Friday, April 19, 2013
The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
Ivan is a gorilla, the "One and Only Ivan at Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade!" Living there for most of his life, by himself with only a few other animals to talk to, he has grown bored and complacent. He lives in his domain (cage) and entertains the few visitors that come into the mall.
Nothing big usually happens, just the same old things, day in and day out. He watches TV, doodles on the random papers that are given to him, and waits for Julia to come in the evenings with her father, the janitor. With his little doggie friend, Bob, and the elephant next door named Stella, Ivan doesn't even remember enough of his wild life to miss it.
One day, a new baby elephant named Ruby is introduced to the mall. Living with Stella, she is very shy and quiet. When the older elephant dies, Ruby is left alone with no one but Ivan to comfort her. She asks for happy stories, stories from anywhere besides the mall, making Ivan remember his life before he came. Remembering what it was like in the wild, plus his promise to Stella to look after Ruby, Ivan realizes he must do something to change not only his life, but Ruby's as well.
This was a touching story! Ivan seems so set in his ways, and content to have what he has until Ruby come in. Once he realizes how vulnerable she is, and that no one else will take care of her, he rises to the challenge of changing her life and her future. His actions are very much in line with what a silver-back gorilla should do- protect his family. Once he makes that realization, he acts and changes his live. Not only is it touching to see how much he cares for the little elephant, it is also empowering, showing that no matter what your circumstance, you can change it. There's not much hope for a gorilla in a cage, but he finds a way to communicate and have an impact on everyone around him.
Despite the number of pages, this was a fairly quick read. It is told from Ivan's point of view, in short, almost poetic, style. I've read other books with similar styles and they have felt choppy, but this one flowed much better than the others. Because of the heading for each section, it lets you know what he is talking about, and the ideas connect one section to the next. Quicker read than the 300 pages would imply. Suitable for kids of many ages.
Overall, this is a great book that I will recommend to just about anyone, particularly to kids that like animals. Great story line, lots of topics that could be discussed in families or classes. Go read it! Great book!