Two books have been the talk of elementary librarian circles for the past few months. The first is Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and it’s just as awesome as everyone told me it would be. The second, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, is very different from Wonder, but it too is a beautiful story that will appeal to readers of all ages. I’m just sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it (especially since I managed to read it in less than four hours).
The One and Only Ivan is the tale of a gorilla, and it is based on the life of a real gorilla. (You can visit Ivan yourself at Zoo Atlanta.) Now, this first-person–or first-gorilla–tale is a work of fiction, but it gives readers a glimpse of what life might be like for animals in captivity…and how those animals might view humans and the world around them.
Ivan has been a star attraction of a circus-themed mall for about twenty-seven years. He’s made a few friends during his time at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. There’s Stella, an old elephant; Bob, a stray mutt; and Julie, a young human who introduced Ivan to the wonder of art. Ivan is a bit bored with his life, but he really doesn’t know much else. Most of the time, he can’t really remember what his life was like in the jungle where he was born. (Ivan was not blessed with Stella’s memory.)
When a baby elephant named Ruby–the newest mall attraction–enters the picture, however, Ivan’s worldview begins to change. The arrival of Ruby and a terrible tragedy make Ivan begin to think about Ruby’s circumstances…and his own. Surely there is more than living and dying in a mall for Ivan’s newest friend. But what can Ivan possibly do to help Ruby get to a better life? How can he make the people around him see that life in a cage is no life at all? There might be a way, but Ivan will have to use his considerable intelligence and artistic talent to make things change. Will Ivan, Ruby, and their friends be ready, though, when the time for change–and a chance at a real home–arrives? It’s up to the One and Only Ivan, great Silverback Gorilla, to make sure that whatever happens, happens for the better.
The One and Only Ivan is a fantastic book, and I cannot wait to share it with the students and teachers at my school. I’m hoping some classes will take this on as one of their novel studies. This book reminds me a bit of the classic Charlotte’s Web, and I think most readers who love that book will find The One and Only Ivan equally enchanting.
To learn more about this lovable book–and the real Ivan–I urge you to visit http://theoneandonlyivan.com/. And if you’re in the Atlanta area, stop by the zoo and see Ivan for yourself! You may also want to check out this absolutely stunning book trailer for The One and Only Ivan. I hope you love this story as much as I did!