Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
From Miss Mary at Main Library

“People call me the Freeway Gorilla.  The Ape at Exit 8, The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback.  The names are mine, but they’re not me.  I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan.”

Ivan is a gorilla who has lived almost his entire existence in a circus housed inside a mall.  For the last 27 years, he has performed 3 shows daily, 365 days a year.  His owner, Mack, is not unkind to Ivan but still Ivan is lonely.  He barely remembers his young life with his gorilla family before the circus.   Ivan only knows life in his personal domain at the mall surrounded by his TV and a few other animals.  His friends include Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, the stray dog who sneaks in and sleeps on Ivan’s stomach at night.  Later Ruby, a baby elephant, joins them at the mall.  The humans in the story include George, the caretaker, and his daughter, Julie, who understands Ivan better than anyone.  They both share an interest in art and drawing.  It is Julie who slips Ivan paper, paint and crayons so that he might create his own artwork.

The One and Only Ivan

The story is written in first person narrative by Ivan the Gorilla.  When Ruby the baby elephant arrives, Ivan realizes he must save her from a lifetime in captivity that he has experienced.  Using his artwork as his only tool, Ivan manages to bring a better life to Ruby and ultimately to himself too.

I thought this book was truly exceptional and was deserving of the John Newbery Award for 2013.  Readers of any age will enjoy this tale about Ivan and what he was able to accomplish. Katherine Applegate, the author, was inspired to write The One and Only Ivan after hearing about a true story of a gorilla who had lived in captivity at a shopping mall for 27 years.  The gorilla was eventually moved to Zoo Atlanta after a public outcry pertaining to his living conditions.  He lived there happily for many years and was a crowd favorite of the zoo.

Check out the official The One and Only Ivan book trailer!

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