The book follows the story of a caged gorilla named Ivan. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade for many years, he has grown accustomed to humans. He spends his day watching TV in his cage and for leisure he loves to paint. He has friends which include an elephant named Stella and a stray dog that sneaks and stays at Ivan’s cage named Bob.
We then follow the story at the arrival of a baby elephant named Ruby at the mall to help entice more visitors. The arrival of Ruby created a lot of buzz around the city but it also raised concerns to the animals at the mall. Dark and should-be-forgotten secrets came out and the animals began to stand and do for what they believe is right. They decided to change their fate.
What I commend the most about the book is the storytelling. It was told from Ivan’s point of view. I like how raw and genuine the voice is. It showed the innocence of an animal in today’s world that gets the chance to mingle with humans.
He compared people’s actions to animals’ with a lot of sense and truth to it. Ivan’s observation of the human race is very insightful and it made me reassess my action as part of those who roam this world.
The author’s writing is also impressive. The words were made very simply but it’s uplifting and each word pierces to the heart. I felt like I lived the world of Ivan and I was made to realize a lot of things.
The author also made the characters very realistic. Aside from having animal characters the book also has human characters. I like how the author was able to connect each of them in the book. The relationship and bond between all the characters are strong and on-point. The author was successful in capturing the emotions and spirit of all the characters.
The book overall is a compelling read. For some it may only be like a simple sweet story of friendship but there’s a depth to it. It made me think about the action of humans that affect others who also live in this world. How we have gone overboard with our actions that eventually undermines other living things. Knowing that, we should all be mindful of all our actions towards one another. I like the sincerity and straightforward of the message it is conveying and the message is so powerful.
*The story of Ivan was based on a real gorilla living on a highway exit mall which was then eventually moved to a zoo.
*The book won the 2013 Newberry Medal for Excellence in Children’s Literature
4 stars out of 5.