Reviews for One and Only Ivan


Booklist Reviews 2012 February #2
Ivan, a silverback gorilla, has lived in a glass, metal, and concrete enclosure at Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, "conveniently located off I-95," for 27 years. Bored, he watches TV, draws pictures, throws "me-balls" (dried excrement) at visitors, and enjoys the company of a venerable elephant named Stella and a few other friends. After a baby elephant arrives, Ivan makes Stella a solemn promise that seems impossible to fulfill. The text, written in first person from Ivan's point of view, does a good job of vividly conveying his personality, emotions, and intelligence as well as creating a sense of otherness in his point of view. His story is based on the life of a gorilla now living at Zoo Atlanta. The book's wide-spaced lines, plentiful white space, and pleasing black-and-white illustrations make this a quicker read than the page count might suggest. Animals fans will enjoy this one. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
In short chapters that have the look and feel of prose poems, Applegate captures the voice of Ivan, a captive gorilla who lives at the "Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade." When a new baby elephant arrives, Ivan realizes they deserve more than their restrictive environment. Ivan's range of thoughts and emotions poses important questions about kinship and humanity.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #1
"I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. / It's not as easy as it looks." In short chapters (the book has an open layout and frequent illustrations) that have the look and feel of prose poems, Applegate has captured the voice of Ivan, a captive gorilla who lives at the "Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade." When a new baby elephant, Ruby, arrives, Ivan promises the old elephant, Stella, that he will take care of her. When Stella passes away, he realizes that their years of captivity in such a restrictive environment are not what Ruby deserves. He hatches a daring plan that involves his own original artwork, a stray dog, the daughter of the custodian, and a zoo thousands of miles away. Ultimately, his plan is successful and the captive animals are relocated to the much-more-humane habitat of the zoo as the pensive, melancholy tone gives way to hope and joy. The choice to tell this story in the first person and to personify the gorilla with an entire range of human thoughts, feelings, and emotions poses important questions to the reader, not only about what it means to be human but also about what it means to be a living creature, and what kind of kinship we all share. An author's note describes the true incident that inspired this story and includes more information about the real Ivan. jonathan hunt

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 October #2
How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage. Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human--except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and, rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers' passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout. Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author's note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 November #2

Inspired by a true story, Applegate (Home of the Brave) offers a haunting tale told from the perspective of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has been confined to a small "domain" of concrete, metal, and glass for 27 years. Joining Ivan at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade are Stella, an aging elephant, and Bob, a feisty stray dog. While other animals perform, Ivan makes art, watches TV, and offers melancholy assessments of their situation. When Ruby, an inquisitive baby elephant, arrives and Stella dies from neglect, her dying wish is for Ivan to help Ruby escape. The brief chapters read like free-verse poetry, the extra line breaks between paragraphs driving home the contrast between Ivan and humans, who in his opinion, "waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot." As is to be expected, there's significant anthropomorphism, but Applegate is largely successful in creating a protagonist who can understand humans yet feels like a gorilla. Although Ivan's role in the events leading to their rescue reads as too human, readers will be left rethinking our relationship to animals. Final art not seen by PW. Agent: Wernick & Pratt Agency. Illustrator's agent: Kidshannon. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 January

Gr 3-7--This tender tale of friendship and hope is narrated by a silverback gorilla living at The Big Top Mall, a shabby, circus-themed roadside attraction. For years, Ivan was passively content. He had his art, unlimited bananas, and his friends: Stella (an elephant), Bob (a stray dog), and Julia (a human child). Ivan's eyes are finally opened to his deplorable surroundings when he loses a friend due to neglect. The last straw is when he witnesses the attraction's owner abusing Ruby, a newly acquired baby elephant. Thus, Ivan is inspired to take action. With some help from his human friends, his dream of a better life for all the Big Top's animals just might come true. The character of Ivan, as explained in an author's note, is inspired by a real gorilla that lived through similar conditions before being adopted by Zoo Atlanta. Applegate makes a powerful statement about the treatment of animals--especially those living in captivity--and reminds readers that all creatures deserve a safe place to call home. Castelao's delightful illustrations enhance this lovely story, and the characters will capture readers' hearts and never let go. A must-have.--Alissa J. LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI

[Page 105]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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