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Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla Hardcover – October 7, 2014
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Ivan was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1962. When he was about six months old, he and another baby gorilla were kidnapped by poachers. They were sold to a mall in Tacoma, WA, that also had other animals. The other baby gorilla, however, died shortly after they arrived in the United States. This is the story of how Ivan went from a lonely existence in a shopping mall to living with other gorillas once more. Narrator Xe Sands complements Applegate's masterfully crafted picture book. Although her narration is a little slow, younger readers will appreciate the extra time to fully take in the captivating, colorful illustrations. The chimes for page turning are timed correctly and do not distract listeners. VERDICT Young children who are interested in gorillas or enjoy the read-along experience will love this. ["Convey[s] the sense of loneliness and isolation that marked the gorilla's existence": SLJ 7/14 review of the Clarion book.]—Kira Moody, Whitmore Public Library, Salt Lake City
For those who loved the Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan (2012), Applegate has created a picture-book adaptation of the true story. A baby gorilla from central Africa is captured and taken to Tacoma, Washington. At first he lives with a human family, and children will see themselves in the happy gorilla that sleeps in a bed, goes to baseball games, and licks ice-cream cones. But when Ivan grows too big, he is sold, and for 27 years, the adult silverback lives in a cage at a shopping mall. After protesting citizens write petitions, Ivan goes to a better environment at Zoo Atlanta. Back matter has more facts and photos of Ivan and websites for further information, as well as one of Ivan’s finger paintings signed with his thumbprint. Using pencil-line drawing and washes of pastel, Karas feelingly depicts Ivan’s gentle and loving personality conveying how this gentle gorilla won the hearts of thousands of people—and readers. Preschool-Grade 3. --Lolly Gepson
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Top Customer Reviews
This picture book is not narrated by Ivan, which is a shame, because Ivan had such a unique voice and a wry sense of humor. Rather, this is a biography about Ivan the gorilla, from his infancy in Africa amongst the other gorillas, his capture by poachers and subsequent arrival in America, his childhood as a "human", his internment at the shopping mall, and finally, his new life at the zoo in Atlanta.
The prose is light and airy, but it also has emotional depth. It conveys information about Ivan's life in an engaging and evocative manner. One part that struck me was that Ivan had been "ordered and paid for, like a couple of pizzas, like a pair of shoes."
The illustrations by G. Brian Karas are phenomenal. I have enjoyed his work in other books, and I love the way he has brought Ivan's world to life.
My daughter had some objections to details in the picture book that differed from those found in the novel. I explained the concept of "artistic license" to her, and she seemed satisfied with that.
I think this picture book is a fine companion to the Ivan novel. It makes Ivan's story accessible to children on a lower reading level than the level of novel.
I would absolutely recommend this book to others.
Author Applegate previously won the Newbery Medal for her novel about the very same gorilla. Illustrator Karas has won plenty of awards, and is probably best known for Atlantic. His artwork here is reminiscent of the dusky earth palette Matthew Forsythe employed in Warning: Do Not Open This Book. Together, Applegate and Karas have created a picture book which exudes the same enchanting educative qualities as many Melissa Sweet titles and which belongs on every bookshelf. This is Curious George for a new generation.
Ivan is a heartbreaking story told with brutal honesty:
Poachers with loud guns
and cruel hands
stole the little gorilla
and another baby.
A man who owned a shopping mall
had ordered and paid for them,
like a couple of pizzas,
like a pair of shoes.
Applegate's prose is poetic and thus digestible for young readers and listeners, useful for a story which will be emotionally charged for children, not to mention most adults. Animal rights are at the forefront of some serious topics here. This is a book which makes me embarrassed to be of the same race as the poachers who for centuries and even now steal and kill what is not theirs. The finger of shame and blame is also directed at mall owner Ron Irwin, who for years refused to allow Ivan to be relocated. Thankfully, this is also a book which makes me hopeful for the future: a world in which children grow up seeing animals treated with dignity. We all share the same ever-shrinking Earth. Better to live harmoniously with our cohabitants lest a reversal of fortunes transpires, à la Planet of the Apes. I do not say conclusively that zoos have reached the apex of, pardon the pun, evolution. However, and to the extent that studying animals may benefit them (and us) in the long term, providing environments which approximate natural habitats surely must be better.
The real Ivan recently passed away at age 50, and I hope his last few years were happy. Not very many children's books make me feel the way I did with this one, and for that I am grateful. But I am also grateful for the chance to share this story with my own children.
Final point: The Author's Note credits the 1993 New York Times article, "A Gorilla Sulks in a Mall as His Future Is Debated," for inspiring the author's interest in Ivan. Not mentioned is the National Geographic documentary, "The Urban Gorilla," which aired two years earlier.
[The reviewer was provided with a complimentary copy of the book.]