The One and Only Ivan Katherine Applegate
Who doesn’t love animals? Are you like me? Do you enjoy the occasional visit to the zoo? The reality though, is that we and our kids and grandkids are growing up with much more awareness of animal rights and of what constitutes being kind to animals. Kids of all ages will love The One and Only Ivan.
Ivan is a silverback gorilla who has been living, in his own words, for 9855 days at one of those intersection malls off I-95 in the US. He’s part of a “show”. Mack, the owner, has good intentions but his bottom line is the almighty dollar, so unfortunately he cuts corners where his animals are concerned. Besides Ivan, there is Stella, an elderly elephant with a sore foot who is a born nurturer and helps to encourage the others and Bob, a stray dog who loves to sleep on Ivan’s generous tummy.
The story, based on a real-life mall gorilla, is told in Ivan’s voice. On every page there is a mix of humour and emotion.
Stella, unfortunately, dies of the infection in her damaged foot and leaves Ruby, a newly-arrived elephant calf, taken away too soon from her mother in a distant land. Stella, though, has charged Ivan with looking after little Ruby and he takes the challenge seriously, even telling her the story of his life, not easy for him, since gorillas don’t have the same prodigious memory as elephants.
Luckily Ivan has help. Bob is always there for him and there is also Julia, young daughter of George, the caretaker. Julia, a avid artist, encourages Ivan who also loves to draw. She is the one human who takes Ivan and the other animals seriously and ultimately it’s her intervention that saves them all.
I highly recommend The One and Only Ivan. Adults will find it a quick read – probably only one or two sittings – but entirely worth the time. Kids in Grade 2 and up will find the language very accessible and the story both chuckle-worthy and irresistible. Boys, in particular, will giggle at the scatological references. With so few words on each page, reading is quick and it’s almost impossible not to continue on to the next page. I know I’m a sucker for kid-lit, but honestly, I couldn’t put it down.
It’s easy to see why Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan was a Newbery Award winner in 2013. Get this book ASAP at your local library and read it quickly before handing it over to your favourite munchkin(s). Or read it together – there will be lots of conversations sparked.