A story to capture your heart and never let it go… ‘The One and only Ivan’

It is almost impossible to describe the impact this book has on everyone that reads it.

“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.” 

alt=one and only ivan applegate cover

The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Published by Harper Collins, 2012. Available in NZ bookstores in the PB edition pictured here, rrp.$18.99

From the publisher:

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 trailer:

Reviews and praise:

Kirkus Reviews (starred review): “How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage. … Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates.”

Gary D. Schmidt “This book will break your heart—and then, against all odds, mend it again.”

Source: Author Website

What do I think about this book?

Another book I am reviewing and recommending late in the piece. Like Wonder by R.J. Palacio, I am hoping this book wins a Newbery Honor if not the Newbery Medal (announced January 28th 2013).

I challenge anyone young or old to read this and not see animals in captivity in a new light.

The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, but the inspiration for this imagined tale lies with a true story. Ivan, a real gorilla, lived at Zoo Atlanta, but on the way to that happy ending, he spent almost three decades without seeing another of his own kind before being moved to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.” Katherine Applegate

The story is told by Ivan from his point of view. I love the way the author captured the way an intelligent creature might see humans (his captors) and how he would rationalise his captivity. We come to really understand him, where he came from and who he is.  The way he rises above his own struggle for survival in order to help the baby elephant Ruby is a lesson for all children in understanding empathy, caring, kindness, hope and love.

This is a beautiful and moving narrative and is powerful as a read aloud. Useful for teaching both narrative and simile. Chapters are mainly short with lots of white space giving the book an airy poetic feel. The structure and layout is great for reluctant readers who struggle with too much text.

Highly and heartily recommended for Year 5-Year 8. Copies in both our Junior Library and Middle Senior too.  (From Year 4 or 8 years old as a read aloud with lots of discussion and tissues!)

Author website:

http://theoneandonlyivan.com/book/

Teacher’s resources:

http://files.harpercollins.com/HCChildrens/OMM/Media/OneAndOnlyIvan_DG_4.pdf

Extra Ivan goodness :

Interview with Katherine Applegate (Publisher’s weekly) about how the story of the ‘Real Ivan’ was Katherine’s inspiration: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/49777-q-a-with-katherine-applegate.html

Teachers – see this moving video by wonderful 4th Grade teacher Colby Sharp – I love how he talks about how this book affected his students. This is a teacher passionate about books and reading! Link to Mr Sharp’s blog here

Quotes from the book (Compiled at Goodreads) can be found here

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3 thoughts on “A story to capture your heart and never let it go… ‘The One and only Ivan’”

  1. The quote you use is the same quote I mention everytime I talk about this book. The language is simply wonderful and is my fav story from last year. I sat in the school library sobbing as I wrote on my other library blog when the real Ivan died last year. Love, love, love this book.
    Desna

    1. I love it too – I challenge anyone with a heart to read it and not sob! Love your blog by the way – trailers are so great to bring books alive (especially to the screen obsessed kids of today!)…our library is in a shared space with the middle/senior school so I have to be careful with volume on the big tv screens 😦

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