Cannonball Read IV: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Ivan is a gorilla who lives in a roadside mall, and he is telling us his story. I assume that the book takes place in the 1950s or 1960s, because there don't seem to be very many rules for keeping exotic animals in malls. The whole thing is a bit depressing. There aren't very many visitors to the mall anymore, and the owner has been sad since his wife died. Ivan's closest friends are an old elephant with a bad leg, Stella, and a stray dog, Bob. Ivan loves to draw and paint, he has since he was a baby in the jungle. His paintings are sold in the gift shop, but it's not enough.
In order to drum up business, the mall buys a baby elephant named Ruby. She is cute and inquisitive and absolutely miserable living in a tiny enclosure and learning tricks. Stella's leg gets worse, and she eventually passes away. Her final wish is for Ivan to get Ruby out of the mall, to a zoo where she can be with other elephants. The only question is how one gorilla can accomplish this fairly massive feat.
I'm just a teensy bit older than the intended audience, but I really enjoyed the book. I've always had a soft spot for animals, so I am sure I would have cried as much when I was still a kid as I cried now. It's also interesting how Ivan was based on a real gorilla, also named Ivan. This is the only book I've ever read with a gorilla as the narrator. The story can be heartbreaking, but Ivan adds a lot of humor as well. Ivan's story isn't one you can soon forget.
Here is the fantastic book trailer, featuring a lot of the fantastic illustrations:
For more of Caitlin's reviews, check out her blog, I'm Going to Read Your Mind Next.
(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)