“With enough time, you can get used to almost anything.”

This book is a fictional story based on Ivan the Silverback, who lived out the end of his life in Zoo Atlanta after a similar life in a mall. Ivan is a silverback gorilla that lives at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade with his friends Bob the dog and Stella the elephant. He’s content with his life, talking to his friends and making drawings to be sold at the gift shop. Having lived at the mall so long, Ivan had gotten used to living in his domain with humans stopping to stare at him. Then one day, Ruby, a baby elephant, joined their little mall family. Curious Ruby asked Ivan questions he hadn’t thought about for a long time, and won Stella’s heart. Together Ivan and Stella promised to do their best to save Ruby from a life of pain and show, and to protect her from living the same life in captivity they have had. After much thought, Ivan found a way to get the humans to help in his plan to get Ruby to a zoo. Thankfully, he went to join the other gorillas at the zoo, as well. 

Katherine Applegate does a fantastic job of giving a voice to those who are sometimes ignored. This emotional story is great for readers of all ages, though sensitive readers may find some parts more difficult to read. Ivan’s character is a simple one, accustomed to his life and happy to have friends. Applegate grows his character and makes it more complex when Ruby comes into his life to remind him of how much he misses the life he could have had, and how protective he is of her. With smaller paragraphs, simple chapter titles, and uncomplicated vocabulary, she manages to still draw the reader in and care for these animals who do not deserve the life they lead. At a time when our own lives are uncertain, it is cathartic to read stories about other beings in captivity who manage to find ways to survive and cope.