The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate, Author, Patricia Castelao Costa, Illustrator
Katherine Applegate, illus. by Patricia Castelao. Harper, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-199225-4
Reviewed on: 11/14/2011
Release date: 01/01/2012
Hardcover - 267 pages - 978-4-06-219040-4
Paperback - 302 pages - 978-89-92711-03-6
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-06-199227-8
Paperback - 978-0-06-213579-7
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-228347-4
Hardcover - 305 pages - 978-0-06-199226-1
Prebound-Sewn - 320 pages - 978-0-606-35481-3
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-986-320-263-9
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-00-745533-1
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-06-210198-3
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Inspired by a true story, Applegate (Home of the Brave) offers a haunting tale told from the perspective of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has been confined to a small “domain” of concrete, metal, and glass for 27 years. Joining Ivan at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade are Stella, an aging elephant, and Bob, a feisty stray dog. While other animals perform, Ivan makes art, watches TV, and offers melancholy assessments of their situation. When Ruby, an inquisitive baby elephant, arrives and Stella dies from neglect, her dying wish is for Ivan to help Ruby escape. The brief chapters read like free-verse poetry, the extra line breaks between paragraphs driving home the contrast between Ivan and humans, who in his opinion, “waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.” As is to be expected, there’s significant anthropomorphism, but Applegate is largely successful in creating a protagonist who can understand humans yet feels like a gorilla. Although Ivan’s role in the events leading to their rescue reads as too human, readers will be left rethinking our relationship to animals. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)
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