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Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

by Cindy H | Apr 06, 2017
Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, is the story of how a young gorilla was taken from the wild and showcased in a shopping mall for much of his life. The story describes Ivan's life living with a large family of western lowland gorillas in a tropical forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It describes how he was taken by poachers, along with another baby gorilla (who doesn't survive), and shipped to Tacoma, Washington. He lived almost like a human child for a few years, in the home of a pet shop owner, until he became too big. Ivan then went to live in a cage at a mall for 27 years until local and national attention helped move Ivan to a more suitable home, the Atlanta Zoo.

This book contains factual information about Ivan's story, although some elements may be embellished or enhanced for the sake of the story. The pictures are warm and personable, balancing both the hard reality Ivan faced and the love he received from those who met him. They make this story approachable for young audiences.

At the end of the book the author describes the true story in detail and provides references on where more information can be found. While the story has a happy ending, some children may be upset when baby Ivan is taken from his family, or made to live in confinement. This would be a good time to have a conversation about animal needs and rights.

Ivan has won many awards and is recommended for children ages 4-7. This book is available in print or as an e-book via Overdrive. For older children, Katherine Applegate also wrote a somewhat more fictionalized tale called The One and Only Ivan written from Ivan's perspective that I would highly recommend.
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  • Cindy H is a librarian and pet mother. She loves all kinds of books but the Harry Potter series will always be her favorite.
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