Tag Archives: Newbery medal

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan is a most beautiful story. But then Katherine Applegate was awarded the Newbery medal for it, so that’s not at all surprising. I’d been wanting to read the book for some time, having heard much good about it. What’s strange is that it seems not to be available in the UK.

Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan

It’s a relatively short tale, told by Ivan, who is a gorilla. He lives in a mall somewhere in America, along with Stella the elephant and a few small animals, plus his good friend Bob the dog, who must be one of the best dogs in fiction.

Their owner Mack makes them perform for a dwindling public, three times a day. Ivan has been captive for 27 years, and when Stella makes him promise to make life for Ruby, the baby elephant Mack buys in the hopes business will improve, better than it has been for them, Ivan knows he has to come up with something.

If this sounds far-fetched, I have to mention that Ivan is real. Maybe he didn’t have the same thoughts Katherine makes him think in her story, but I’m sure he had something in that head of his.

All the animals have sad histories, mostly featuring dead parents and dead siblings. Julia, the cleaner’s daughter, has given Ivan a toy gorilla, which he sleeps with, because it can replace his dead twin sister, a little bit.

But the main thing is the animals have each other, and their conversations are more advanced than the humans give them credit for, maybe with the exception of Julia. And they have very good hearts, all of them. And they have courage.

Prepare to cry.

A most loveable squirtel

That should read squirrel, except his spelling isn’t totally perfect. But at least he types, so you can find out what Ulysses (that’s his name) is thinking. Which is more than you can say for Mary Ann, Flora’s mother’s favourite lamp. Does it type? No, it does not. Obviously.

Kate DiCamillo and K G Campbell, Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo – with the most adorable illustrations by K G Campbell – is about love (which is like a giant doughnut, with sprinkles). Or something.

It is virtually impossible to describe. There’s the dreadful shepherdess lamp. There are the neighbours, whose accident with a new hoover is almost the end of poor little Ulysses, the squirrel. But he rises from the ashes, I mean the hoover, and he is mightier than ever before. He is a super-squirrel.

Kate DiCamillo and K G Campbell, Flora & Ulysses

Flora Belle is actually quite a lonely girl, which will be why she takes so to the almost dead squirrel. Her father’s been kicked out and her mother loves her lamp, and writes romances.

I was most impressed with Flora’s poetry reading neighbour Mrs Tickham, aka Tootie. I’m happy when the most unlikely people become allies, and Tootie beats many unlikelies.

In short, Flora’s mother doesn’t care for Ulysses and wants him dead and gone. Flora and Tootie and a few more memorable characters try to keep him safe and happy. There are the doughnuts, the fierce cat, the charming doctor and Tootie’s temporarily blind great-nephew.

Flora & Ulysses is the best kind of middle grade (as I think they call it over there) book. You can’t guess where it is going, but you know it’s somewhere you want to go. Especially if there are typing squirtels involved.

(I began reading Flora & Ulysses on Monday; the day Bookwitch featured Linda Newbery’s latest book. It was also the day Kate DiCamillo won her second Newbery medal, for this perfect little squirrel book. I like patterns.)