Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is never too late to be what you might have been. -- George Eliot

And so begins the bittersweet story of the great silverback gorilla, The One and Only Ivan. Based on the true story of Ivan and his nearly three decades of captivity at a mall in Washington State, this story is an instant classic and one I would like to see in contention for the Newbery Medal.

This special story belongs in the same revered space as Charlotte's Web, weaving together a story of friendship and hope despite unsurmountable odds. Read it whether you are 88 or 8, read it with someone special, read it aloud, read it again. It will affect your heart and humble our human egoism. Though the text and appealing white space on the pages will draw in younger readers, I would be afraid that some pieces of the story would be disturbing for younger children to handle on their own. There are some stark and brutal images, and while I don't suggest shielding children from them, some will need to be shepherded through them. Many will need comforting. Most will be deeply affected. All will never forget Ivan and his friends.

For curriculum tie-ins, learn about the real Ivan, who lived out the rest of his years at Zoo Atlanta (died August 21, 2012. There is a lot out there on the Internet to engage budding researchers. Dive deeper into Silverback Gorillas. Learn more about zoos and the humane treatment of wild animals. I'm anxious to read Chained, by Lynne Kelly, which would make a perfect companion read in classrooms. Fittingly, it is the story of a baby elephant and a boy who have a friendship greater than any lock, chain, or shackle. For more, please see her webpage:

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