Our 2016 book selection was the Newbery winner, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Meet Ivan: a gorilla living in captivity at a shopping mall. This unforgettable story, inspired by true events, follows Ivan as he discovers the true meaning of friendship, the beauty of creativity, and the power of hope.  

The One and Only Ivan

Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel is inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla named Ivan. Having spent twenty-seven years in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to his life and hardly ever thinks about his past in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, painting, and his friends Stella, an elephant, and Bob, a dog. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home and his art through new eyes. 

Facts about the Real Ivan: 

  1. Ivan the gorilla was born in the jungle of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  2. Ivan lived at a shopping mall in Washington for 27 years.

  3. Ivan had a small black and white television in his enclosure that he liked to watch.

  4. Ivan was given paper and paint and made his very own masterpieces.

  5. He was even know to “sign” his paintings with a thumbprint.

  6. The animal rights group PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society) started a campaign to free Ivan from the shopping mall, and raised $30,000 to rescue him.

  7. Ivan was featured in a National Geographic documentary called The Urban Gorilla.

  8. In 1994, Ivan came to live at Zoo Atlanta, where he spent the rest of his days getting the chance to live like a gorilla and meet other gorillas.

  9. Ivan lived to be 50 years old and passed away in 2012.

  10. Ivan is an ambassador for all gorillas. Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered and need our help. The awareness of their species is one of Ivan’s most important legacies.