The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

oneandonlyivanThis book was published in 2012. It is the captivating story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla that lives on display in a shopping mall. Katherine Applegate’s Ivan was inspired by the real Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla. This book is told from Ivan’s perspective during a period of dramatic changes in his life.

I failed this book the first time I read it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book after the first read. But, the first time I read it, I zipped right through it. I wanted to find out as quickly as possible what was going to happen. I erroneous though that it is”children’s literature” and therefore shouldn’t take too much of my time. “Children’s literature,” is really just another place I, as an adult, tend to marginalize the feelings and experiences of young people.

In my haste I missed savoring the poetic word choices that were skillfully used to bring us into Ivan’s world during that pivotal change. This was powerful stuff. I had to go back and read it again. So I did, much more slowly. And I savored the moments. Even the hard ones.

You should know, I cannot stand movies or books that make me cry. I especially despise contrived stories that end in heartbreak. (I’m looking at you Nicholas Sparks!!). But, there are times when I am so moved by a story that I am tearful in a happy/sad way. The One and Only Ivan affected me in such a way. There were tears but they were purposeful and from a place of joy.

When Katherine Applegate accepted her Newberry Medal for The One and Only Ivan she remarked how moved she was by the classic talking-animal book Charlotte’s Web.  She said that she was, “enchanted and heartbroken, in equal measure.” This is precisely how I felt after reading The One and Only Ivan. Both times.


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