Explore the complexity of being human, emotions and empathy with Katherine Applegate’s moving book inspired by a true story, in this free book topic from Johanna Robinson and Jonathan Rooke…
Every child wants to be Ivan’s friend. He’s a philosopher, an artist, a storyteller… and a gorilla. A gorilla without a real home.
Above all, Ivan is a gorilla with a sense of honour. If he makes a promise to a friend then he keeps the promise, no matter what the obstacles, no matter what the cost.
Taken from their mother and father as babies, Ivan and his twin sister Tag are put in a crate and shipped across the Atlantic to live with an unscrupulous circus manager in the United States.
After bringing him up like a human child, Ivan is put to work in a circus in a shopping mall as a curiosity.
He lives in a glass habitat and spends his time throwing dung balls, watching TV and painting. Ivan has learned to accept the cards life has dealt him but he longs to be understood and to be the gorilla he was born to be.
Katherine Applegate gives him a voice with calm dignity even though his circumstances are terrible. It’s when Ruby, a new young elephant, is brought to the circus that his life changes.
Honouring a promise made on the deathbed of his elderly elephant friend, he sets out to ensure Ruby has a better life and can live in freedom in a zoo. But how? His art and his intelligence will show him the way.
And it’s a true story – even though, as Stella the elephant would say, some of the facts are confused.
Applegate was moved when she saw reports about the real Ivan on TV. Her story gently unfolds, drawing the young reader in with short chapters, economic, stripped-back literary language and fully rounded characters.
The relationships are compassionate and complicated and leave plenty of room for children to explore emotions and empathise. It is moving and enables children to explore together the complexity of being human, to ask questions and to be inspired.
The book, like Ivan’s real life, has a happy ending.
3-page PDF full of activities related to the book.
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