The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

April 12, 2013

Book review: The One and Only Ivan brings captivating story

NORMAN — Book Name: The One and Only Ivan (2012, HarperCollins Publishers)

Author: Katherine Applegate

Why you should read: “I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.” At No. 3 on the New York Times Bestseller list for children’s middle grade books, Applegate’s “The One and Only Ivan” is a story told from the point of view of a silverback gorilla named Ivan. He is known to the public as the “Freeway Gorilla” and the “Ape at Exit 8.” But there’s more to Ivan than the people know. With a simple and direct opening, this heartfelt story sucks you into a thoughtful and beautiful world with unforgettable characters that will please anyone from eight to 80 years old.

Driven by short, to-the-point chapters and brief illustrations, Ivan relates his life as a zoo animal with a wistfulness that will no doubt leave even the hardest hearts softening. His experiences and stories shared with neighboring animals are nothing short of wonderful, and his thoughts on people will leave you questioning your own actions at the end of the day.

And then a baby elephant struts into the picture. Ruby is one of the aforementioned unforgettable characters. She is enough to capture readers with a flick of her trunk and a smile. Her innocence is offset by the sometimes horrifying realization of the life captive animals can have.

As a whole, this book might sound like a sad and heavy tale, but it is far from it. Is it a tear-jerker? Absolutely. But the abundance of humor and lighthearted thoughts make it worthwhile.

“The One and Only Ivan” can only be described as a captivating story. There aren’t too many gorillas I know that can give me the urge to run out and hug my nearest zoo friends. This story is one for all ages, and will be a re-reader on many shelves, for sure.

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