Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla
written by Katherine Applegate; illustrated by G. Brian Karas
2014 (Clarion Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library
Ivan was born in central Africa. He was a western lowland gorilla. One day poachers stole him and another baby gorilla. Purchased like an everyday item, they were delivered to a shopping mall owner in Tacoma, Washington. Ivan's fellow gorilla died soon after. He lived in a human home until he became too big at age five. Ivan was relegated to a cage in a shopping mall. It was a lonely life for the silverback gorilla. Eventually, people realized that this was not a proper life for a gorilla. They wrote letters and signed petitions to protest his living conditions. After twenty-seven years of living in a cage, he was transported to Zoo Atlanta where he was able to live in a place with grass, trees and other gorillas. He spent the last 18 years of his life at Zoo Atlanta.
The One and Only Ivan is a rightfully beloved novel also written by Katherine Applegate. Having read the novel, I appreciated learning new facts about Ivan. The picture book will serve as a good introduction for students in second or third grade who may be interested in reading the novel. I think it can also be a springboard for a discussion of how animals are treated by humans. I was bothered by a recent television commercial where a mom promises to take her daughter to a pet store. I see a lot of pets in shelters that need adopting. I wasn't alone in being annoyed. The commercial has since been altered.
Ivan would also be good to share during our unit on opinion writing. It was the opinion of thousands of adults and children that led to his relocation to Atlanta. We can use this book to show that opinions can make positive changes.