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.

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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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The One and Only Ivan

IMG_3871You may, or may not, know that I have a thing for gorillas. I have spoken of them on several occasions. I grew up with a pet gorilla that kept me safe at night, and I like to read books about gorillas.

I heard about this book, The One and Only Ivan, some time ago. It won the Newbery Medal in 2013. I heard about how fabulous it was and how sad it was. Recently I got to find out for myself. The Mom Person decided it was time to have a quiet sit down and read the book.

IMG_0159The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
illustrations by Patricia Castelao
published by Harper in 2012

This is a fiction book based on a real gorilla. It’s the story of Ivan, a gorilla caught in the wild as a baby, who grew up as a pet wearing clothes and being treated as a human baby, then spent 27 years living in a cage in a shopping mall. Yes, 27 years. In a shopping mall. With no grass or trees or other gorillas. And not even a chance to go shopping!

The story is told in Ivan’s voice. This gives some real power to the tale. Ivan is a pretty easygoing fellow and doesn’t complain about the life that he has been given. He has friends in the mall circus – an elephant named Stella, a little homeless dog named Bob, and a little girl named Julia. Stella is an elderly elephant who performs in the mall circus every day. Bob likes to sleep on Ivan’s belly. And Julia is a budding artist who gave Ivan his first crayon. Ivan loves drawing and creating pictures. His keeper sells his artwork at one of the stores in the mall.

One day a new baby elephant arrives named Ruby. Ruby was taken from her home in the wild and brings new vision to the mall inhabitants. She causes Ivan to take a more realistic look at his surroundings and his life. This all leads to an interesting conclusion that I won’t tell you about – you’ll have to read the book!

IMG_0158This was a fantastic book! I loved hearing Ivan’s voice in my head. There were some sad parts in the book, but ultimately it was not a sad story, it was a story of hope and friendship and found joy. Ivan was a gentle soul with a big heart and great strength of character. He is my new super hero!

Everyone should read this book. Again and again.

The real Ivan lived out the last years of his life at the Atlanta Zoo. He died in 2012. He was 50 years old! You can find out more about him at the Atlanta Zoo website HERE.

Ms Applegate did an interview with NPR that you can listen to-or read if you prefer- HERE.

You can find out more about the book at the official The One and Only Ivan website HERE.

And a fun video brought to my attention by writersideup —

A book trailer done by librarian Julie Hembree –

I wish you a weekend full of joy and friends!
Your library friend

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Gone to the Apes

As you may (or may not) know, I have a particular fondness for Apes. Gorillas in particular. My sleeping buddy when i was a wee pup was a cuddly gorilla who kept me safe at night.

IMG_3871I have talked about apes and ape books on several occasions. HERE. and HERE. and HERE. and HERE. One of my most favorite author/illustrators is Mr. Anthony Browne who is quite famous for his depictions of apes. Do you know the difference between apes and monkeys? Apes don’t have tails!

IMG_6017Today for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I have two, yes TWO, Perfect Picture Books about Apes. One is non-fiction and one is considered fiction but is actually a biography. I get so confused about these things sometimes!

by Martin Jenkins
illustrated by Vicky White
published by Candlewick Press in 2007
a non-fiction book about the five great apes
suitable for pre-school and up

It begins —
There are five kinds of great apes in the world.
Each of them is different from the others …
but not so very different.
They’re all part of the same family.

Mr Jenkins goes on to tell us about the great apes of the world. The Orangutan of Borneo and Sumatra, the Chimpanzee of central and west Africa, the Bonobo of central Africa, the Gorilla of central Africa, and ….. Humans who are found all over the world.

Mr Jenkins tells us about each ape family’s habitat and habits, what they eat, and what their personalities are like. This is all accompanied by the most unbelievably beautiful artwork by Ms White. Publisher’s Weekly says about these illustrations – “White makes an intense emotional connection between subject and reader. …. The great apes have found their John Singer Sargent.”

IMG_6019At the back of the book is a world map showing where the Great Apes are found, and links to some conservation organizations who are working to save the great apes.

This is a most incredible book! You can read Publishers Weekly’s review HERE.

