Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Title: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Audible
Content Alert: A clean read, perfect for family road trips

Ivan the gorilla lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall, where he's the star attraction. Or at least he once was, back when he was little and cute. These days, the mall is struggling, and Ivan, along with Stella, an elephant with a painful foot infection, and Bob, a dog, are sort of neglected by day, then trotted out several times a day for a show. When Ruby, a baby elephant, shows up at the mall, the trio soon discover that she was poached, separated from her family and secretly shipped out of Africa. This scenario reminds Ivan of his own childhood, and he becomes determined to find a better future for Ruby, doing his best to communicate with the sympathetic humans around him. The One and Only Ivan shows that big dreams are sometimes rewarded with big payoffs, especially when they're motivated by love.

Honestly, it's a little bit difficult to get comfortable in the mind of Ivan the gorilla. Part of the reason is because he's depressed and unhappy after spending many years subject to the whims of Mack, the man who raised Ivan after he was separated from his family and treated him as part of the family until he grew too big. But I persevered with this story, and found it sweet and heartwarming. Ivan does what we would all do for our families-- he sacrifices and tries to make their lives the best they can be. Although I really enjoyed listening to the story, apparently the paper version of the book includes illustrations (Ivan's big dream to save Ruby is an art project) and I think that having them would have been beneficial to the story.

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