The Very Hungry Librarian

consuming, sharing, and reviewing books for children

Newbery Winner: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only IvanIf you are an animal lover and advocate, The One and Only Ivan is a must read. Likened by many to Charlotte’s Web, this remarkable story touches on the tragedy of captivity and the power of friendship. It’s been a long time since I’ve come across a voice in children’s literature as memorable as Ivan’s. Told through the ‘mighty silverback’s’ eyes in a poignant first person narrative, Katherine Applegate perfects a minimalistic prose that combines humor, wit, and tenderness in an uplifting story about a special gorilla who uses his creativity and artwork to save a friend.
Ivan was torn from the wild as a young gorilla and became an attraction at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Instead of the jungle, Ivan now made his home behind Plexiglas, and instead of playing tag with his sister, finds joy in painting pictures of bananas, watching westerns on TV, and talking with his friends Stella the elephant, and Bob, as stray dog. Over 27 years, Ivan has accepted the outcome of his life, but when Ruby, a baby elephant also ripped away from her home in the wild, becomes the new attraction at the mall, Ivan has a realization. Captivity is no life, particularly for such a young spirit like Ruby. So Ivan sets out on a journey to save his new friend’s life, and in turn changes his own.
Though this novel touches on serious topics like animal abuse and confinement, a consistent tone of hope runs throughout, and the story’s emphasis is placed on friendship, creativity, and determination. I laughed, cried, got angry, and celebrated as I read Ivan’s account, and I instantly added this title to a list of my favorites. I’ve read a lot of great books, but The One and Only Ivan is something special.

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This entry was posted on June 10, 2013 by .
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