Kate's Reviews > The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
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's review
Jun 06, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: middle-grade, 2012-bookgroup, 2012-best-nyt-or-slj, fantasy, newbery
Read in June, 2012

Not many books out there are told from the point of view of a gorilla. Ivan's voice is quiet, calm and thoughtful, surprising for a silverback. He grows over the story, slowly remembering his youth and realizing that his life is not how it should be. It takes a small elephant and a promise for Ivan to do something about their circumstances. You expect--and sometimes wish for--some bellowing and chest beating about his life, but Ivan is more contemplative. And artistic. The image of this large ape fingerpainting a mural on multiple pieces of paper is wonderful. You can't help but love him and his companions Bob (dog), Stella and Ruby (elephants). Two humans, a daughter and father, love them as well and in the end help them, but why does it take so long for either to question where and how these animals live?

This story that makes you pause and consider animal rights. How people have used and abused wild animals. For Ivan a zoo was still a cage but a place for some humans to make amends nonetheless. What I thought would be a sad and depressing book ended on a happier note.

One thing I didn't like about the book were the illustrations. The style didn't appeal and the illustrations overall were unnecessary. By the end of the book, I felt the illustrations were rather Disneyish (particularly the last one of Ivan at the zoo). Some of the plot felt a bit pat as well; e.g., the girl will recognize what Ivan has painted and Bob the dog will get a happy ever after too.

Crisp writing with short chapters. For kids who love animals and quieter books.

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