Gorilla caged

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is inspired by a real-life gorilla named Ivan.  Storybook Ivan, like real-life Ivan, is a lone silverback in a small glass habitat in a small declining shopping mall zoo.  His companions are Stella, the equally-captive elephant next door, a stray dog named Bob, and the janitor’s artistic daughter, Julia.  Julia shares her crayons.

It’s hard to put into words. Gorillas are not complainers. We’re dreamers, poets, philosophers, nap takers.

As Ivan explains in this first-person story, he has been in the enclosure 9,855 days and counting.  So long that he has no memories, no concept of pre-captivity, no big dreams.  But loss and love will awaken them.

When my father beat his chest, it was to say, Beware, listen, I am in charge. I am angry to protect you, because that is what I was born to do.

Here in my domain, there is no one to protect.

Ivan finds crayons both yummy to eat as well as useful for expressing himself, and his artwork is sold to help the zoo financially.  But later, as his memories grow and he finds someone to protect, he will use his delicious crayons to attempt to communicate his new dream. Will the humans be able to understand?


Copyright © Gienah Beaty, bookshelfbriefs.wordpress.com, 2016.  All rights reserved.  (Public Domain image courtesy of pixabay.com)