Applegate, Katherine. 2012. THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. Ill. by Patricia Castelao. New York: Harper. ISBN 9780061992254 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]
“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.” Ivan is an attraction at the down-and-out Exit 8 Mall. He has grown accustomed to his “domain” although it’s made of glass and cement, nothing like his natural habitat. He has also grown to understand the humans that stare at him, although they don’t seem to understand him ... except for Julia, the janitor’s daughter, who gave Ivan his first crayon and inspired him to draw. His friends Stella, an elephant, and Bob, a dog, keep him company; but Ivan longs for the companionship of another gorilla. When Ruby, a recently captured young elephant, is brought to the mall, Ivan begins to remember his life before captivity. Not wanting Ruby to grow old in the mall, he makes a plan to save her.
Applegate, in an almost free-verse style, creates a voice for a gorilla that is somehow perfectly believable. The sparse, insightful text invites the reader to laugh, grieve, and celebrate with Ivan while also pondering man’s treatment of all the world’s creatures. Realistic, but gently-personified black-and-white illustrations appear sporadically throughout the novel. The Author’s Note explains the true story of the captive gorilla that inspired the novel.
Readers can locate information about the real Ivan. They can research silverback gorillas and the differences between primates. The treatment of animals can also be discussed; older students might take sides on the issues and debate. The novel also connects well with the beloved classic CHARLOTTE’S WEB.
Harris, R.P. TUA AND THE ELEPHANT. ISBN 9780811877817
White, E.B. CHARLOTTE’S WEB. ISBN 9780060263850
For older readers:
Schrefer, Eliot. ENDANGERED. ISBN 9780545165761
By Jill Bellomy