Q & A with Editor Anne Hoppe about Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla
Q: You and Katherine Applegate have collaborated before. Was your experience editing Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla at all different?
Katherine and I have made eight books together previously—THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN and the Roscoe Riley Rules chapter books. By now we’re pretty comfortable trying out ideas on each other and pushing one another to live up to our own high standards. Katherine’s writing is so carefully nuanced that we’re already accustomed to weighing each word—in that respect, creating a picture book text felt like a natural extension of our work together.
Q: How did you and Katherine come up with the concept to do a non-fiction picture book about Ivan the Shopping Mall Gorilla?
I’ve been lucky enough to visit classrooms with Katherine, so we have both seen how eager kids are to know about the real Ivan. When THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN won the Newbery, we knew the book would live forever—and that meant a lot of readers were going to want to know the facts of Ivan’s life. At the same time, we saw how entire schools get excited about Ivan, across different grades and age groups, and we realized that presenting the facts in a picture book is an ideal way to include the youngest kids in discussions about this wonderful individual.
Q: G. Brian Karas’s evocative artwork is the perfect fit for this book. Can you describe the process of pairing author and illustrator?
We knew it would be crucial to find an artist who could convey both the sad and hopeful aspects of Ivan’s story—and that it was imperative that the art be tender and emotionally honest, never saccharine or manipulative. Brian illustrated the first picture book I ever worked on, and a piece of art from it has hung on my various office walls for nearly twenty years. The piece features a boy seen through a window, and it radiates quiet emotion: I took a photograph of that piece and sent it to Katherine. She wrote back in immediate agreement that Brian was absolutely our first choice artist for this book—and we were lucky enough to find that he agreed with us!
Q: What was your reaction the first time you encountered the manuscript and the art?
My reaction to the book is the same every time: the art and text together weave such a strong spell. Seeing them work together, drawing power from one another, makes me quiet—the world falls away, and I enter the story with my heart and soul, emerging from it moved and changed each time. I’ve said before that a good picture book is nothing short of magic. I am in awe of the magic that Katherine and Brian have created together.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla?
Respect. Respect for Ivan, for our fellow primates, for animals—domesticated or wild. And respect for people; we humans are capable of doing the wrong thing (poaching animals, treating them as objects for our entertainment), but sometimes we learn, and when we learn that we have erred, we are capable of taking the next step and attempting restitution. That’s a big notion for a reader of any age to understand and embrace.
Anne Hoppe, Senior Executive Editor at Clarion Books, has edited children’s books for twenty years. In addition to Katherine Applegate’s Newbery Medal-winning THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, she edited the Printz Honor books NATION and DODGER by Sir Terry Pratchett, Marc Simont’s Caldecott Honor-winning THE STRAY DOG, and the bestselling picture book WHEN I GROW UP, by Al Yankovic.