The One and Only Ivan
by: Katherine Applegate
I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.
It's not as easy as it looks."
The One and Only Ivan is a fictional book about based on a true event. Ivan, a gorilla was captured when he was an infant and lived as a human until he got too big to do so and then was put in a cage at a mall in Washington State. Read more about Ivan here.
This book will touch your heart, make you mad, and cry all in one sitting. Ivan is caged in a mall and has no companions except for an elephant,Stella, in the cage next to him and a dog, Bob.His domain is taken care of by George and Mack is his owner. Julia, George's daughter also visits him and draws and talk with him.
The story goes through how Ivan lives. He watches westerns on his T.V. and remembers very little about his past. (or so he says.) Then along came a baby elephant, Ruby, brought in to bring more attraction to the Big Top Mall. When Ruby arrives things start to change. She does not want to perform and Mack does not treat her well. Stella also gets ill and makes Ivan promise to take care of her and get her out of the life that she has had to lead. Ivan does and when Stella does not survive he starts to paint.
He paints and paints until Julia discovers what he has painted and puts the pieces together she declares they say HOME and have Ruby in a zoo. There is also the local zoo logo painted on it. Julia and her dad decide it is billboard big and put in on the billboard for the Big Top Mall, covering Mack's display.
Change is what Ivan wanted and change is what he gets. The display catches a lot of attention. Soon the Big Top Mall gets a lot of attention but not necessarily the kind that Mack wants. People come in to inspect the area and finally Ivan and Ruby are taken to the zoo. A thought that terrifies Ivan because it is so different than what he knows.
He finally has his memories, his freedom (from the cage atleast), and a new family in the zoo. Bob even gets a family when he goes to live with Julia. The ending is a feel good happy ending and you can't help but putting the book down feeling proud of Ivan and excited that he gets a family all his own. It also made me feel a little sad for Stella and wished she could have lived long enough to also get her freedom.
I couldn't help but feel bad for Ivan and Ruby when they did not want to get in the containers to be transported to the zoo. I almost felt bad for them because they were being forced to do something that scared them but I knew in the end they would be much better off.
I also started out feeling very mad at Mack and thinking why on earth did he start this with Ivan, but after hearing a little bit of his and Ivan's history it changed me to feeling a little bit sorry for him because he seemed to love Ivan at first like his own child. This made me think about how we are parents and we raise children and have to let them go. Mack should have let Ivan go a long time ago but he got greedy and or needed the money.
Applegate does a wonderful job of writing in short sentences and it gives us the illusion that Ivan is really telling us his story. It shows us Ivan's thoughts and makes the story believable. It also makes the story very easy to read. There is also humor throughout the story that takes a sad story and gives it some lightheartedness. We feel sad for Ivan for many reasons. One page he discusses how "sadly I cannot read, although I wish I could." "Once, however, I was able to enjoy a book left in my domain by one of my keepers." You think oh he looked at it but on the next page. "It tasted like termite." You remember after all he is a gorilla.
I really enjoyed this book and I thought it was a great way to get awareness about a situation and about animals in captivity along with creating a story that is interesting and creates hope in the human race to do the right thing.