Have you ever read a book that makes you want to pull the characters into your arms, rock them gently and tell them everything is going to be OK? This is exactly what I wanted to do the whole way through Katherine Applegate’s beautiful story, The One and Only Ivan.
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 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.
From the opening lines, ‘I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks,’ you are transported into Ivan’s head and see the world through his eyes. You read everything Ivan thinks and remembers, sees, touches, tastes and smells. Ivan comes out with some real pearls of wisdom and I found myself writing down so many quotes that I wanted to remember later. Things like,
“In a Western, you can tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and the good guys always win. Bob says Westerns are nothing like real life.”
There is a real sadness to the story, because these once great majestic beasts are locked away in cages, but the friendships between them help them to deal with their situation and add humour to the story. It’s these friendships and Ivan’s need to protect Ruby that bring a sense of hope. Ivan wants Ruby to have a better life than the one that he has lead, locked up in the mall. Katherine Applegate’s writing is absolutely beautiful and I wanted to savour every word. The stream of consciousness writing style she has used for this book means that she has obviously chosen her words very carefully. Her writing is incredibly descriptive and, like Ivan, she paints a vibrant picture for you. This is my one of my favourite descriptions,
“Because she remembers everything, Stella knows many stories. I like colourful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do.”
I can’t recommend The One and Only Ivan highly enough. It’s a story that will affect you and the characters will stay with you long after you close the covers.
5 out of 5 stars