Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

Oh. My. Goodness.  I cannot believe how awesome the 2012 publication year is turning out to be.  It's only March and I already have four fabulous books on my Newbery short list (need to work on my Caldecott, but there are three that I have my eye on).   Two of those books are already very strong personal favorites: the wondrous Wonder and the amazing The One and Only Ivan. I do not envy the tough decisions that the Newbery committee will have to make!

The One and Only Ivan takes us inside the thoughts of a silverback gorilla named Ivan, who was captured from his home in Africa and eventually wound up in a rather run down animal exhibit at a roadside mall.  Ivan spends the long hours conversing with the other inhabitants of the exhibit: Stella (an elephant), Ruby (a baby elephant that later joins the exhibit), and Bob (a stray dog that hangs around the mall). Ivan also enjoys watching his small TV and painting; his paintings are sold in the exhibit's gift shop.

The One and Only Ivan is a sophisticated children's novel; Applegate doesn't beat readers over the head with animal rights issues, but there's lots to think about (and discuss)  regarding the treatment of animals (one of the animals remarks that "zoos are humans' way of making amends."). While there is definitely hope and joy at the end, it still comes at a cost and price, for the animals and the two humans who loved them and advocated for them as best they could. It's a thoughtful read that is quite sad at times, but it's a beautiful, moving, and inspiring read. Be sure to read the author's note on who inspired the story; it's a remarkable read in itself.

If the name Katherine Applegate sounds familiar, it's because she's the co-author (her husband, Michael Grant, is her co-author and the author of the popular Gone series) of the popular Animorphs series.  This isn't Applegate's first foray into more serious children's fiction; her Home of the Brave is also an exceptional read. The One and Only Ivan is a triumph.

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