I am so grateful that Katherine Applegate and G. Brian Karas created this wonderful non-fiction picture book companion to the Newbery winning The One and Only Ivan! Most students who experience The One and Only Ivan immediately want to know more information about the “real Ivan.” There are some videos and photographs of Ivan online, but this non-fiction book contains some really special features.
The picture book format makes Ivan’s story accessible to a younger audience. The One and Only Ivan boasts an intimidating 305 pages, and because it is told in free form verse, it is a more difficult read. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla features minimal text and sweet, but not cutesy, illustrations. The emotional wallop has also been toned down, so younger readers will not feel overwhelmed.
There is an informative message from Katherine Applegate at the end of the book, which includes some photographs of Ivan and suggestions about where to go to find more information about gorillas. The best part is the final page in which Ivan’s main keeper for the last 10 years of his life shares her memories and a painting that Ivan created. The back cover includes a photograph of Ivan in his cage at the Tacoma shopping mall.
Overall, if you have read The One and Only Ivan you won’t learn much new information, but the additional photographs and note from the Atlanta Zoo keeper make this book a treasure.