The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
Published: January 17, 2012
Genres: Fiction, Middle Grade
Format: eBook (305 pages)
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.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.
The One and Only Ivan was just the bittersweet book I needed when I was dealing with a stressful week. I read it in about one day because I could not put it down. The whole story felt like a work of art about a gorilla who makes art. The voice was such a cute, appealing, and engaging one. The format it’s told in is kind of a journal that makes you see the world the way Ivan, the gorilla, does. You really get to know him and how sweet he is which makes it all the more tear jerking when you learn some of the horrible things that happened to him.
The One and Only Ivan is a book I could see kids liking. Ivan, the gorilla, loves to draw simple things and eat his crayons…and sometimes his art. But the writing was so poetic and beautiful I enjoyed it immensely as an adult.
“He goes back to work. His mop moves across the empty food court like a giant brush, painting a picture no one will ever see.”
– Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan pg 233
It was the ultimate showing not telling and it sucked me right in. And the art inside was just as beautiful as the writing. It looked stunning even on my kindle and it looks even better in the print version.
The animal characters are all full of personality. I found each of them wonderful and very caring – even the sarcastic homeless dog. I really liked Stella, the elephant, and she had my favorite quote from the book:
“I always tell the truth,” Stella replies. “Although I sometimes confuse the facts.”
– Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan pg 66
The impossible task that Ivan tries to achieve reminded me of Finding Nemo and how impossible it sounded for a fish to escape a fish tank and go back to the ocean. I was rooting for Ivan hard and hoping with everything I had that he would overcome.
Just when I was teary eyed enough, I read the Author’s Note about how The One and Only Ivan was inspired by a true story. She embellished of course, but definitely not as much as you’d think. Very much of this story is similar to what happened to a real gorilla. Someone get me some tissues. Was I really having a stressful week? I’ve forgotten what it was.
Overall, this was a work of art about hope and the sad reality of animal cruelty that was brought up in a beautiful way that children could relate to and understand.
Content Rating: Mild, for a brief scene where the gorilla talks about his parents being dismembered (but not in a graphic way).
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