The One and Only Family

HarperCollins. May 2024. 272p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063221123.
Gr 4-6–Ivan, the beloved western lowland gorilla, moves back into the spotlight in this fourth and final entry in the series. Still living in Wildwood Zoological Park & Sanctuary, Ivan and mate Kinyani learn they’re going to become parents of twins. Kinyani, the more pragmatic of the two, reacts with quiet joy; pensive Ivan frets. Helping him adjust are the friends he has made since his years at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade: Julie, Ruby, Bitsy, and, of course, Bob, who nicknames the expectant father “Big Daddy.” The twins’ birth evokes memories of Ivan’s African childhood, all that he has lost and all that remains. Ivan’s journey towards maturity and contentment is the heart of the novel and is complete when he fulfills his role as leader and protector of not only his immediate family, but of all the gorillas in the sanctuary. His epiphany comes with the understanding, “You can’t cage hope.” Castelao’s spot art continues to add spark to the characters. Applegate’s writing, stellar as ever, provides enough backstory for the novel to stand on its own and encourage new readers to pick up the first three novels. Her author’s note is deeply personal and reveals intriguing insights into her work.
VERDICT A cherished character enjoys the heartfelt and uplifting closure he, and his fans, richly deserve. An essential purchase.

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