Saturday, September 19, 2015

Module 4: The One and Only Ivan

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 Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human--except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers' passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.
Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author's note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates, (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

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.

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