Ivan is a laid back gorilla who lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He has no real complaints, as he has grown used to his small "domain" (cage) and the humans who visit him every day. In fact, he barely remembers that he once had another life in the jungles of Africa. Ivan lives out his days with the companionship of his best friends, Stella, a wise, old elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But Ivan's true passion is making art, and he spends his days trying to capture his surroundings through his art. When Ruby, a new baby elephant joins their group, Ivan suddenly realizes it is up to him to change their lives for the better--and soon.
The One and Only Ivan—Book Review
The One and Only Ivan is a heartwarming story for all ages. Although it is narrated by Ivan, who is a gorilla, it never seems silly, and is absolutely believable. In fact, Ivan's voice sucks you into the story right away. Written in what is almost free verse, the sentences are short and simple, and there are only a few on each page. This works with the story perfectly, because as Ivan says, gorillas waste less words than humans. Ivan is a character that readers of all ages will fall in love with. His astute and honest observations are thought-provoking. His humility and heart are endearing. The strong family bond he has with Stella, Bob, and Ruby is touching and a joy to read about. And his passion for art is amazing. Ivan feels a deep urge to create, whether it be on paper with crayons on the wall with mud. In fact, his creations are often sold in the gift shop. It is through his art that he begins to see the reality of his dreary surroundings. What he always thought was an acceptable home is actually a deplorable living condition. Determined to find a better life for Ruby, he uses his art to communicate with the outside world. I won't give away the ending--but it is a happy one. This story is not depressing, although sad things happen. A character passes away, and an animal is mistreated out of ignorance, not malice. Ivan recounts being captured in the jungle, losing his sister and parents. The book's sadness will not be too much for children, as it is sad in the same way that all good animal stories can make you a little teary-eyed, such as The Velveteen Rabbit and Charlotte's Web. Easy to read because of the writing style, this is a great book for younger and reluctant readers. Although the publisher's recommended age is eight, The One and Only Ivan would be enjoyed by older middle graders and adults as well. It is an excellent choice for a read-aloud in a classroom or at home. Based on a true story of a gorilla named Ivan, much discussion could be had with older kids about animal rights and zoos. >Book trailer from YouTube: