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.
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.
After 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