The last book that made me snuggle in bed and cry with my daughter was Charlotte’s Web. This one, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, is the modern day version of that classic talking animal adventure in which animals have to save each other from well-meaning humans.
Ivan is a gorilla, a silverback of great potential, intelligence and an appreciation for art. He has lived for 27 years in small domain inside a mall in Washington. His neighbor and wise elephant friend, Stella has also lived in the domain next to him for as long as he can remember. Their other friends are Bob, a sarcastic stray dog whose favorite place to sleep is on top of Ivan’s immensely round and warm belly and Julia, the custodian’s daughter who does her homework at night right outside their cages while her father cleans. She also sneaks Ivan his art supplies (paints, paper and crayons). Ivan, in true gorilla fashion, usually taste-tests his art supplies before using them as designed.
After an orphaned baby elephant, Ruby, joins their little family, Ivan must fulfill a promise he made and uses his gorilla cunning to communicate with humans in a creative and surprising way.
Read this book together with your children this summer. You’ll be grateful. Ivan the gorilla is curious, resourceful, honest and loyal and we were kept entertained throughout. It is classified as ‘middle grade’ so probably appropriate for 8 to 13 year olds.
My daughter was introduced to this book by her 2nd grade teacher who read it aloud to her class. Honestly, I’m not sure how this teacher held it together. While there are many laugh-out-loud opportunities to keep readers entertained, there are just as many tear jerking moments. Keep the Kleenex close. But a book that doesn’t make me cry or laugh-out-loud probably isn’t worth reading, in my opinion.
My daughter loved it so much that we purchased a copy to send to each grandmother for Mother’s Day. She hopes they will each read it so she can talk to them about it this summer when they’re together. Kind of a granddaughter/grandmother book club. And in her own words (and 2nd grade spelling) here is the inscription she wrote to each of them:
Can there be any better endorsement?
Thank you Ivan, Stella, Ruby, Bob and Julia for swelling our hearts.