Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

by Katherine Applegate (Author) G Brian Karas (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

In a spare, powerful text and evocative illustrations, the Newbery medalist Katherine Applegate and the artist G. Brian Karas present the extraordinary real story of a special gorilla.

Captured as a baby, Ivan was brought to a Tacoma, Washington, mall to attract shoppers. Gradually, public pressure built until a better way of life for Ivan was found at Zoo Atlanta. From the Congo to America, and from a local business attraction to a national symbol of animal welfare, Ivan the Shopping Mall Gorilla traveled an astonishing distance in miles and in impact.
This is his true story and includes photographs of Ivan in the back matter.


Using pencilline 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.

Kirkus Reviews

Gently paced, with moving but reassuring images, this is an age-appropriate introduction to the issues of captivity and animal welfare.

Horn Book Magazine

The spareness of both text and pictures invites readers to find their own meaning in the moving story.

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

Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

In this poignant picture book, Applegate streamlines the story told in her Newbery-winning novel, The One and Only Ivan, about an African gorilla captured by poachers and caged in a Washington State mall for 27 years as a tourist attraction. The third-person narrative diminishes the immediacy of the story somewhat, but supports the nonfictional bent of this account. While Applegate omits some of the novel's darker bits, as when Ivan's elephant friend at the mall dies of neglect, many grim moments remain, and she is clear about the injustice of the gorillas' situation ("Poachers with loud guns and cruel hands stole the little gorilla and another baby"). Karas's (Tap Tap Boom Boom) muted illustrations capably reflect the contrasts between Ivan's happy early life in Africa, his gloomy years in captivity, and his eventual transfer to a new home, with grass and other gorillas, at Zoo Atlanta. A detailed afterword fills out Ivan's story and imparts the sad news of his death in 2012. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. Illustrator's agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Oct.)

Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Applegate's spare text gives readers just enough grounding to follow Ivan's journey, while Karas's artwork fills in Ivan's emotional life through the gorilla's engaged expressions and body language—no image more triumphant than Ivan's release into Zoo Atlanta. A heartfelt tribute to a magnificent animal."—Shelf Awareness, starred review

"The text is streamlined but powerful, and younger kids who aren't up for the linguistic and emotional challenges of Applegate's fictional account of Ivan will find this a thoughtful and intriguing introduction; older readers who have read The One and Only Ivan may enjoy it as well."—Bulletin
Katherine Applegate
Katherine Applegate is an American children's book author. She has received numerous awards for her work, such as the Golden Kite, the Josette Frank, and the Newbery Medal.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Clarion Books
Publication date
October 20, 2014
BISAC categories
JNF003220 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Animals | Animal Welfare
JNF003200 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Animals | Zoos
JNF003010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Animals | Apes, Monkeys, etc.
Library of Congress categories
Washington (State)
Animal rescue
Animal welfare
Shopping malls
Tacoma (Wash.)
Charlotte Zolotow Award
Honor Book 2015 - 2015
Buckaroo Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2016
Florida Children's Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
North Carolina Children's Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016

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