Monday, January 23, 2012

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

HarperCollins (January 17, 2012) 320 pages

Description from Amazon:

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.

My thoughts:

When I saw The One and Only Ivan at another blog with high praise, and the fact that it's narrated by a gorilla, I knew it was a book I wanted to read. I was very curious how the author would go about writing a book from an animal's perspective, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Ivan is the narrator, and as I mentioned above, he's a gorilla. With the innocence of a child, he tells it like it is. He's very serious about what he says, but many times it comes off humorous. Other times, it leaves you needing a tissue. It's a heartbreaking story, and even more so when you find out that it is based on a true story.

As much as I loved Ivan and Stella and Ruby, Bob stole the show for me. Bob is Ivan's tiny "pet" dog. He's a loner, thinking he doesn't want to get tied down to an owner. He loves to sleep on Ivan's stomach, though, and occasionally give his opinions on various conversations.

The format of the book is a bit different. There are no chapter numbers, only names. Each chapter is only a page or two, sometimes 3. Each "paragraph" is only one to two sentences, for the most part. I reviewed an ARC, so I can't give you an example, but I really wish I could! At the beginning, you mostly get Ivan's thoughts on various subjects, but eventually those thoughts pull together to form a story. There's also small pictures scattered throughout the book.

I think it would make a perfect read aloud! There are a couple of scenes that tell just how mean humans can be. For example, there's mention that Ivan's parents were killed and then their heads, hands, and feet were cut off, and that at that moment a gorilla's hand is for sale in the gift shop as an ashtray. I really think that is about the worst of it, though.

Overall, I think The One and Only Ivan is a very sweet book that has earned its place on my boys' bookshelf!

*I was provided an ARC through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. Um, wow! The hands and feet being cut off IS a bit gruesome. However, that cover art is awfully appealing. Thanks for mentioning the possible objectionable content though. I'm not QUITE sure I'd go for it.