The One and Only Ivan

I’d been hearing so much lately on Twitter about Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan that I decided I really must read it during last week’s spring break.

Ivan is based upon the true story of a gorilla that spent twenty-seven years living in a small cage at a shopping mall.  (Spoiler alert: after a public outcry following a National Geographic special he is now happily living at a zoo in Atlanta.)

Applegate tells the story from Ivan’s point of view and truthfully I had no trouble believing in his voice.  In no time at all we meet Ivan’s “family”–Stella–an elephant, a dog named Bob, Mack– the owner of this bizarre menagerie, George–the maintenance man and cleaner-of-cages and his daughter, Julia.

When Ruby, a young elephant, joins the Big Top Mall and Stella’s life draws to a close, Ivan makes a promise to find a way out of this mall existence for Ruby.  For him it is finally a chance to do what silverbacks do–protect the family.  Using his talents as an “artist” he and Julia team up to call attention to Ruby’s plight.

You cannot help but cheer for Ivan and his friends in this story about friendship, loyalty, and the complex relationships between man and beast.  Colleagues have said that kids love this book.  Probably best for grades 4-6 where you can have some great discussions!  More info available from the author here.

Here’s the official trailer:

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