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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.


Leave a comment
  1. Cindy H | Apr 25, 2017
    Wow Patty that's an incredible story! We are so pleased that you are now able to share that story, and the book, with your own children! Thank you for sharing!
  2. Patty | Apr 25, 2017
    I grew up in the 70's visiting Ivan at the B & I shopping center. In the 90's, Just before Ivan was moved to Atlanta I had a unique opportunity to visit Ivan again. My college anthropology professor was Ivan's work out buddy. Myself and 3 other students observed this and I will never forget that day. Now living in Fort Wayne for 2+ years I cant wait to visit the library and share this story with our 6 year old daughter and 8 year old son.
  3. charter | Apr 14, 2017
    I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I love books that are based on a true story!
  4. Damiyah | Apr 13, 2017
    this book is great

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