The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – Book Review
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate with Illustrations by Patricia Castelao was a surprising hit recently with our book club. From our youngest member, at 6 years old, to the elementary kids, the young teen, and even the parents all were enthusiastic and excited for our discussion. It was one of the most positive responses we’ve had to any of our titles so far.
I believe it works so well for so many different ages and people because it has subtle layers. The story is told from the point of view of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in a roadside mall arcade attraction. He doesn’t like to remember things, and so he doesn’t dwell too deeply on any of the issues or events that come up, but for all the simplicity of how events are told, there is still an emotional power to them.
For our youngest member, it was a straightforward story of Ivan and his quest to keep a promise. For the older members of our group, we could see beyond the simpler story to the bigger internal struggles that many of the characters fought with as Ivan describes their actions.
Another aspect that gave the book an additional level of interest is that Ivan was a real gorilla. He did in fact live at a roadside animal attraction, was originally captured with his twin sister, and spark the community to work for his release to a better home. Although I believe, the rest of the actual events of the story are fictional. The real Ivan eventually was moved to the Atlanta Zoo where he lived out the rest of his life. The zoo website has a nice page about his life: http://www.zooatlanta.org/ivan