The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
My rating ✰5✰
Picture and quote from Goodreads
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.
This book was so touching. I identified with Ivan far more than I would ever have expected. At one point, early in the story, he says, “Mostly I think about what is, not what could be. I’ve learned not to get my hopes up.” and “With enough time you can get used to almost anything.” While he is thinking about forgetting his life in the jungle and his family and what he could be doing if his whole family hadn’t been murdered, I’m thinking about what my life should be looking like right now. I do my best not to think about my late husband. I don’t hope. I don’t dream. I don’t expect any happiness, With enough time you can get used to anything. Since January, when Jason got sick, I’ve gotten used to surviving one minute to the next. I do what needs to be done to get through the day and that’s it. I don’t think about other possibilities, of what should or could be. I focus on what is. What I need to do today to keep my child alive, safe, and as happy as we can manage.
He survives in his cage by not thinking of his past and so do I. He finds a way out of his trap by taking care of a youngster that needs him to and Pepper is the only thing keeping me going.
I was so grateful that both Ivan and Ruby escaped and were treated kindly and had others to be with them. The message of hope wound it’s way in to my grizzled old widow’s heart, even if it was just for a short while.
I can’t wait to share this story with Pepper when she’s a bit bigger and when our grief isn’t quite so fresh.