Rummanah Aasi
 I've never been much of a fan of talking animals in books, but every once in a while I make an exception. The 2013 Newbery Award winner, The One and Only Ivan, has such terrific characters that it almost made me forget they were animals!

Description: 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.

Review: Inspired by a true story, The One and Only Ivan is a haunting and bittersweet tale of friendship told from the perspective of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has been confined to a small "domain" of concrete, metal, and glass for 27 years at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Joining Ivan are Stella, an aging female elephant, and Bob, a feisty stray dog.
  While other animals perform, Ivan makes art, watches TV, and offers melancholy assessments of their situation. I felt terrible for Ivan and his "home" was claustrophobic. Ivan doesn't mince words about his environment and his dislike of the animal keeper who doesn't really care for the animals, especially when Stella dies from neglect. Ivan's bleak perspective changes with the arrival of the extremely cute Ruby, an inquisitive baby elephant. Ivan wants to uphold Stella's dying wish of helping Ruby escape from their confinement and be free.
  The chapters of the book are brief and read much like free-verse poetry. The extra line space between the paragraphs emphasis the contrast between Ivan and humans communicate. Ivan's words of sparse but direct while the humans of the story use much more words to express what they mean. Applegate gives animals a personality of their own and effortlessly anthropomorphize them until the reader forgets that they are animals. Although Ivan's role in the events leading to their rescue reads as too human, readers will be left rethinking our relationship to animals as well as the power of friendship and courage.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
7 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I feel like this book would make me sad Rummanah! I'm such a huge animal lover, and while I know zoo's do extraordinary work in preserving wildlife and helping reverse some of the damage done by hunting, I just can't help but feel bad for those animals all cooped up! The illustrations in this one look gorgeous, I just want to hug Ivan sitting there all lonely looking:)


  2. Oh I don't know if I could do this one or not. I have such a huge heart when it comes to animals. I can't read books were animals suffer or die, it just breaks my heart.


  3. Aw... this one sounds cute. I really need to have my cousin just come here for recs!


  4. Aylee Says:

    I'm not sure what I would think about this one. I think it might me me quite upset because I'm a huge animal lover. On the other hand, it does sound like a worthwhile and well written novel. You've given me something to think about anyway!


  5. I love books with talking animals! This one sounds cute but also very sad. I'll this to my wishlist though because I don't think there are too many books that make you think about the relationship of humans with animals.


  6. Rubita Says:

    A baby elephant named Ruby?!? I'm on board, though I'm usually with you on the talking animals thing. It's the reason I have the complete opposite of interest in Watership Down. I've never understood the attraction.


  7. Wonderful story, very well written. Did not want it to end. Grandson loved it too after I conned him into reading it.


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