Oct 13, 2014

Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Title: The One and Only Ivan
Authors: Katherine Applegate
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: January 7, 2012
Pages/Format: 307, Hardcover
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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.

Book in One Word: IVAAAAAN.

I've been wanting to read The One and Only Ivan for basically forever. It's about a GORILLA and his ANIMAL FRIENDS, so of course it's totally something I would read. I've been gazing at it longingly for a couple years, whether it was on the HarperCollins shelf at ALA Midwinter, right next to the YA section at Target, or in a squished stack of books at Costco. And then finally, FINALLY I got to read (and purchase!) this Newbery Award winning book. Because Katherine Applegate was coming to town for the release of Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla (also purchased and read), so I had to have all her Ivan books and read them too because GORILLAS. (Unfortunately, the signing was cancelled, but she should be back, so STILL.)

The One and Only Ivan is a lovely and sad tale inspired by the real, nonfictional Ivan the Shopping Mall Gorilla, a gorilla who lived in a mall in Tacoma, WA (not from me!) for twenty-seven years before being transferred to a proper home in captivity: Zoo Atlanta. Katherine Applegate takes factual bits of Ivan's life and twists them into a heartbreaking Middle Grade story fit for all ages, telling us the story of the one and only Ivan, silverback gorilla, and artiste magnifique.

While Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla is a picture book version of Ivan's life and, I'd say, more nonfictional, The One and Only Ivan is a longer, more wrenching account of Ivan's life, where we can see inside his head and he can talk to other animals and we can understand it all. The story starts with Ivan at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall, where he resides with a number of animals, like Stella the elephant and Bob the homeless dog (who likes to sleep on Ivan's big tummy). And eventually there's Ruby, a baby elephant and new addition to the Big Top Mall. What follows is a wonderful story of friendship, proper animal living, animal awareness, tears of both the sad and happy variety (or sobs...), and seeing what it's like to be observed and live in a cage like an animal. This isn't just one of those books that exists just because: it exists to show you how some animals live and how they shouldn't live. You see that a zoo is a much better home than some cage in mall with glass walls and a painted cement jungle and a television and a tire swing. This may be Middle Grade, but Ivan (both books) will break your damn heart, especially when you remember that a lot of this story isn't made up.

I really don't have any complaints about this fantastic novel from Katherine Applegate, except that I want more Ivan books forever and ever, please and thank you. And both books feature a bit about the real Ivan, which I absolutely loved. (Though imagine my distraught when I finished The One and Only Ivan and read that Ivan was alive and happily living in Zoo Atlanta, to only see in the about section of Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla that Ivan had died in 2012 at the age of fifty, and that people came to remember him and everyone loved him and no, no I'm not crying right now I'm not--okay, maybe a little--but I SOBBED. Did I not know he died? Maybe I did. But seriously, THE HEARTBREAK. Damn animals. Rest in peace, you magnificent creature.)

Does this review not tell you that you should so totally read The One and Only Ivan and Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla like, yesterday? The writing is splendid. Ivan's voice is so so good. (Seriously, this gorilla--and even this friends--have VOICE.) This book is so so good, and it has PICTURES. And it acknowledges that gorillas are not monkeys, so THANK YOU. I'm going to stop now because I'll probably go on forever and ever about this lovely little book that's worth something. It's an advocate for all those animals who are improperly living in captivity and deserve not a cage or a domain or a crate or just a place for people to point and gawk and stare at them, but a HOME. So read it. Before I go bananas. (Also, please make sure you have sticky notes to mark quotes--MY MISTAKE--and tissues, because TEARS.)

Did I like it? Yes!
Did I love it? Sureeeeeeee.
Would I reread it? Possibly.
Would I purchase it? Already own it, woohoo!
Who would I recommend it to? Everyoneeeeeeee. Especially animal lovers. And if you like to cry, you might really like this.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I had completely forgotten about this book and how good it looked, so thank you for reminding me! I think I will really enjoy this one and will, of course, cry.


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