The One and Only Ivan. By Katherine Applegate. 3 cassettes or 3 CDs. 3:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. cassette: ISBN 978-1-4703-5124-3, CD: ISBN 978-1-4703-5123-6. $30.75.
Gr 3-7–Ivan the silverback gorilla has lived a solitary life as the star of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade for 27 years, watching TV and painting still-life representations of objects in his domain. Separated from his family at a very young age, Ivan lived with Mack and his wife as one of the family until he became too large for their home. Now his companions are an elderly elephant named Stella and a stray dog, Bob. Although he forms an attachment to Julia, the daughter of the mall’s custodian, Ivan views most humans with distaste, merely tolerating the crowds that come to stare at him daily. Life changes dramatically for Ivan, though, when a baby elephant, Ruby, is bought to replace Stella, who is dying of an old injury and neglect. Prodded by his urge to care for and protect Ruby, Ivan begins remembering what it was like to be a wild gorilla, and how he was violently taken from his family. He begins to see his “domain” as the cage that it is, and he vows to give Ruby a better life than he and Stella had. It is Ivan’s art that sets him free, and his courage and resourcefulness that help him fulfill his promise. Adam Grupper gives Ivan a calm, pragmatic voice that aptly conveys his concise, descriptive sentences, while giving similarly unique voices to other characters. Applegate’s Newbery winner (HarperCollins, 2012) is based on a true story. Ivan’s heart-wrenching tale reminds us that every animal has the right to a safe place called home.–MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY