Books. I love books. I love books because they help you experience with all of you senses, something new, something familiar, something in fantasy, something real. Great authors take you on a ride. Great characters hold your hand on that ride. And most of all, great stories make you feel. I wasn’t convinced when I started reading The One and Only, Ivan that this book would take me anywhere. Don’t judge me, but I am just not all warm and fuzzy with animals like some people. I mean, I like animals. I like polar bears, puppies, and kitties, even rhinos and elephants. But knowing that The One and Only, Ivan featured Ivan, a gorilla, as a protagonist made me dubious at best. I read reviews and heard some discussions, so I knew I had to look closer at the book. I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I enjoy the read, but days later I am still thinking about this gorilla that held my hand on a poignant ride.
Ivan is the headliner in a small circus. He tells his story in simple short chapters that include both details of his daily life, his interactions with both man and beast, and reflections on his own life and his thoughts on many other subjects. Along the way readers meet fellow circus mate, Stella, an aging elephant, Bob, a scruffy stray dog, and then young Ruby, the circus’s newest star, a baby elephant. Ivan’s life seems to have been boxed in literally by the walls of his enclosure, but young Ruby, 8yr old human Julia, and Ivan’s own awakening all open eyes on a larger world beyond the tiny circus walls. Ivan uses artwork, storytelling, and friendship to build something very significant: Hope.
This hope will pull readers into this heart wrenching, but loving story of Ivan and his friends. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the story or the characters as much as I did. I should mention that the book is somewhat sad, Ivan made me cry and but also, made me think. He just came alive through the pages of the book. I loved that! Author Katherine A. Applegate created something magical writing Ivan. She wrote a children’s book that will engage readers with careful reflection and beautiful hope. I hope Ivan will be read and loved by many many children. I recommend this book for late elementary to middle grades. Students who like animals, personal narratives, and friendship stories will enjoy this book.