Applegate reinterprets her Newbery-winning story about Ivan the shopping-mall gorilla for a younger audience of up-and-coming animal activists.
Ivan’s idyllic early years in the jungle are described in the first few spreads in brief, simple, poetic lines. These are paired with warm, earth-toned watercolors. All comes to a halt on a page featuring one ominous line of text: “He did not learn about humans / until it was too late.” Ivan and another baby are captured by poachers. A stark, dark spread depicts their imprisonment and journey in a crate from central Africa to Tacoma, Wash., to a man who “had ordered and paid for them, / like a couple of pizzas, / like a pair of shoes.” Youngsters will initially be lulled by how cute and satisfied the two appear upon arriving in their human home. However, the deficits of Ivan’s (in)human(e) environment soon become clear, starting with the death of his companion. Although years pass in just a few page turns, Applegate’s measured tone allows children to slowly digest Ivan’s situation and the change in attitude that eventually prompted his removal from the mall to a better setting, Zoo Atlanta. There, the story comes full circle, and Ivan is at last reunited with others of his kind. A note “About Ivan” provides further details.
Gently paced, with moving but reassuring images, this is an age-appropriate introduction to the issues of captivity and animal welfare. (Informational picture book. 5-8)