Ivan the Gorillas tale has again captured the hearts and minds of many, but this time its in an illustrated book that has won the most prestigious honor in childrens literature.
The American Library Association, during its meeting Monday in Seattle, named Katherine Applegates The One and Only Ivan as the recipient of the Newbery Medal.
The book was inspired by the life of Tacomas beloved gorilla, who lived for 27 years in a cage at B&I Shopping Center on South Tacoma Way before being moved to Zoo Atlanta in 1994. He was about 50 when he died there Aug. 20.
Ivans isolation at the circus-themed mall prompted a public outcry by those demanding he be given room to move freely and a chance to interact with others of his kind.
At least on the page, where anything is possible, I wanted to give Ivan (even while captive behind the walls of his tiny cage) a voice of his own and a story to tell, Applegate wrote in the authors note of her 320-page book, published Jan. 17, 2012.
I wanted to give him someone to protect, and the chance to be the mighty silverback he was always meant to be.
The gorilla in the book has some similarities to the real Ivan. Theyre both silverbacks living in a mall, where their job is to entertain visitors. They both love to paint. They both thrive after being moved to a zoo.
Readers who visited the real Ivan in his steel and concrete enclosure might find glimpses of him in Applegates story, but the story is obviously fiction.
The book description on Amazon.com describes the fictional Ivan as "an easygoing gorilla" who "rarely misses his life in the jungle" and instead "thinks about TV shows he's seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog."
That changes "once 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 its up to Ivan to make it a change for the better."
The 15 members who make up ALAs committee read and reread The One and Only Ivan throughout the year. They discussed it at length during their deliberations Friday and Saturday. Committee chairman Steven Engelfried called it a tremendously artful book that mixed complex emotions with a gorillas simple words.
It sets up a really amazing experience for the reader where we hear this gorillas voice describing his life, Engelfried said. The reader really has to fill in a lot of the emotion behind what Ivan is saying but its easy for a young reader.
Applegate could not be reached for comment Monday. More about her book and Ivans story can be found at theoneandonlyivan.com/book/.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653