Ivan the gorilla has lived in his domain for most of his 27 years. His only friends at the Big Top Mall are Bob the dog, Stella the elephant, and Julia, the daughter of the custodian at the Big Top Mall. When tragedy strikes, Ivan sets out on a path to make sure the newest member of the little group does not suffer the same fate. Along the way, Ivan discovers that self-preservation is just as important as helping others.
This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Written in a simplistic format that reads like poetry, we discover Ivan and his friends through Ivan's own thoughts and feelings, but this book goes beyond the typical books that are narrated by animal main characters. At the beginning, the reader sees the world through the eyes of a gorilla who has been taken from his home and family in the jungle and placed in a cage. By the end of the book, however, the reader is seeing things from the perspective of a human who is cheering on the liberation of Ivan and his friends. One of the best things about this book is the simple way that Ivan thinks. It really inspires the reader to imagine what is really going on. We are never told that he is going to create his own billboard to help save Ruby - we discover it along with Julia and her father. We don't really know what the nice lady from the zoo looks like - we can only guess that Ivan thinks she is beautiful with the description of having hair the color of "ants crawling on a rotting log in the jungle." And, because this book is based on a true story, everything comes alive at the end when the reader is compelled to research the real Ivan. The Newbery Committee finally got one right with this one!