The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate

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Harper Collins Australia

  • ISBN:9780007455331
  • ISBN 10: 000745533X
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • Published 2012
  • RRP: 99 AUD

I may well be one of the last to read The One and Only Ivan although I have heard all the fulsome praise for it since its publication.  And now what to say about a book that not only lives up to its hype and my expectations but exceeds them?

No reader could remain unmoved by this story of courage, dignity, intelligence and compassion. If only all humans could exhibit these traits as well as Ivan does.

For those who don’t know, Katherine Applegate’s novel about Ivan the captive gorilla, his long and bleak incarceration in a shopping mall with a ‘circus’ theme and his eventual freedom to the Atlanta Zoo is based on a true story. You can read more about it here at Zoo Atlanta.  Ivan’s history is a sad one but ultimately has a positive outcome which reflects what can happen when a community rallies together to redress an injustice.

Ivan’s fictional story will break your heart – and then heal it again – as Ivan moves from acceptance and resignation to his plight, to his fight for freedom as he vows to protect Ruby, a tiny baby elephant, newly arrived at the mall.

For over twenty years Ivan has lived in his solitary confinement with his only companions being other animals in the mall, most particularly Stella the elephant and Bob, an intentionally homeless dog. His best human friend is Julia, the daughter of the mall’s cleaner. Ivan is a natural artist and Julia connects with him with her own artistic efforts. But things change and the popularity of the mall’s animal exhibits and the ‘circus’ shows performed regularly begin to pall with customers. Mack, the owner, is determined to boost the centre’s attendance and when Stella begins to show signs of injury and aging, he snaps up a bargain buy from a bankrupted circus in the shape of tiny Ruby.   Ruby is comforted by Stella’s maternal presence but the old elephant’s health fails so much that combined with a lack of concern from Mack and no vet assistance, Stella dies and Ruby is left a defenceless infant again. And this is when Ivan begins his transformation into the silverback protector he has always been meant to be. His final promise to Stella to ensure Ruby has a happier fate than dying in a shopping mall cage, leads Ivan to discover his inner abilities and prove that anything is possible with determination and creativity.  His relationship with Julia and his own will to fulfil his vow achieve a remarkable and uplifting resolution.

Find a discussion guide here and check out the website here for more information about the book, the One and Only Ivan and the author.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough and have already earmarked it for a Readers Circle title in my new library. It is definitely on my ‘tiramisu’ book list!

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