IMG_6021Me … Jane
by Patrick McDonnell
published by Little Brown and Company in 2011
a fictional biography of Jane Goodall – champion of chimpanzees
suitable for pre-school and up

It begins —
Jane had a stuffed toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.
She cherished Jubilee and took him everywhere she went.
And Jane loved to be outside.

This is an exquisitely joyful look at Jane Goodall as a wee young girl. She spends her time immersed in the world around her. She is a watcher of nature – the plants and animals that fill her habitat. She studies and keeps detailed notes in her journals. Jane reads about Tarzan of the Apes and dreams of being in Africa herself living a life “with, and helping, all animals.” And Jubilee is with her always.

IMG_6018The illustrations in this book are the cute, sweet pictures that Mr McDonnell is famous for. But there are also some of Jane’s own artwork from her journals. And pages of subtle realistic nature pictures.
At the back of the book is a brief biography about Ms Goodall and links to her websites. You can get to those HERE. and HERE. There is also a message from Ms Goodall herself.

Besides learning about chimpanzees at Ms Goodall’s website, you can find more about gorillas at the Gorilla Organization. More about orangutans at the Orangutan Foundation. More about Bonobos at the Bonobo Conservation Initiative.

Here is a link to some activity sheets and a cool gorilla mask.
A great lesson plan about apes with crafts and activities can be found HERE.

And now you might want to visit Susanna Hill’s blog where you’ll find a great list of Perfect Picture Books and helpful resources to go with.

Ms Jane Goodall recently celebrated her 80th birthday. Here is a video tribute to her —

Now go out and do something good for your neighborhood!

Your ape watching friend
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Little Beauty PPBF

I am sooooooo excited about the book we found this week!!!

It’s a book by ANTHONY BROWNE!!!!!

Anthony Browne is the King of Gorillas. I have shared other of his books HERE and HERE.

Today’s book is one we found at the school library. It just popped out at me and made me go Whoa!!

IMG_4099Little Beauty. Just look at that cover! Doesn’t it make you say Whoa!!?!

It was published in 2008 by Candlewick Press. (You can never go wrong with Candlewick!)

It is a fiction book about friendship and gorillas and animal communication.

It is suitable for ages 3-7. We read it with some 4th graders and they loved it!

Little Beauty is about a very special gorilla living in a zoo.

It begins – “Once upon a time there was a very special gorilla who had been taught to use a sign language.”

Because he knew sign language he could “talk” to the keepers and ask them for things that he wanted or needed. And he had almost everything he wanted and needed. Except a friend, and he was sad and lonely.

img446Now is that a sad face or what?!

I can do that face too —

Copy of CIMG7898Anyway, the gorilla told the keepers that he wanted a friend. There were no other gorillas at the zoo so they were baffled about what to do.

But finally one of them came up with a great idea. They got the gorilla a kitten named Beauty. The gorilla loved Beauty, and they became BEST friends. They did everything together, and were happy for a long time.

But one day they watched a movie together. King Kong. And the movie upset the gorilla. So much so that he got angry and smashed the TV! The keepers rushed in to see what had happened. They said “Who broke the television?” and ” Now we have to take Beauty away.”  Oh, No! But then Beauty, the kitten, started to sign! She said “It was ME!!!!” This made the keepers laugh and they decided to let Beauty stay and the kitten and the gorilla lived happily ever after.

One reason that I like Mr Browne’s books is because the illustrations are so rich and full of detail. This book is a little different – there are some pictures that are just black and white sketches. Kind of unfinished. That made me stop and think about why he would do that. I’m not sure, but I think it may have something to do with the two characters being happy? Anyway, it kind of caught me off guard and made for an interesting bit to think about.

Now, this story may sound familiar to some of you — I recently did a review of a NON-fiction book about this very friendship. Koko’s Kitten. Koko is a REAL gorilla who uses sign language. And Koko got her very own kitten that she loved. This is one reason that I was so excited about this book, Little Beauty. The two books go together nicely.

For more information about gorillas and gorilla research visit the Gorilla Foundation HERE.

Anthony Browne was the Children’s Laureate from 2009-2011. For more about Mr Browne and for some teacher resources and information about some of his projects visit HERE.

