The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Hi there, this last blog post is quite a story. I must confess, I had picked this up countless times but just didn’t have time before, but when it caught my attention on an online list, I decided to give it a go. And let me tell you now, it didn’t disappoint me!! I found myself captivated, mesmerised, fascinated, moved….you get the idea!! Anyway, if you haven’t read it yet I hope my review of it below will!! 

The one and only Ivan in large white letters on top with dark blue background. underneath on wooden floor gorilla and small elephant sitting with their backs to each other. white spotlight over them shining through title words. gold seal of Newbery Award on bottom right corner with Katherine Applegate below.
Award winning read

Title: The one and only Ivan

Author: Karen Applegate

Illustrator: Patricia Castelao

Genre: Fiction – contemporary

Publication details: HarperCollins Children’s Books; London, 2012

ISBN: 9780061992254  (Hardcover)

What this book is about: Ivan is an easy-going gorilla who is used to humans watching his every move through the glass of his cage. He rarely misses his life in the jungle as he doesn’t remember much of it. He’s happy with his life with his friends and his art. When a baby elephant called Ruby arrives, Ivan begins to see his home through new eyes and knows he must do something to make sure Ruby doesn’t end up like him. Inspired by a true story, this is a heartwarming and unforgettable tale of friendship, hope and bravery that no animal lover will be able to resist. 

My review: After I completed reading this I found myself in tears; happy tears mingled with sad ones. Wow, what a story!! Reminiscent of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, this is a tale of a collection of animals housed in a mall as exhibits. Ivan, a silver-backed male gorilla, his friends Stella the elephant and Bob the dog have a unique friendship until baby elephant Ruby turns up and the story follows. It is one of friendship, companionship, hope, bravery and survival. Told in Ivan’s voice, we hear of his capture as an infant and journey into adulthood. There is some very powerful imagery conjured up in the format of the text here. I advise caution at some times. This story is actually based on a true story of a gorilla named Ivan!! I had a vague memory of this story. So I looked it up online to find articles relating to the National Geographic issue in the 1980’s, the movement that led to his being rehomed in Zoo Atlanta and the documentary they made of him titled ‘The Urban Gorilla’. Katherine Applegate’s story takes the character of Ivan to another level and gives us his voice, his fears and mostly his emotions. A powerful and poignant tale!!

My rating: 5 ⭐

Additional notes: This title has won the Newbery Medal in 2013, the California Book Award for Juvenile (Gold) in 2012, the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award (for grades 3-6) in 2014, and nominated for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award in 2015 and the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award in 2015. Phew!! What an achievement!!

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