The One and Only Ivan is a children’s books written by Katherine Applegate.  I got to narrate this little gem not too long ago.

When we meet the titular character Ivan, a gorilla, he is in captivity at an enclosure in what is described as a mall.  A mall?  Well, yes!  Evidently, this story is based on a true case in which a gorilla was kept in a kind of mall circus in Washington State for some 27 years.  No, I’m not kidding.  27 years!!  I’m pleased to say that both Katherine Applegate’s fictional account and the real story of Ivan have happy endings.  Ivan is saved from his lonely, solitary existence at the mall and gets to go to a zoo (Zoo Atlanta in real life) where he is able to be with other gorillas.  After all, gorillas are social animals.  That’s one of the things I learned about gorillas by reading The One And Only Ivan.

In Applegate’s book, Ivan doesn’t have any gorilla companionship at the mall, but he isn’t completely alone.  There’s his best friend, Bob the stray dog, who manages to elude mall security and the circus manager to sneak in and sleep in Ivan’s enclosure at night.  There is Stella the older elephant who is part of the odd little circus,too.  There are the circus caretaker, George, and his daughter Julie who visit regularly.  And in comes the new, young elephant Ruby.  The story that Ms. Applegate shares is entertaining, educational, and touching.  If you have young children, it seems like this would be a good one to share with them.  You could read it to them or have them read it to you.  It’s formatted – intentionally, no doubt – in such a way that it should be easier for new readers to get through the material successfully.

If you want to learn more about the book, the real Ivan, or the author, you can click through on the picture above.

A brief synopsis from the book’s website

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

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