Last week, the death of a gorilla at Zoo Atlanta, in Atlanta, Ga., received a lot of attention and many people were grieved to hear of Ivan's passing. Ivan was born in the jungle of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1962.
Only two short years later, he and his twin sister left the wild, captured and sold by wildlife traders to a department store owner in the state of Washington.
At age 5, with his sister deceased, Ivan was moved into the B&I Circus Store where he spent the next 27 years smoking, painting pictures, and eating junk food to the delight and wonder of shoppers. Although other animals had made B&I their home, few lived there so long or were as popular as Ivan.
In 1992, animal rights activists began to pressure the Irwin family to let Ivan move to a more appropriate habitat where he could interact with other gorillas, feel grass under his feet, and be less confined. In 1995, Ivan was moved across the country to Zoo Atlanta where he spent the remainder of his life.
Not only has the real life Ivan made news lately, but his fictional counterpart, The One and Only Ivan, is making waves in the world of children's literature.
Katherine Applegate's newest book is based on Ivan's life at B&I and his animal friends, a stray dog and a baby elephant. Ivan narrates this poignant, heartfelt story about a gorilla in captivity. Often in books with an animal narrator, the writer gives the animal human thoughts and emotions but Applegate never lets us forget that Ivan is an ape and tells the story exactly as you might imagine a gorilla would tell you a story.
Ivan gets to the heart of the matter quickly, saying, "Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot." Though his attention span and thoughts are brief, his memories and emotions are raw and powerful. Readers experience Ivan's frustration, sadness, and joy as he bonds with fellow captives Stella, Bob, and Ruby in this exquisitely told novel about a real-life gorilla.
Katherine Applegate has written many books for children, including the very funny Roscoe Riley Rules series and the Animorphs series. Already popular with young adventure and humor seekers, Applegate has raised the bar on well-written, powerful animal books and I look forward to more books from her.
To reserve "The One and Only Ivan" or any other books by this author, contact Salem Public Library at 330-332-0042, stop by, or visit our website www.salem.lib.oh.us.