I recently read a most wonderful book called The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. You can read my review of that book HERE. I really liked that book a lot! And a lot of other folks did too. It was (and still is!) a very popular book. Everyone who reads it falls in love with the gorilla, Ivan. The One and Only Ivan is a fictional story about a REAL gorilla. Ms Applegate decided that she needed to tell the REAL story of Ivan. In a picture book.

of the
by Katherine Applegate
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published by Clarion Books in 2014

A non-fiction book suitable for ages 4 and up

Themes – gorillas, animal welfare and conservation

It begins –
In leafy calm,
in gentle arms,
a gorilla’s life began.

This is a powerful story for all the ages – young and old alike. It is a true story of a gorilla who was born in the wilds of Africa and brought to the United States to be a sideshow attraction at a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington. The book begins with a tale of a baby gorilla’s idyllic life in the jungle with Mom and Dad and siblings and cousins. Then the baby gorilla finds himself in a dark box going on a long journey. In the beginning of his new life he was loved and coddled just like a human baby. He wore clothes and ate human food. This was long ago in the 1960s and people evidently didn’t know any better. They didn’t think about whether they were doing the right thing by this little gorilla.

IMG_1541After time, Ivan got to be too big for his fairy tale life and he was moved to a giant cement cage at the shopping mall. There was a window through which he could watch the humans who stared back at him. Long, lonely, boring years passed and then people started wondering whether the mall gorilla was at all happy about his circumstances. These people started to protest and complain and eventually, after 27 years at the mall, Ivan was moved to the Atlanta Zoo where he spent his last years with grass and trees and other gorillas. He died in 2012 – probably a happy gorilla. He was 50 years old.

Ivan’s story as told by Ms Applegate, is pure poetry. It is a brutal story, but one filled with hope and love. Ms Applegate’s words are lyrical and Rhythmic. Mr Karas’s illustrations are softened realism. Magical.

At the back of the book there is more information about Ivan and a letter from one of his keepers. There is also a list of resources for further study.

This is an incredible little book that everyone should read – along with Ms Applegate’s fictional version, The One and Only Ivan.

HERE’s a great interview with Ms Applegate.

And the original NY Times article that sparked her imagination.

Find out more about the book and see a trailer HERE.

Find out more about Gorilla conservation HERE at the International Gorilla Conservation website.

And then go visit your local zoo and study the gorillas!

Now you might want to visit Ms Susanna Hill’s blog HERE for a list of Perfect Picture Books and some great resources to go with! It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!!

Ivan at the B & I Shopping Mall

Ivan at Zoo Atlanta –

May your days be filled with love and understanding
Your library friend

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45 thoughts on “IVAN

  1. I loved the fictional book – now I definitely need to read the picture book! IVAN is such an interesting character – interesting that it was a news article that piqued Applegate’s interest. And I like your idea of taking a field trip to the zoo.

  2. I was introduced to this book last summer and thought it so great I broke my blogging break to publish or reblog about it. I fell in love. I thought the book was fantastic and so full of love I had to do something so reblogged it. Thanks for introducing more people to IVAN here for PPBF, Rhythm. Something I could not do since it was on summer break. Here is my link for the reblog. :


  3. This story breaks my heart. Gorillas have such soulful, sad eyes. Beautiful creatures. What a poor guy to have spent all those solitary years in that horrible cage, but at least he was moved to the zoo for the latter part of his life. I will definitely get this book. Katherine is a beautiful writer and Brian Karas, (with whom I had the pleasure of doing a library visit last year) is a wonderful illustrator and a very sweet man.Thanks, Rhythm!

  4. I haven’t read this book YET, but love this story. Great that you found the original article that sparked the story. A great reminder that stories are every where.

  5. I never did read the novel because it sounded too sad. I shall definitely look for the pb. What a sad story with a happy ending.

  6. I am so happy they’ve made this into a picture books for kids. I’ve seen it advertized and knew someone would share it soon! Such a moving story. What a different gorilla when Ivan’s placed in the Atlanta zoo where he spends the rest of his days much happier. Enjoyed the contrasting videos.

  7. I didn’t watch the videos because I’m feeling weak today. Can’t go to zoos at all. But I will place a hold on this and read it when I’m not weepy. And I look for ANY book from G. Brian Karas!

  8. Rhythm, I read the middle grade book about Ivan and I have been meaning to read this picture book version, though I am a little worried about crying too much!

  9. Oh, this looks WONDERFUL! Lovely story; hadn’t heard that it was in picture-book format now. Oh, and it foreshadows my pick for next week cause it’s also about a Gorilla!! Love ya, Rhythm!

  10. Oh my — I absolutely must read this. I loved THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, and to read the true story would be even more special (although heartbreaking at the same time.) Thanks, Rhythm!

  11. I read and LOVED the MG novel, and hope to read it again someday (haven’t reread anything in years—keep reading first-timers). I haven’t read the picture book yet, but plan to. I have to tell you, the living space I pictured when reading the book was sad because of the confinement, but the reality of this prison hole shown in the video is MUCH more bleak. It totally brought tears to my eyes. I mean, not even color on the walls. It’s too sad 😦 Thanks for sharing this, Rhythm.

  12. Pingback: Gourd one upmanship contest | Catherine M Johnson

  13. Aw, poor Ivan. That just makes me want to cry. I can’t imagine the poor guy’s loneliness. I’m glad he had some happy final years.

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