Friday, March 21, 2014

The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Illustrated by Patricia Castelao)

Published in 2012 by HarperCollins Children's Books

Katherine Applegate's The One And Only Ivan is a fictional book based on the true story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lived in the Atlanta Zoo from 1994 until his recent death on August 20, 2012 at the age of 50. Sadly, Ivan died the same year Applegate's book was published. The book tells the story of Ivan's lonely life before being transferred to the zoo. Applegate uses great poetic license in telling her story, changing many of the details in order to give Ivan a voice of his own. The book's intended audience is children ages 8-12.

The One And Only Ivan is told from Ivan's point-of-view and reveals what it is like for him and the other animals who reside at "the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade" (6). At times the story is sad, happy, and even humorous. Ivan used to be the main attraction at the mall, but the shows are not bringing in the money they once did. Stella, Ivan's best friend, is an elephant with a chronic foot infection, and other animals become Ivan's friends.

Mack who works at the mall and is the boss, decides to bring in a baby elephant named Ruby to revitalize the show and increase profits. Julia, the daughter of the "weary" man who cleans the glass each night after the mall closes ends up helping have Ivan move to a real zoo after Stella, Ivan's long-time friend dies. Protesters become involved, and Ivan is eventually transferred to a zoo. The book is about his journey. Although Ivan has difficulty adjusting to his new habitat, he is better off in his new environment.

Castelao's illustrations are simple black and white drawings that add depth and bring life to the story. At the beginning of the book, Applegate provides a glossary that defines terms such as chest beat, Not-Tag, and me-ball that Ivan uses throughout the story. Without this glossary, readers would not have understood the meaning of these terms. It was appropriate, in this case, to put the glossary in the front of the book rather than in the back. Rather than dividing the book into chapters, Applegate chose to scatter simple headings throughout the book that relate to what is taking place in the story at a particular time: imagination, the loneliest gorilla in the world, stella, and my place. Each section is short and moves the plot along quickly.

This book would be a good book to teach children how to be political activists if that is what we want to do. Although I enjoyed reading the book, I would not choose to use it in my classroom. Once again, I found this book and the story about Ivan to be depressing. I have conflicting feelings about this book and found it difficult to blog about.

The One And Only Ivan Website
Atlanta Zoo Celebrates Ivan's Life
Image Source
Find This Book At Your Library

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