The One And Only Ivan is quite a departure from Katherine Applegate’s Animorphs series, allowing for Applegate’s writing to truly shine in this middle grade break out novel. Ivan is a silver back gorilla who has lived in captivity as a feature at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall And Video Arcade for 27 years. He is resigned to his fate. Until one day a baby elephant named Ruby arrives and Ivan must make a change.
Katherine Appelgate uses an unusual writing style in The One And Only Ivan. It is told from the first person point of view of Ivan. Ivan is not one to waste words and feels that humans talk too much. The prose is sparse and is very close to being free verse. The style absolutely works for the story and does not feel gimmicky.
The One And Only Ivan has a stellar cast of characters. One roots for Ivan and hopes he will leave The Big Top Mall. The best thing, however, about Ivan is seeing his interactions with the other characters. We get to see how much Ivan cares about his friends: Bob, the free dog, Stella the old elephant with the vast memory and young, stubborn Ruby. Even the humans are interesting characters – not all of them are portrayed as bad.
The book effortlessly weaves themes of captivity and animal mistreatment. One can see how for the elephants, the mall is not nearly as spacious for them – it’s not an ideal living situation. Ivan’s boredom from his captivity intersects with his discovery of art — and how the ways he uses art mark his changes. THEN we also get themes of principles and sticking to one’s convictions, all wrapped up in a wonderful package.
The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is a quiet read, but absolutely recommended to young animal lovers. It is full of heart and a touching, affecting story.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.