Discussion guide is available for download on the Harper Collins publisher website.
Summary: (from Goodreads.com) Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope
Personal Reaction: I loved it. It was extremely moving. (I did hope for more illustrations, they were so well done. Reminded me again of Flawed Dogs by Breathed or The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by DiCamillo). Very simple chapter breaks so you can read as much or as little as you want each day. Try knuckle walking for five minutes!
Any Cautions: Reading aloud to kids younger than 4th grade might cause distress for the death involved and brief discussion & display of cruelty to circus animals, so use your judgment as to age sensitivity.
Curriculum or discussion topics: Animal rights/welfare; responsibility for caring for your pets; here’s an interesting article about animal artists / art – this is a good time to showcase your drawing instruction books (like Draw 50 Animals by Ames); discussion of elements of a story – how the simplest of illustrations move stories along.
Connections to other books: Saving Lilly by Peg Kehret, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby (this one contains fearful scenes of animal testing); Jackie’s Wild Seattle by Hobbs; nonfiction about zoos – I don’t know of anything for kids grades 4-6, but there might be some, short nonfiction on topics like zoo enclosures, zoo doctors, etc.; books like Amazing Gorillas and Elephants.
Items to display with book: Crayons, markers, paints and paper; stuffed gorilla, small dog and elephant; photos of the real Ivan or a silverback gorilla, reproductions of Ivan billboard signs
Food items connected to story: Bananas, carrots, Pepsi, apples, oranges, cake with chocolate frosting, yogurt raisins (animal fare); soft pretzels, popcorn, hotdogs, pink cotton candy, lemonade, ice cream cones (circus fare) *You could be gross and serve me-ball meatballs!