Book Summary: The book follows a gorilla named Ivan who was captured from the Congo and grew up in the United States, now residing at a run-down mall at a low-quality circus. He understands English and loves art. But when a new baby elephant named Ruby arrives at the circus, Ivan befriends and watches over her, eventually concocting a plan to help her escape this prison and get to a better place.
APA Reference: Applegate, K. (2011). The one and only Ivan. New York: HarperCollins Children.
Impressions: Told entirely from the perspective of Ivan the gorilla, The One and Only Ivan gives us a unique story dealing with friendship and loss mixed with a little prison break. The story might be difficult for the younger elementary age group. The lettering is big, and the chapters are short, but the themes and ideas are heavy. The book is oftentimes depressing as it deals with murdered (animal) families, kidnapped animals, death, mistreatment, torture, emotional pain, and more. It sometimes feels like an adult book wrapped in the guise of a children's book. But while it is written and executed well, I am not entirely sure how it would be received by a younger audience who is not mentally or emotionally prepared for such topics. However, it does carry good morals to teach children, such as perseverance and bravery.
Professional Review: How confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.
Kirkus Reviews. (2012). The one and only Ivan (Book). [Review of the book The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate]. Best Fiction & Children's Books, 45-46.
Library Uses: With a heavy discussion of art within the book, this novel could be used with an assignment where students have to draw scenes from the book and how they picture the event in their heads.