Ivan the gorilla lives at the Exit 8 Bigtop Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan lives in a small glass domain with nothing but a food bowl, a stuffed toy and a television…and the humans that come and press their faces to the glass and point and stare. The zoo owner sometimes gives Ivan a crayon or paint. Ivan likes to draw pictures.
Hello. I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks. People call me the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan. Mighty Silverback. The names are mine, but they’re not me. I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan. (pages 1-2)
Doesn’t that remind you of Harry Potter when he says to Hagrid in the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, “But I’m just…just Harry!”
Ivan does have a couple friends, an old elephant named Stella and a stray dog named Bob that sneaks into Ivan’s cage every night to sleep on his warm belly. The three of them get by. They don’t talk much about what could be better, they just deal with every day. When the Exit 8 Big Top owner realizes attendance is way down he buys a baby elephant, a terrified baby elephant named Ruby, to make more people want to visit.
We’ve got a new arrival. This is Ruby, folks. Six hundred pounds of fun to save our sorry butts. This gal is gonna sell us some tickets.” (page 69)
Ruby’s arrival makes Stella and Ivan see their situation in a different way. Stella, in particular, can’t stand the idea of Ruby growing up at the mall. While Ivan and Stella have grown old and gotten to the point where life at the mall is good enough, they don’t think life at the mall is good enough for Ruby. So, in the spirit of Charlotte’s Web, Ivan hatches a plan hoping to save Ella from a lonely life at the mall, a plan that just might save the others too. You’ll cry and cheer both. It’s cool to see Ivan get his Mighty back. He isn’t just Ivan. He’s Ivan the Mighty Silverback. Author: Katherine Applegate
Ivan’s story is based on a real gorilla that lived for 27 years in a mall zoo but now lives at Zoo Atlanta in a habitat made especially for gorillas. Ivan will turn 50 this year! You can read about him and the effort it took to move him to his current home.
NPR: Ivan Dies at 50 – a Gorilla Life Remembered Best Quote “Ivan’s story has touched thousands of people. He reminded us that even as we must face the “big” conservation and environmental problems with an ecosystem approach, we can’t forget the individuals, each of whom has a story, a personality and a history.” ~Barbara J. King Now Katherine Applegate’s book will help Ivan’s story touch thousands more.
If you like Ivan here are some more stories that imagine what life would be like from the animal’s point of view. We can never really know of course, but it IS interesting to imagine. You also might like to read about the gorilla Koko. Koko learned sign language, which makes you wonder if we CAN learn a little about what animals think. The last four books are about scientists who study gorillas in the wild or in captivity. Really, really fascinating. And I’m warnin’ ya…the animal stories will make you cry, just like Ivan. If you have a pet you’ll go hug it and think more about your responsibility and what it means to have an animal friend.
This is the fascinating story of one bird. He is a rufa red knot and his name is B95. His name is the number on the band scientists put on his leg. B95 is about the size of a robin, a bird we see a lot here in Indiana. B95 and the other red knots are migratory. That means they move in the Spring and Fall in search of food and nesting grounds. Red knots are AMAZING because they migrate from the South Pole…to the North Pole, and back again. That’s a long way!
B95 was banded as a young bird in 1995 when he was thought to be at least three years old. Each year scientists try to capture and band red knots to study their habiits. Amazingly, B95 has been re-caught in 2001, 2003, 2007 & 2009. He is thought to be around 20 years old. Scientists think has has flown more than 325,000 miles in his life…the distance from the moon and almost halfway back. And he weights 4 ounces!
This book is a really fascinating look at the scientists who study the red knots and also B95 himself. Each year, the scientists hope, hope, hope to see B95 again. He is a superbird – a true survivor! Author: Phillip Hoose
When Stillwater the bear moves into the neighborhood, the stories he tells to three siblings teach them to look at the world in new ways. To Addie he tells a story about the value of material goods. To Michael he pushes the boundaries of good and bad. And to Karl he demonstrates what it means to hold on to frustration.
“When Michael, Addy and Karl meet Stillwater, a panda with his paws full of Zen wisdom, each are made trustees of an ancient tale….
Addy, kind and curious, brings Stillwater a cake, and in return, hears of the neighboring bear’s enlightened uncle Ry, who awakened one night to the rummaging of a robbing raccoon. The robber is startled, but Ry’s pity for the pilferer brings him to offer the thief his robe, which is all that fills the empty house; a peaceful demonstration of value. The next day, among the boughs of a tall tree, Michael is told the of “The Farmer’s Luck” and after, Karl, the youngest, is aided in his frustrations through the telling of “The Heavy Load”.
Written and illustrated by Jon Muth, Zen Shorts, a 2006 Caldecott Honor book, is gentle in its message and wonderfully enlivened by delicate watercolors on every page. Neatly shelved in the children’s section, an all-age treasure awaits, inviting passerby to share in a peaceful moment with three Zen shorts.”
Recommended by: Kevin Kirkpatrick, Garfield Park Branch Library
If you like Zen Shorts you might also like these three books also by Jon Muth. In The Three Questions a boy asks his animal friends three questions: “When is the best time to do things?” “Who is the most important?” and “What is the right thing to do?”. Zen Ghosts and Zen Ties again feature the wise Zen stories of Stillwater the bear:
When lonely, ten-year-old Hal learns that his wealthy but neglectful parents only rented Fleck, the dog he always wanted, he and new friend Pippa take Fleck and four other dogs from the rental agency on a trek from London to Scotland, where Hal’s grandparents live. Author: Eva Ibbotson
“Fleck and Hal know at first sight they are one dog and his boy. The adventure begins when parents, then criminals, and even tracker dogs named Darth and Terminator conspire to keep them apart. Four other dogs and an assortment of humans, including a circus, come to the aid of Fleck and Hal. There are miles and miles of surprising and funny adventures as Hal and Fleck go ‘on the run’ away from their pursuers and toward their happy ending and the happy endings of each of their protectors, human and canine.”
Sixty years ago, on October 15, 1952, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web was published. It’s been a favorite ever since.
If you like Wilbur and Charlotte and the rest of the animals in Uncle Homer’s barn, you might like some of these stories that give animals voices and give YOU a peek into their world. I wonder every day what my dog might be thinking. I like these stories that imagine what an animal might think and if it could talk, what it would say to its friends. I especially like these stories when the animals become a character I can love. Who would have thought a spider could be as lovable as Charlotte? In these stories mice, a cricket, a cat, a rabbit & even a gorilla let us know what might be going on in their furry heads and in their beating hearts (which is what they have in common with US!)