Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Patient is a useful way to be when you're an ape."

In an odd intersection of life and story, the hero of a novel published in January passed away this week.

Ivan really was a western lowland gorilla born in about 1962 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He really spent twenty-seven years on display in a shopping mall without seeing another gorilla. There really was public pressure to move him to an environment better suited to his needs, and it really did work; he was donated to the Woodland Park Zoo in Tacoma, WA in 1994 and was soon transferred to Zoo Atlanta. He really did love to paint.

The rest of The One and Only Ivan is Katherine Applegate's story. She created relationships for him within the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, and created a voice for him that's so believably simple yet so poignant, it's hard to say whether or not the book is a verse novel. Whatever it is, I loved it, and I appreciated the author's note that explained clearly how much of the story was real.

It didn't mention that Ivan had his own Facebook page, but he did. And no wonder: just look at that face.

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