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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Book Review)


The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
first published in 2012

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

I read this book for the Newbery Challenge.  It won the Newbery award in 2013.  

When I first started it, I didn't know how I was ever going to get into it - as the dialogue was between Ivan, Stella and Bob - a gorilla, elephant and dog.  I thought it was going to be very childlike.  Well, I thought wrong.  

It wasn't long before I was genuinely interested in the well-being of these three friends.  They cared about one another and were really more family than friends.  This family expands when a baby elephant is brought into this strange zoo-in-a-mall.  Her name is Ruby and Stella takes her under her wing.  Unfortunately Stella is old and her health is failing.  She teaches Ruby as much as she can before she passes.  Ivan does promise her that he will make sure that Ruby does not stay at the mall forever like they have.  

With that promise on his mind and in his heart, he starts a campaign to try to get people to understand that they want to be outside with other animals like them.  He has been creating "art" that is sold at the mall for years, but now he starts to draw a bigger picture using many pieces of paper.  He hopes the young girl who always comes to visit him will be able to figure out what he is trying to say.  

I really enjoyed reading this book, and found it even more interesting when I discovered it was loosely patterned after a real gorilla named Ivan.  This gorilla also lived at a mall for twenty seven years before the public outcry that sent him to live at Zoo Atlanta with other primates.  There are some great themes here regarding friendship, bravery and cruelty to animals.  And yes, it does deal with death, but I think it handles it in a way that young children can handle.  

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