Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review/ The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Book Cover - The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate - Book Review by

The One and Only Ivan is an inspiring fiction novel based on a real life gorilla. Though it delves into some pretty heavy subjects, the author does an amazing job of balancing sadness with humor and hope. The story follows Ivan (a male gorilla) as he lives in captivity with a menagerie of other animals in a shopping mall. Yes, in a shopping mall.

Despite Ivan's dull and boring existence, he fosters friendships with Stella (an elephant), Bob (a stray dog), and Julia (the mall janitor's daughter). The arrival of a new baby elephant named Ruby brings about anxiety and worry rather than joy. Ivan and his friends are saddened by the type of life she will lead while in captivity at the mall.

It's only when Ruby arrives that Ivan faces his feelings about being taken captive from the wild. And with Stella unable to help Ruby find a better home, Ivan promises to change Ruby's fate.

Katherine Applegate does a phenomenal job imbuing fictional Ivan with human characteristics (anthropomorphism). The book is told from his point of view and you can't help being drawn into his story.

[Enjoy my FREEBIE printable activities for this book!]

The One and Only Ivan will leave children thinking about several issues:
-- How we obtain animals in captivity
-- How humans choose to treat and house wild animals
-- Facing your fears in both the present and the past
-- Standing by your principles despite potential consequences

The only caution for this book is that it pulls no punches when describing human cruelty. Children will be shocked midway through the book when discovering what happened to Ivan's parents (see **Spoilers/Cautions** below).

However, there are just as many examples of AWESOME human behavior! Proof that every individual can aspire and choose to be the type of person they want to be.

Our family couldn't stop talking about this book! By the last page, you will be inspired by both humans and animals. Because everyone deserves to forge a happy, healthy life -- human and wild animal alike, right?

The One and Only Ivan is definitely a thinking book you won't forget. Neither will your children. 

Madeline's Rating (age 8):  5 stars
Mom's Rating:  5 stars

The two main areas that could be disturbing are the description of Stella's training/abuse in the circus ring and the death of Ivan's family. Stella suffers a permanent injury due to being chained. Ivan's mother is shot while he and his sister cling to her. His father is shot next, and then the parents are dismembered. Ivan's sister dies in their shared transport container (to captivity).

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