Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Within the Pages: The One and Only Ivan

 The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
Published by HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.

     I was reluctant to read this story the first time I picked it up. In the mood for something light-hearted, I read the jacket copy and decided I didn't want to immerse myself in an animal rights story. I eventually did read The One and Only Ivan and it has turned out to be my favorite middle-grade book since Because of Winn Dixie. It was my mistake for thinking it wasn't light-hearted. Katherine Applegate's charming cast of animal characters as well as Julia, the girl who helps Ivan help his elephant friend, Ruby, offer hope in the seemingly bleakest of situations. Here's what I loved about Ivan:

First, the summary of The One and Only Ivan from the HarperCollins website:

     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.

Character Who Would Have Your Back: Ivan, of course. He like a patient, protective brother to his animal friends and keeps the promises he makes, no matter how impossible they seem to fulfill.

Character You Never Hope to Meet: Mack, owner of the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade and Ivan's keeper. You can't help but cheer for Ruby when she gets the best of him in one scene. If only Mac was on the receiving end of his own claw stick, but I think the animals would have been kinder to him had the roles been reversed.

Character Who Makes You Laugh and Want to Cry at the Same Time: Little Ruby. She's so naive and vulnerable and full of hope. And I loved her endless questioning, so like a toddler with a never-ending case of Why? Why? Why?

Character Who Could Lighten a Tense Situation: Bob the dog. A stray, Bob sneaks into Ivan's cage daily to impart his wry humor and street-wise smarts. He's perfectly comfortable sleeping on Ivan's belly at night and doesn't have any use for humans. Still, he's easy to love and his one-liners are classic.

Why I Read The One and Only Ivan: I had intended to read it when it first came out, but as soon as it started getting Newbery buzz, I held off. Every year I buy the Newbery winner and Honor books in hardcover so I waited until I could get my copies with the pretty gold seal on the cover. It's not likely I'll  find a book this year that I'll enjoy more than this one.

What are you reading now?


  1. I picked this one up once, but just couldn't get into it. I am continually reading great reviews for it, so I imagine my experience had more to do with the mood I was in than anything else. One of these days I will give it another try. Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much.
    I am currently reading Comfort by Carolee Dean and enjoying it very much.

  2. This is one of those books that I frankly wouldn't have put at the top of my reading list based on the pitch alone. Isn't it great that we have book awards to bring to our attention books we shouldn't miss? This book is on my reading list. My local critique group has gotten into discussing books as well as critiquing each other's work, and for this month our assignment was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I had mixed feelings about it that I discussed on Goodreads, but my opinion seems to be a minority one based on the stellar reviews.

  3. My critique group does something similar except instead of focusing on one book, we focus on an author. Everyone reads something different, and if the author does PB, chapter books, MG, YA, that's all the better. Sometimes we pick a theme (dialogue, voice, POV, etc), which is nice for focus, but mostly we share what we think worked.


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