The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
320 pages that will make you think and wonder, imagine and cry
Ivan is a silverback gorilla. He lives alone in his small domain in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall. Yes, that’s right a mall. Ivan is there with Stella and a stray dog, Bob who sneaks into Ivan cage for comfort, companionship and warmth. Once a star attraction, the mall is no long doing very well so Mack, Ivan and the mall’s owner, must do something about that.
Mack brings in a new baby elephant, Ruby, as the new star attraction. Ruby lives with Stella, until an unattended infection leaves her weak and dying. Her last wish extracts a promise from Ivan – he must find a way to make sure Ruby does not spend her life alone in the mall; he must find her a better place.
Julia, the janitor’s daughter, comes to the mall most days to do her homework while her dad cleans. Over time she has discovered that Ivan is an artist. She has given him paper and crayons. Mack has discovered Ivan’s artistic talent too. What Ivan draws, Mack sells. He doesn’t look as closely as Julia does. She sees what Ivan is working to represent. Julia knows it is more than just a scribble.
Ruby brings new life to Ivan. Watching Westerns and romances is no longer enough. Living in a day-to-day haze is no longer enough. Her questions lead Ivan to remember. For years, not remembering has been Ivan’s habit. He prefers not to think of his past, either with his family in Africa or as a young gorilla who didn’t have to stay confined to the mall. But soon he is telling what he does remember of the past to Ruby.
The young elephant also brings a new urgency to Ivan’s art. Ivan has a plan. He has an idea of how he can keep his promise to Stella. Every night he paints. All the little pictures lead toward one goal. All Ivan has to do is find a way to make someone, anyone, understand what he is telling through his art?
The One and Only Ivan is a book that will change you. You will wonder at the endurance, friendship, kindness and commitment found in the characters. You will question and wonder – and then you will discover that this story is based on a real Ivan, and you will wonder even more. How? Why? Can we be more mindful, more empathetic, more involved. Read The One and Only Ivan, you’ll be glad you did!