The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is not a book I would have chosen on my own. It’s not that I’m opposed to reading children’s books, but I hadn’t even heard of it until my 3rd grader brought it home for his book report book. Something about the cover art drew me in. I hate to admit it but I judge books by their covers. I don’t know what it was about this cover, the spotlight on Ivan and Ruby just made me want to read it.
The cover pulled me in and then the story was icing on the cake. The chapters ranged from two sentences to a few pages and this is something I happen to love. It makes me want to keep reading. Ivan is a gorilla living in an enclosure at a roadside big top in a mall. His life is all about his simple art and TV. He has animal friends, one of which is a mangy dog that sleeps on his big belly. A human named Julia sits and does her homework and draws with Ivan, while her dad cleans. Ivan is content in his world until a baby elephant named Ruby is brought to the Big Top Mall. Once Ruby enters the picture, Ivan starts remembering where he came from and uses his art with the hope that the future will be better for them all.
The story is interesting, sad, happy, and hopeful. I am so happy I picked it up and you won’t regret this wonderful story. Patricia Castelao is the illustrator and there is something so real about her illustrations. Every time I turned the page and saw one of them, it was exactly what I pictured in my mind. Real, right down to Julia’s socks.
My 9 year old loved this book as much as I did. He was completely engaged in the story and even as we were working on his book report, he referred back to the book so I could read passages with him. This is a great middle grade book but adults will love it too. I think what my son loved the most was that this was based on a real gorilla. I think I will be adding some more Katherine Applegate to my to-be-read list.