Reading/Interest Level: Primary, Intermediate
Author: Katherine Applegate
Ivan the gorilla's life turns upside-down when humans enter the African jungle and capture him. Ivan begins his life in captivity upon his arrival in the United States. He tastes human food, wears human clothes, and sits in human chairs. Despite his entertaining lifestyle, he longs to hear the animal calls of the jungle. He is soon moved to an enclosed area in a shopping mall, where he stays for many years. He witnesses cruel treatment of other animals, which only deepens his distrust for humans. Somehow, he discovers the meaning and beauty of friendship with both animals and humans. He finds a true companion in a little girl who shares his love for art. It is his newfound relationships, as well as his creative talents, that finally lead him to the path of freedom.
Katherine Applegate does a brilliant job of telling this tale through the eyes of a beloved gorilla. She writes in Ivan's voice, which enables the reader to go on the journey with him and feel his joy, despair, peace, and anxiety. Applegate writes in a unique manner that is rich with figurative language. The lack of complexity allows the young reader to traverse through the pages with relative ease and speed. The text is broken up into short chapters with some pages only half-filled, which makes this 320 page book considerably less intimidating to young readers. Woven into the text are a few pictures that add life to the story. This book is a true masterpiece that grips the heart of young children who love animals. It is one that parents and children can venture through together and that will surely not be soon forgotten.