To See the Sun: Ivan--The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate
IN LEAFY CALM,
IN GENTLE ARMS,
A GORILLA'S LIFE BEGAN.
Not yet named Ivan, a baby gorilla was born into an Eden-like place, a family of low-land gorillas. He played and learned gorilla ways with other young ones.
But this idyllic life ended abruptly.
POACHERS WITH LOUD GUNS
AND CRUEL HANDS
STOLE THE LITTLE GORILLA
AND ANOTHER BABY.
At the age of six months, the little gorilla and another infant were taken by poachers and sold to a company in faraway Tacoma, Washington. In the 1960s, in the early days of indoor malls, owners tried all sorts of attractions, and in this one there was a small zoo, one with an elephants, chimps, and a seal. The owners publicized their exhibits by running a contest to name the new young gorillas, and the winning names were Ivan and Burma. Although little Burma did not live long in captivity, Ivan was raised by the mall's keeper at his home and in some ways lived like a human child with this family for three years.
HE SLEPT IN A BED,
AND WENT TO BASEBALL GAMES.
HE HAD TO LEARN MANY THINGS
GORILLAS IN THE WILD
DON'T NEED TO KNOW.
But Ivan soon outgrew his human family. Befitting his size and strength, his new home was a concrete enclosure at the center of the mall with a window where shoppers could watch him and he could watch them. He watched his own television set, a reminder of his life with humans, and he still loved to make pictures.
SIGNING THE PAPERS
WITH HIS THUMBPRINT.
Although he never saw the sunlight and the colors of the outside world, Ivan remembered them and usually chose bright colors for his paintings. Red was his favorite.
Ivan was Tacoma's "Shopping Mall Gorilla" for 27 years. But over those years, attitudes about captive animals changed. Finally, groups of animal rights protesters campaigned to have Ivan removed from his concrete prison and taken to a more natural habitat for an adult gorilla. Because he had had no life with other gorillas since infancy, Ivan didn't know what he was. He was moved to the zoo in Atlanta and spent some time alone in a transitional enclosure, until at last he was ready to return to a sunlit, green world with others like him.
AND WEPT WITH JOY.
IVAN, THE SHOPPING MALL GORILLA,
WAS IN A PLACE WITH TREES
IN LEAFY CALM.
A GORILLA'S LIFE BEGAN AGAIN.
Katherine Applegate's forthcoming picture book, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2014), tells the real story of the gorilla Ivan that she had fleshed out in her Newbery-winning 2013 novel, The One and Only Ivan (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2013).(See my 2013 review here.) For younger readers here, Applegate's lovely language conveys her theme, drawing together the story of a very intelligent animal, caught between two worlds, two worlds in which he is compelled to live as an alien in both.
Noted artist G. Brian Karas captures the story perfectly in evocative line and wash illustrations, transitioning from Ivan sheltered in his mother's arms in his glady home to charming images of little Ivan in baseball cap and yellow sweater and under his blankie in bed, only to contrast his stark and sterile life in the mall. Karas varies his palette appropriately, from the greenery scenery of Africa to the dark captivity of the shipping crate, from the homey human world of cookies and motorcycle rides, to his lonely and bleak existence as a mall amusement, and finally again to the sun and companionship of other gorillas in his final long-term home at ZooAtlanta.
Ivan's true story gives young readers a new understanding of animals, especially captive wild animals and how they should be allowed to live among us. As in her earlier book, the author respectfully shows that each individual life, even that of a gentle and artistic great ape, can have meaning and impact on the lives of others.