A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Ivan is an excellent jumping-off point for discussions about our relationship to animals and nature. Ivan's natural habitat and family life in the wild is contrasted with his lonely, deprived captivity. The book also shows his early upbringing in a human family, in which he went to baseball games and slept in a bed. What's right for animals? What's not?
Instills empathy and respect for animals. Contrasts captivity with a natural habitat. Models the positive effects of protests, petitions, and boycotts to confront injustice. Text and art show children active in letter-writing campaigns.
Positive Role Models
Children are shown actively working to help Ivan and change his sad and unjust circumstances. Their campaign is successful.
Violence & Scariness
"Poachers with loud guns and cruel hands" capture Ivan and another young gorilla. One illustration shows Ivan and the other young gorilla trapped in the dark crate in which they were transported. The other young gorilla dies shortly after arrival.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla is based on the true story of a young gorilla who was captured in Africa and grew up on display in a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington. Author Katherine Applegate won the 2013 Newbery Medal for her fictionalized middle grade novel on the same subject, The One and Only Ivan, and this nonfiction picture book brings the story to younger readers. The story is told simply and beautifully, from Ivan's happy days with his family in the jungle to his confinement at the mall to his transfer to a more natural habitat in a zoo in Atlanta. G. Brian Karas' illustrations are as moving and sensitive as the text. A two-page afterward provides more facts. The book can serve as a thoughtful jumping-off point for family discussions about animals and our relationship to nature.
Is It Any Good?
Ivan is excellent, the perfect vehicle for introducing young children to sensitive questions about wildlife and our relationship to nature. Though it's nonfiction, it's told as gently as a story, and children are given the opportunity to see Ivan's experiences through his own eyes, providing lots of opportunities for empathy. G. Brian Karas' art is a perfect match, warm and child-friendly, expressively portraying Ivan's emotions.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.