“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.
It’s not as easy as it looks.” (1)
These are the opening lines for Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. The novel is inspired by a true story about a gorilla called Ivan who lived in a cage at a mall in Atlanta for over 26 years until he was finally turned over to a zoo. Although some of the basic facts about Ivan are true, most of the story was made up by the author, who created a beautiful narrative that tells the heartbreaking story of Ivan.
When we are introduced to Ivan he appears to be ignorant of the dire situation he that is in, partly because it is all he knows. However, his sense of trust in his owner shifts when his elephant friend, Stella, makes him promise to get the newly-arrived baby elephant, Ruby, out of the Big Top mall. After this request, he starts to notice everything that is wrong in how he and the other animals are treated, and he races to find a way to get Ruby out.
Readers will enjoy that the novel is told from Ivan’s point-of-view. By seeing the world through his eyes, we get glimpses of both the cruelty of some humans, but we also get to see that there are humans that do their best to do what is right for the sake of the animals. In fact, both sides of humanity are represented in the several human characters that appear in the novel.
One of the things I really enjoyed this book is that it deals with the issues of animals in captivity, however it also shows that there are places, like most zoos, that there are better places for animals to live. Ivan’s character development throughout the novel is interesting and readers will be happy when they see him have the happy ending he deserves. Overall, The One and Only Ivan is a must read for children of all ages – but keep a box of tissues nearby!
If you would like to know more about the real Ivan, check out these links:
If you want to check out a copy of The One and Only Ivan from the library click here!
Join us at the Canyon Country Library on December 18th for the Afternoon Book Club at 2:30pm for a discussion and craft centered around The One and Only Ivan. This program is open to all elementary school age children!