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Ivan: The Remarkable True story of a Shopping Mall Gorilla

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate chronicles the true story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who was captured as a baby and placed in a shopping mall. For twenty-seven years, Ivan spent all his days in captivity inside the mall. It wasn’t until concerned citizens began to work together to speak up for Ivan that he was eventually transferred to an animal sanctuary where he spent his final years.

Animal Welfare Considerations/Why use this book:

  • This book is a great resource to introduce the ideas of captivity, wildlife conservation, and how actions of a community can make a difference.
  • Students will begin to critically think about how the actions they take impact others, including animals. Learning the importance of speaking up for those without a voice, is another a valuable lesson from this book.

Post Reading Discussion Questions:

For a list of critical-thinking questions that encourage discussion click here

Post Reading Activities:

  1. Group Research
    1. Divide students into groups of four.
    2. As a group, students pick an endangered species to research. The World Wildlife Fund has great information that will help the group decide.
    3. Each group will have a one member responsible for researching the following topics on the species they picked:
      1. Facts
      2. Threats
      3. Why they matter
      4. What we can do
    4. Students can organize the information on a poster or slide show, and present it to the class.
    5. After all groups have presented, compare the different species as a class. Encourage students to look for similarities and differences between the species.
  2. Consensus Building
    1. In small groups or as a class discuss one of the following questions based on consensus decision making. Brainstorm ideas, opinions and identify areas where more research should be conducted to learn more about the issues. Also encourage your students to think about the question from different perspectives (ie: the animal owner, the animal, the community).
    2. Remind students that it is important to treat others with respect, allowing different opinions to be heard. It’s also important to really listen closely to one another and try to work together to come to a consensus.
      1. Should Albertans be allowed to purchase wildlife to keep as pets? If so, what is acceptable?
      2. Should wild animals be kept to be displayed in exhibits, (malls, circuses, zoos)? If so, what is acceptable? (or create your own questions!)
  3. Paint like Ivan
    1. Students can experiment with paint using only their fingers creating abstract works of art on a blank canvas or piece of paper. Just like Ivan!
  4. Meet Ivan – A Gorilla’s Story
    1. Jodi Carrigan worked with Ivan at Zoo Atlanta. This video goes through Ivan’s story in more detail , gives interesting gorilla facts, and tells first hand stories of Ivan. Watch the video clip as a class and then discuss the following questions.
      1. Ivan first lived as a pet after being captured, until he became too big. Do you think it was the right decision to give Ivan to the mall? Why or why not?
      2. The video mentions several examples of enrichment that Ivan had at Zoo Atlanta. Why do you think enrichment is so important to Ivan, and the other gorillas? Why was Ivan’s enrichment different than the other gorillas? Do all animals need enrichment?


For those students who are captivated by this story and want to read more, Katherine Applegate also wrote a novel inspired by the story of Ivan. The One and Only Ivan, is an illustrated novel that is told from Ivan’s perspective. Ivan was used to living life in a shopping mall, but when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, Ivan is forced to see his home and his situation through new eyes. This fun fictitious novel about an unexpected friendship is a great way for those students to continue reading and learning, independently, about Ivan and his situation.





Curriculum Connections:


Katherine Applegate & G. Brian Karas, 2014


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