Mourning Ivan the Gorilla

Photo courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

 Ivan, the 50 year old Western Lowland Gorilla died today at Zoo Atlanta. And so, today, I am sad. His story touched me deeply.

If you have not read Katherine Applegate’s novel The One and Only Ivan inspired by the real Ivan, I urge you to borrow a copy at your library or buy one at your local bookstore and read it. His story will make you laugh and make you cry. Mostly it will make you feel.  This link will take you to the official book trailer.

I would like to thank Katherine Applegate for telling Ivan’s story. I would also like to thank Mr. John Schu and Ms. Kouri for sharing their photos this summer of their visit with the real Ivan at Zoo Atlanta. Their photos will now be the closest way I can fullfill my dream of meeting Ivan. You can view Mr. Schu’s photostream here.

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14 thoughts on “Mourning Ivan the Gorilla

    • Dear Shannon,

      I think the highest power a book can have is evoke an emotional response in the reader. If my trailer also gave you this response, I am honored. The One and Only Ivan is one of my favorite books now!

      Julie Hembree

  1. I am sad the mighty silverback has died he was rely special to us we really wanted to meet him. I’m glad he spent the last years at a nice home thank you for letting us know

    Love Josa

    • Dear Josa,

      After I saw the photos that Mr. Schu posted when he visited Ivan this summer, I wanted to jump on a plane and see him too, just like you.

      His last years were spent with people who lovingly cared for him.

      Mrs. Hembree

  2. Dear Mrs Hembree,

    I was so shock to read this post early morning here in Australia. I have to admit I did I have a few tears for Ivan.

    I would never have know about Ivan the gorilla. Thank you to you and Katherine Applegate for writing such a wonderful moving book. It gives me a bit of comfort to know that Ivan did in the end find some sort of freedom at the zoo. Even though I would have dearly loved him to have gone free in his homeland.

    Hope Ivan passed away with a bit of happiness and not in pain.

    So very grateful for those photos which you shared with us all of Ivan at the zoo.

    Such a sad day Mrs Hembree.

    I really am mourning the loss of Ivan the gorilla. I really do believe that Ivan the great will live on for ever all because of you and Katherine Applegate.

    From AA 🙁

    • Dear AA,

      I shed more than a few tears yesterday and so did my husband. He remembers seeing Ivan at the B & I Mall in Tacoma where he was caged for over 25 years. We talked about how after the mall closed at night now terribly lonely it must have been for him.

      I think the zoo keepers at Zoo Atlanta gave him as much freedom and love as they could. They cared for him like he was one of their children. We are all grieving here, but I bet it’s a terribly sad time for them in Atlanta.

      Katherine’s story and his legacy will live on for years.

      Your friend,
      Mrs. Hembree

  3. @ Mrs Hembree,

    How true his legacy will live on. I told BB this morning of Ivan and she cried and cried. For every tear drop she did say I hope he didn’t die in pain.

    I did comfort her by saying that now he is having the last laugh looking at us all.

    I still cannot believe it and I really do know what you mean when you say you had more than a few tears.

    Take care and your hubby too.
    Thinking of you all and Ivan.

    From your friend down under,

  4. Dear Mrs Hembree,
    I am very sorry Ivan has passed away. I feel Ivan is a very special gorilla. Ivan touched my heart when I read the book and I hope this story becomes more popular.

    The book trailer was beautiful.

    I almost cried when I saw and read this post. It was sad how Ivan was in a cage for over 25 years I truly do wish Ivan was with his family.

    I feel many people should read this book.

    Ivan does not deserve this 😥

    I will miss Ivan but I truly think Ivan is in a better place.

    From your pal,


  5. Dear Mrs Hembree,
    hi, I’m in 4KJ. I loved you post! But I almost cried when I read that Ivan died. He had bad start in life, but in the story he looked past all that.
    He ended up in a great place at the end, and we should thank those people that made it possible and helped him recover from the scars of his past.

    The video of Ivans life was so sad that I cried my eyes out!

    Your blogging budd,
    Bronte 😥 🙁

    • Dear Bronte,

      What a beautiful comment you have contributed to our blog! Thank you so much!

      The story of Ivan can be an inspiration to you and all of your friends about the importance of wild animals having the freedom to live as nature intended. I’m not talking about zoo animals, but the ones that people buy and think they are going to own like a pet. The “Ivans” of the world. They need to stay in their natural environments, not in cages in malls or shopping centers.

      Who will you recommend this book to outside of your classroom? How will you make Ivan’s story matter to people who haven’t heard it yet?

      Your new blogging buddy,
      Mrs. Hembree

  6. Dear Mrs Hembree,

    As you know, Mrs Morris read The One and Only Ivan to 4KM and 4KJ. Rather than just hear bits and pieces if the story, I decided to wait and read it myself once the class had finished it. And I’m very glad I did!

    I started the book last night and have just finished it. Wow, what a special and moving story! I love animals and this story really pulls at the heart strings!

    I have just been reading your other posts about Ivan, what a special gorilla he was.

    Thank you so much for giving us this book, we’ll treasure it! 🙂

    Your friend,
    Miss Jordan

    • Dear Miss Jordan,

      Katherine Applegate will be so please dto know she has lots of fans in Australia!

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the book. It must have been hard to wait until the class finished it to read it yourself! I know I can get like a little child and want some books, RIGHT NOW!

      I love visiting your blog and thank you so much for commenting on ours too! Enjoy your week!

      Your librarian friend,
      Mrs. Hembree

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