I saw a new book in the library the other day – Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate. While flipping through the colorful picture book, I was reminded of how much I had enjoyed Applegate’s Newberry winner, The One and Only Ivan.
Ivan is one of the animal attractions at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. In fact, he is one of the featured attractions on the billboard that he can see outside the window of his small enclosure. He spends his time watching TV; talking with his friends Bob, a stray dog, and Stella, an older elephant; and painting pictures. Ivan chooses not to remember what life was like prior to coming to the shopping mall.
When the shopping mall owner buys a younger elephant to bring excitement – and more paying customers – to the Big Top Show, Ivan makes a promise to Stella to help Ruby find a safe place to grow up. That promise leads Ivan to remember what it was like before he was caught and put in the cage. That promise leads Ivan to figure out a creative way to send a message to the Julia and George, the humans he trusts. That promise leads not only to Ruby finding a good home in a zoo, but Ivan finding a home with other gorillas and lots of open sky.
The story is told in simple sentences through the unique perspective of Ivan. Of course, the story is the author’s imaging of what Ivan was thinking and going through, but I forgot that part as I rooted for Ivan’s friends to understand what he was trying to say.
Publisher’s Weekly recommends the title for ages 8-12. But I think it was well worth taking an hour or so to read the story. It is also available as an audiobook, well-read by Adam Grupper, if you would prefer that format.
Check the WRL catalog for The One and Only Ivan
Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook for The One and Only Ivan