Kid Lit Village: HE LEADS: MOUNTAIN GORILLA, GENTLE GIANT

Hello Readers! Thanks for stopping by Kid Lit Village this week. I’m thrilled to feature HE LEADS: MOUNTAIN GORILLA, GENTLE GIANT by June Smalls, illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara. Last year, I featured another of June’s books, SHE LEADS: THE ELELPHANT MATRIARCH. It’s a pleasure to have June back on the blog as a guest for a second time.

HE LEADS: Mountain Gorilla, the Gentle Giant

Synopsis: He is the king. He leads his family, his troop.
His silver back shows his age and experience.
He guides them through thick forests and steep mountains.

The majestic mountain gorillas live in family groups, led by a powerful silverback. Juxtaposing the apes’ awesome strength and surprising gentleness, He Leads tells the story of family loyalty and love. With stunning, lifelike illustrations and facts on each page, this beautiful picture book is a monument to these endangered gentle giants.

June Smalls

June, it is such a pleasure to have you on the blog! I’m excited about this latest book in your series. Children will love learning more about these endangered animals.

Tell us about the inspiration for your book.
After writing SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH I started thinking about he, she, they type themes. Once I decided to go that direction, I started thinking more on what is surprising about different male-led animal groups. With the elephants in SHE LEADS, the focus was empowering strong, intelligent, and caring females. HE LEADS needed to be similar. I chose the mountain gorilla for both their power and their gentleness. When I started researching I watched a film where a curious young male gorilla, who could have flipped over heavy logs with ease, gently poke and nudge a young owl that had come close. He didn’t harm it at all. The male is aggressive when he needs to be, but will play with the babies, showing them how to do chest beats the way we might play pat-a-cake with our own babies. He’ll fight to the death to protect his troop, but avoiding danger always seems to be their first choice. Once I learned all this, I knew they were the stars of the next book.
Up next is THEY LEAD: THE WOLF PACK in 2023 which shows the teamwork used to keep a wolf pack safe, healthy, and happy.

I love the two sides to the gorilla: the power and the gentleness. Great qualities in a leader, for certain. And the wolf pack story sounds amazing too!

What part of being a writer do you love most?
I love discovery! Sometimes that discovery is a topic I want to learn about. Other times, it is the way I can present the story or information I want to share, like the dual narrative in the LEADS series. Or it might be the direction a story or character takes me that I never expected. It is magical and often unexpected and keeps writing always feeling new.

That sense of discovery is so wonderful, isn’t it? You never know what’s around the next corner.

Tell us how you build yourself up in the face of rejection.
Rejections sucks, but I try to be logical rather than emotional in regards to it. Rejection happens to us all the time. It is easy to forget that it isn’t personal. For an agent or editor to take on our work they have to love it, be capable of selling it, be confident that they can bring it to the next level, and convince others of the same. Many times an agent knows they wouldn’t be a great advocate, or an editor loves a manuscript but can’t convince their sales team to get on board. And sometimes still, it may just not be their cup of tea. The same way we don’t like every dish we are served or purchase every novel we skim through at the store. When we focus on the next step, it lessens the angst and stress. Still sucks to be rejected, and it is okay for it to feel sad too. We have emotions and it is ok to own those feelings as long as it doesn’t hold us back from the next steps toward our goals.

Great advice, June. Thank you!

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
For HE LEADS, and the first book in the series, SHE LEADS, I hope it opens conversations about what makes a good leader. I hope it makes readers curious about amazing endangered animals. Mostly, I hope it reminds young readers that every big or powerful or impressive person or creature started off small. We all are born with potential, the ability to learn, and the ability to grow.

Leadership is a topic that can connect with children and adults, alike. I see such potential in the young children I teach as leaders, now and in the future. I love giving them opportunities to lead and they love it too.

June, we wish you the best with your book series! Thank you for sharing your insights here on Kid Lit Village!
Connect with June!
Twitter: @June_SmallsWebsite: www.junesmalls.com

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Cynthia Mackey