Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The One and Only Ivan - Katherine Applegate

Summary: 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. (pic and summary from

My Review: The thing I like—no love—most about children’s books is their ability to be brief. And simple. And sometimes subtle, but not always. Seriously, a good children’s book can really capture all of this and stay away from all the drama and long-windedness of adult books. Wherein adult books feel that they have to HAMMER.YOU.OVER.THE.HEAD with their point (I’m looking at you, Barbara Kingsolver), children’s books can also have controversial topics and pull at your bleeding heart heartstrings and it’s all good. And I do love Kingsolver, by the way. She’s brilliant and some of her books are my fave of all time. But seriously. I can think for myself.

Not all children’s books are all epic and fabulous and right on the mark, so don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of trite and lame children’s literature out there, and some of it actually talks down to the child which makes me wonder what child in the whole wide world would ever be interested in reading such a thing. But it exists.

But that’s neither here nor there because The One and Only Ivan is one of the good ones. It has short, simple chapters. There is quite a complex story going on, with a very detailed history both of the circumstances the animals are in right now (oh the sadness and tragedy of a shopping mall zoo!) as well as the circumstances they came from. I loved that the characters had a lot of depth, even though we spent a relatively little amount of time with them all things considered.  There is loss and sadness, triumph and joy, and geez…just writing about it makes me realize how much was accomplished in such a simple story.

I thought this book was beautiful. It has a very lovely story and a moral (beyond that shopping mall zoos suck) that I think kids can relate to. Since I have kids of my own and I know they love animals and I have personally spent a lot of time at zoos with them, I know that they have a connection to animals and an understanding that I don’t have. There is patience in understanding what an animal is all about that kids can really connect with, and I think because of that my kids would really love this book and understand what it was all about. They would get the not-so-subtle suckery of caged animals in a shopping mall zoo with no habitat, but they would also understand the real story—that sometimes we have to be brave and stretch ourselves to accomplish what we should become. I definitely recommend this book to adults who love JFic as well as children.

My Rating: 4 stars.

For the sensitive reader: This book is clean, but it is really sad. Very tender-hearted children, especially in regards to animals, may have a hard time.

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