A few weeks ago, I finished reading this modern-day "Charlotte's Web" to my fifth graders. It is a beautifully crafted story (based loosely on true events) that lends itself to being read aloud. My students especially enjoyed the voices that I created for the various characters! Admittedly, I also had to pause and wipe away a tear or two at certain points.
My class and I drew many comparisons between Julia (the young girl who befriends Ivan) and Fern, Ivan and Charlotte, and Wilbur and Ruby (the young elephant taken under Ivan's wing). Even though one can make strong connections between the two stories, "The One and Only Ivan", is sure to be remembered as a classic in its own right.
I always like to make connections for my students by offering background information to help them think critically and dig deeper into the topics and issues we read about. I'll show images or videos, and I try to bring the "real-world" into our classroom conversations and learning as much as I possibly can.
Here are some suggestions for extending beyond the book, "The One and Only Ivan".
Official book trailer:
We also visited the Atlanta Zoo website. Ivan was transferred there after living in a shopping center in Tacoma, Washington. We were able to see video and pictures of the gorilla, Ivan, on whom this story was based.
Zoo Atlanta - Ivan pictures
We also Googled "Ivan Gorilla paintings" and found examples of the finger painting that the "real" Ivan made.
Recently, a baby gorilla was rejected by her mother and is being cared for at the Cincinnati Zoo. We read the story here:
Link to story
Applegate's wonderful prose, combined with sweet illustrations, make this book a gentle read. Even though the topic of animal welfare and captivity does have a dark side to it, Applegate handles the issue in a way that isn't overly scary. (Younger children may have a bit of a difficult time with a few references to animal mistreatment, but the adult reader could easily omit them without altering the integrity of the story.)
Sadly, Ivan passed away at the Atlanta Zoo last August due to complications from surgery.
I highly recommend this book. It's no surprise that it won the Newbery medal this year!
Author's Website - Ivan information