Review Blog

Apr 29 2012

The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

cover image

Harper Collins, 2012. ISBN 978 0 00 745533 1.
(Age: 9-14+) Highly recommended. I have often wondered if animals could talk, would we as humans, change our behaviour towards them.
The One and Only Ivan, told in the first person by Ivan the silver backed gorilla, penetrates both your mind and your heart, as Ivan describes his life in captivity for the past 30 years. Based on a true story, Ivan was captured and transported to America where he was purchased to entertain the shoppers in the Exit 8 shopping mall.
His world consists of a glass cage and a few friends, Stella the aged and ill elephant, Bob the homeless dog and Julia, the cleaner's daughter who visits after hours. It is the arrival of the young elephant Ruby, that impacts and changes Ivan's life the most, that and the chance TV viewing of other gorillas in a more natural zoo environment.
Ivan can paint and through his art he tries to communicate the future he wants for Ruby and himself. Katherine Applegate wanted to give Ivan the voice that could talk to humans, could tell his story and she achieves this wonderfully.
Told in a diary style, this book is emotional and at times, disturbing. The wisdom and kindness of the animals is evident and not all humans are without compassion and question 'How could this happen?'
The book trailers are just as emotive as the book and can move you to tears. There is one here and here.
Ivan, a real gorilla, now lives at Zoo Atlanta, and you can see him online.
I highly recommend this book to 9 to 14+ year olds.
Jane Moore

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