This Newberry Award winning chapter
book is told through the eyes of Ivan, a
silver back gorilla who has been living
in captivity for 27 years. The book
begins with Ivan living at the Exit 8
Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, along
with Stella, an elephant and Bob, a
stray dog. Ivan tells his story through
flashbacks of where he has been,
challenges he faces, and his hopes for
the future. When the owner of the
Mall brings in a baby elephant named
Ruby, Ivan understands what captivity
really means and begins to work to find
a better way of life for himself and his friends.
- Who are the main animal characters in the story? Why are they
important to Ivan?
- How does Julia try to help Ivan?
- How does Ivan learn about the outside world? What do you think is the
most important thing for him to learn?
- How does the arrival of Ruby change things for Ivan? What does he
- The idea of belonging is important in this story. Discuss the idea of
belonging from the view point of each character. Compare that to what
belonging means to you.
- Make an anchor chart showing the 4 places Ivan has lived. Help class
brainstorm details of Ivan’s life in each place. When finished, use
the anchor chart for additional activities. Students may write their
responses on sticky notes to add to the chart.
- Go online to learn about the real Ivan, who inspired this book, and find
out how he adapted to life at Zoo Atlanta.
- Allow students to research mountain gorillas, their natural habitat and
what can be done to help them. Go to www.gorillas.org to find out
what is currently being done to protect these animals.