And for more about unusual animal friendships you might check out this book –


Unlikely Friendships, by Jennifer S. Holland. As the cover says, this is a collection of stories and pictures of “Unlikely friendships” between different animal species. Stories and pictures with big AAAHHHH! factor.

I have a couple of videos of Mr Browne talking about this book Little Beauty that you might find interesting –

Now you must visit Susanna Hill’s Blog and see more Perfect Picture Books along with some great resources.

I wish you a Joyful weekend full of friends and good times


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Koko’s Kitten PPBF

IMG_3871I have a thing for gorillas. I have my very own that kept me safe when I was a wee pup. Gorillas are special creatures that are endangered. That means that they are in danger of becoming extinct. That would be a bad thing for the world.

There is a very famous gorilla named Koko. You may have heard of her. She was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971 and in 1972 Ms Francine Patterson, who was working on a graduate school project, became interested in studying the language abilities of animals. She was allowed to use Koko as her subject.

Dr. Patterson taught Koko American Sign Language and claims that Koko can now communicate using over 1000 words and phrases. (Very much like Chaser the dog!) Koko and Dr. Patterson are still together, working and learning and teaching the world about gorillas.

KoKo’s Kitten is a book about Koko and her 1st pet.

It is a non-fiction story written by Dr. Francine Patterson and has photographs by Ronald H. Cohn

It was published in 1985 by Scholastic.

Theme — gorillas, endangered animals, animal communication, pets

There are a lot of words in this book so it is best for older kids – 2nd grade and up. But with some adjustments in storytelling, younger kids like this book a lot. The pictures are everything!

IMG_3869There is a preface that gives some history to Koko’s story and the story itself begins with Koko’s birthday. “Koko knows what birthdays are. When asked what she does on her birthday, Koko answered, ‘Eat, drink, old.”

For this birthday, (the story does not say which birthday) Koko wanted a cat. Dr Patterson decided to get her a toy cat, but the one she chose didn’t come in time for the birthday so Koko received it at Christmas. But Koko did not want a toy cat. She wanted a real cat and was very angry about the toy one.

Some months later, some abandoned kittens were brought in and Koko got to choose which kitten she wanted for a pet. She chose one without a tail and named it All Ball. Koko loved her kitten and was very gentle with it. She treated it like a baby.

You will have to read the book to find out the rest of the story. It is a fascinating one.

To find out more about Koko and gorillas in general visit the Gorilla Foundation. Kids can even communicate with Koko!

And for more Perfect Picture Books and resources visit Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

Here is a video of Koko with some new kitties –

Learn about gorillas, see what you can do to help gorillas, spread the word. And make a new friend today!

Joy to you!!


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Julie Rowan-Zoch recently did a stunning review of an Anthony Browne book titled One Gorilla a Counting Book. You should check out this review on her blog. Reading this review reminded the Mom Person that we actually had an Anthony Browne book called Gorilla. So we decided to reread this little gem and share it with you.


The Mom Person doesn’t remember when or where she found this book, but it’s a special one for her, having several important things going for it. One – it’s very small. 4″ X 5″. The Mom Person likes small books. Two – it’s about a gorilla. The Mom Person likes gorillas. I don’t know any gorillas so I can’t say if I like them or not, but I like the one in this book. Three – The Mom Person thinks that the illustrations in this book are fantastic. I agree with this. There is a feel of whimsical (I like that word, whimsical!) realism in each picture. And lots of funny little details to look for.  And Four – the story is a simple sweet one about having dreams and bringing them to life.

Gorilla is about a little girl who LOVES gorillas and wants to go to the zoo to see them. But her father is always too busy to take her. He’s too busy to do anything with her. It’s very sad. (There is no mother in this book. I don’t know why) On her birthday, she receives a toy gorilla and is rather miffed that it is not a real one. But in the night magical things happen that I won’t tell you about. You’ll have to read the book!


Gorilla was first published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1983. Our miniature edition was printed in 1991. I would imagine that the book can be found in a bigger size.  I highly recommend it!

Here’s a little video of Mr Browne and some other authors at a conference talking about the importance of picture books —