Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review | The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Review by Alyssa
January 2012 by HarperCollins
305 pages
Amazon + Good Reads

"Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope."

-Good Reads

This is a hard book for me to review because it goes against (almost) everything that I look for in a book. 
  1. It's middle grade. Now, hear me out. I don't hate middle grade... It's just not for me. I'm 25 so it's been a very long time since I've read a middle grade book because it was age appropriate for me and because I actively sought it out. And I also don't have kids. I'm sure that one day I'll appreciate middle grade for its incredible wisdom and fantastic story telling (I'm not being sarcastic), but right now, it's not for me.
  2. It's a story about animals... and I hate stories about animals. The only book that I can think of that starred animals and I didn't loathe is Poppy by Avi. I never grew up around pets and I've only recently become comfortable around house hold animals. And because of this, I've never loved stories about animals and that's just how it is.
Until, that is, I read The One and Only Ivan.

The One and Only Ivan is told through the eyes of Ivan, a silver back gorilla who has been living in a tiny cage (er, domain) since he became too big to live in a house with humans. Yeah, you read that right. Ivan was purchased by a man named Mack and his wife, who basically treated Ivan like a human child until they realized that having a freaking gorilla live with them was probably not the best idea. Mack moved Ivan into a teeny tiny cage in a mall (is that a thing?) where, along with his elephant friend Stella, he existed as a road side attraction for decades. 

It already sounds depressing and that's just after a very brief synopsis. 

It's Ivan's point of view that makes this story so amazing. A story like Ivan's would be sad enough being told from a human's perspective and observations... But we have to go along with Ivan as he realizes that he's forgotten what it is to be a gorilla, the reality of where he is, and his fight to get himself and his friends into a proper zoo. Ivan tells his story in page long snapshots of his life at the zoo, and his perspective is just inherently sad. 

Like I said, I'm not one who would regularly pick up a middle grade book... let alone one that is about an animal, but a few of my bookish friends gave this book the highest of ratings and I eventually caved. Simply put, Ivan's story is heart breaking, poignant, and one that will stay with me for a long time. Not only did Applegate present us with well developed characters, she also had a subliminal agenda as well - without throwing her opinions in our faces. 

The One and Only Ivan was beautiful... and if you have the chance to, I think that you should give it a try.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book with my 6 yr old daughter and we both loved it. The writing is beautiful. The characters are well developed. Ivan and his friends are sweet and endearing. Highly recommended.
    suggested Dallas Divorce Attorney Information