Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publisher: Harper Collins
Get inside a gorilla’s head, learn to love an annoying baby elephant, and hope beyond hope that humans will get an important message in time in The One and Only Ivan. Besides Ivan’s public performances at the shopping mall, this gorilla is content to watch TV westerns and to finger paint, never pausing to reflect on his past in the wild. Only when he notices Ruby, the new elephant attraction, struggling to conform to “circus” life, do his memories of freedom return. A desperate attempt for escape will require all of Ivan’s artistic abilities. Soon the news media catches sight of Ivan’s hand-painted billboard of the animals living in a zoo, and the public supports their move to a new habitat. Although it is difficult at first to adjust, all goes well for the animals in the end.
The One and Only Ivan is a middle-grade version of the picture book Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by the same author, Katherine Applegate. Written in a poetic form that aptly grasps what a gorilla's thought could be like, this novel follows the events of a true story. Readers may be surprised at the reality of harsh animal treatment, but they will cheer as the humans eventually decide to do what’s best for the animals. Funny and moving reflections of life from an animal’s perspective as well as an unpredictable solution to a big problem will keep readers attentive throughout the book. If animals have the power to communicate and change their circumstances, readers can hope for the same in their own lives.
*Contains mild violence.