Synopsis from Goodreads:
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.
This is such a wonderful book, one that I tore through while it pulled my heart strings. Then I read the notes at the end and saw that it was based on a true story... Of course it was, because even if there hadn't really been an Ivan, we still have animals in cages in malls. I was shocked to learn recently that our largest mall here in Canada still has animals in concrete cages on display, the animals expected to perform. This certainly adds to the poignancy of this book. But, on with the review.
The One and Only Ivan is told from Ivan's point of view, using straight forward language and short paragraphs -- and Ivan is an adult silverback gorilla who has lived in his small, dirty cage, or "domain," in a mall for 26 years. Next to him is an injured elephant named Stella. There is also a little dog named Bobby, who visits, as well as the daughter of the night janitor.
Both art and the arrival of a baby elephant push Ivan to consider more, to become the gorilla he was meant to be, an adult silverback, the protector of his group and of the young. I love how art, the introduction of a new medium, changes Ivan's life, how he is able to express himself creatively and can use this to make changes.
Ivan's thoughts are simple, yet his observations of humanity are profound. Applegate gets her point across without condescending or preaching. Instead, she eloquently invites us into Ivan's life and his thoughts.
Children and adults will find themselves relating to him, cheering him on, feeling his losses and victories. I highly recommend this book to everyone. My husband read it to our six year old daughter and she loved it and it is a compelling, different kind of read for those who are into chapter books.
Here is the book trailer from YouTube -- it really captures the spirit of the book: