The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is a quick read. This is a Newbery Medal winner. There is such passion portrayed in this book by having it be told by the gorilla Ivan. The themes of perseverance and confidence are easy to spot.
Ivan a Silverback Gorilla lives in a mall and is the local attraction, along with him lives an elephant named Stella that used to work on a circus. Stella has an issue with her foot and needs medical attention that comes too late. The bring a new elephant and teach it how to do tricks for the crowd, this little elephant just wants a safe place to call home. Ivan starts to paint a picture for Ruby, the baby elephant, and he gets the night janitor to put it on the billboard outside to help keep Ruby safe. This plan works and they both get rescued and moved to the zoo where they have large habitats and others that are just like them.
This is truly a story of survival and animal rights. I have used this book in the classroom to work on visualization because the descriptions are so detailed. You could also use to discuss theme and perspective. How would the story be different if it was told by Mack the mall keeper or even by Ruby the elephant? I have also used it in guided reading with a comprehension guide after the book. This book makes a great read-aloud because the chapter are short and descriptive.