Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 12, 2022


June Smalls has written a new picture book, HE LEADS: MOUNTAIN GORILLA, THE GENTLE GIANT, Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara and published by Familius. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States. The book hit bookstores on March 29th.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping June and Yumi.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


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.


HE LEADS: MOUNTAIN GORILLA, THE GENTLE GIANT is the second in a series. Originally, when I was writing SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH, I focused on simple lyrical nonfiction. Somehow, almost subconsciously, the focus steered from just cool facts on lovely animals to a focus on leadership and what makes a good leader.

So as the solo book became a series, I focused on choosing creatures that had more depth than you may see at first glance. Everyone knows gorillas are powerful. We see the images of King Kong and the chest beating, teeth bearing battles in movies, but beyond that there is so much more.

Gorillas can be fierce, but part of the reason they are so hard to study is how they silently slink into the shadows of their forest homes to avoid confrontations and keep their troop safe and happy.

Only the males beat their chest. They do this literally to size each other up and this often helps them to avoid a fight. Yet, I watched a video where a large male was helping a young female gorilla copy this move, much like a human holding a baby and playing pat-a-cake or hand clapping.

Silverbacks will put themselves at risk to protect their troop. They lead them to safe spots for eating and nesting at night. They are a balance of power and gentleness, or aggression and shyness. They are a great example of leadership skills that humans could learn from too.

Yumi Shimokawara’s illustrations bring these beautiful beasts to life with realistic art and soft background hues. She captures their intelligent eyes, their playful sides, and their majestic power in a way that takes to text to a different level.

The series with the female elephant remembering watering holes visited long ago, the mighty silverback who knows when to avoid a confrontation, and next, THEY LEAD about the wolf breeding pair and how, with teamwork, they are stronger together all shows what it is to be a natural leader.

I hope this series helps readers to look beyond the first image they see of an animal, or more, in their lives. I hope each child reading also sees that every leader – big, powerful, intelligent, protective – started off little, just like them.


June Smalls has been making up stories since she only had pets and stuffed animals to share them with. With her first poem published in first grade June got the writing bug and never quit.

Now June writes books that are funny, educational, odd, and entertaining for both the educational and trade market.

June is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a lover of literature. She resides in Northern Virginia with her hubby, The Kid, and an ever-growing assortment of animals.

When not writing June is researching, visiting zoos or aquariums, reading, or trying to convince her hubby they have room for just one more pet.


Yumi Shimokawara was born in Tokyo. She took an illustration correspondence course with Kodansha Famous Schools in 2001 and later learned wildlife drawing at a KFS school. In 2013, she won the school’s 7th KFS Picture Book Grand Prix. She made her debut into writing and illustrating with Hoshi o sagashi ni (Star Hunting). She has since published Potsu potsu potsu daijobu? (Plip-plop Plip-plop, Are You All Right?) and Osuwari dozo (Have a Seat). She loves animals and currently lives with a white java sparrow in Chiba, Japan.

June, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. He LEADS is gorgeous. So wonderful to see the softer side of these giant  creatures. I hope this book will help get them of the endangered animals list. Yumi, really captured the gentleness of these giants of the jungle. Good luck with the book. 

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Such a great book and a wonderful interview!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t wait to read He Leads because I adored She Leads. Both books are stunning!


  3. This book is beautiful! I love learning more about such magnificent animals! Congratulations, June!

    I follow by email and tweeted this post, Kathy.


  4. Remarkable!


  5. This looks quite wonderful. The poses and facial expressions are so lifelike, it’s amazing. Thanks.
    I’ve shared:, and tweeted:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a great day!!


  6. What a splendid book. It’s rare I see a book that I covet for my grand daughters…amazing illustrations and so filled with peace!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: