Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

8 min. Dist. by Weston Woods. 2015. $59.95. ISBN 9780545879156.
PreS-Gr 3—This adaptation of the picture book (Clarion, 2014) tells the heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting tale of Ivan the gorilla, which author Katherine Applegate also related in the Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins, 2012). Children learn about how little Ivan was stolen by poachers and brought to the United States, along with another baby gorilla. Xe Sands has a firm yet soothing cadence as she narrates Applegate's spare yet poetic text, never attempting to sugarcoat or gloss over potentially upsetting details, such as that the two animals were sold "like a couple of pizzas, like a pair of shoes." While the female gorilla dies soon after, Ivan lives with his owner in a house, wearing clothes and eating human food. But Ivan grows fast and is soon put on display alone at a mall, where he stares back, day after day, at the people watching him. Eventually, however, people are angered by Ivan's plight, and arrangements are made to send him to Zoo Atlanta to live with other gorillas. G. Brian Karas's illustrations are well reproduced. Animals and figures are somewhat static, though arms and legs move, but the more sedate tone suits the quiet and contemplative text. A few sound effects—kids commenting quietly on how sad Ivan seems on display in the mall and people happily watching him when he finally makes it to a zoo—add to the appeal.
VERDICT An effective rendering of a gentle tale; ideal for introducing children to the concepts of activism and animal rights.

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