselves process and express their feelings of grief.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

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Kid, 10 years old May 2, 2012

Koko's Kitten The best

I am reading this in school and I think this is one of the best books I have read. I am in fourth grade too and I hope that if you read it you will enjoy it too...
Kid, 9 years old April 9, 2008

What's the story?

Children love pets, and Koko the gorilla is no exception. When her keeper asks her what she wants, Koko insistently replies--in American Sign Language -- "Cat, cat, cat." Enter All Ball, a tiny kitten abandoned at birth, who isn't afraid of anything--even a 500-pound primate. This amazing true story captivates young listeners.


Is it any good?

Although this book's pages seem text-heavy, the story of these two mammal friends captivates even the youngest listeners -- and children seem even more engaged because the story is true. The photographs give the reader a closer-than-the-zoo look at one of our remarkable primate cousins. Kids gravitate toward the story and are eager to share their own pet tales after seeing Koko and All Ball at play.

And because the book expresses the despair and anger Koko feels after All Ball's sudden death, children who have also experienced the loss of a pet are encouraged to vent their feelings. Since Koko is renowned for her ability to communicate with humans, it seems appropriate that her tale opens the door for children to share their grief.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Koko's loss. How does she feel when the kitten dies? Why is she angry?

  • Families can also discuss communication. Talk about ways you communicate with words, and try learning some sign language.

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