Thursday, June 21, 2012
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Harper, 2012)
Summary from publisher:
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.
I'll put it out there.... I'm not generally a fan of talking animals in books, so when I started seeing the buzz for The One and Only Ivan, I didn't rush right out to buy the book. However, people kept talking and talking about how amazing this book was, and I eventually relented. I'm so glad I did.
The story is told from Ivan's perspective, and it adds an element to this book that makes it absolutely heartbreaking in spots. When Ivan starts to open up about his life in the jungle and his sister Tag who did not make it through their journey to Washington State, it is hard to keep from crying. That's just one of the spots where I needed to reach for my tissues. I won't spoil any of the others.. you'll have to read to find out.
This is one of those books that has layers. Kids will read it and fall in love with Ivan and his friends; they may even be moved to take some sort of action to protect gorillas and elephants in their natural habitats. Adults will see even more meaning in what is a deceptively simple story about humanity. There are many lessons to be learned in this book, but none of them are delivered in a didactic, preachy way. Rather, the reader comes to understand the lessons gradually as Ivan, Stella, and Ruby's stories unfold.
I look forward to sharing this with readers in the fall. Both boys and girls will enjoy Ivan and his friends, and I think this would make an outstanding read aloud for middle grade classrooms.