Cannonball Read IV: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.
Everyone knows the peels are the best part.
The cover of this book pulled me in from the moment I saw The One and Only Ivan at my bookstore. I read the description over and over, and I teared up every time. When the library acquired the ebook, I absolutely had to read it.
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.)