Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he's seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it's up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
"How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage. … Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author's note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates."
- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Applegate makes a powerful statement about the treatment of animals–especially those living in captivity–and reminds readers that all creatures deserve a safe place to call home. Castelao's delightful illustrations enhance this lovely story, and the characters will capture readers' hearts and never let go. A must-have."
- School Library Journal (starred review)
"This book will break your heart—and then, against all odds, mend it again. Such a gentle fantasy is rare; such an evocation of our need to grow, to be free, to become our best selves, is rarer still. In cheering for Ivan and his friends, we cheer for our own humanity and our own possibilities. Read this."
- Gary D. Schmidt, National Book Award finalist, Okay for Now
"Kindness and its ability to change lives shines through on every single page of this book. … Katherine Applegate's beautiful, life-affirming story will soar directly from Ivan's heart into your own."
- Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor author of The Underneath
"A beautifully written, intelligent, and brave book. You will never look at the relationship of humans and animals in the same way again. Quite simply, this story is life-changing."
- Patricia MacLachlan, Newbery Medalist for Sarah, Plain and Tall