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.
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.