Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The One and Only Ivan: An Enchanting Middle Grade Read

Ivan the gorilla is used to being something of a spectacle. Taken into captivity as a juvenile, he's lived most of his life in a domain at the Big Top Mall and Arcade. Life, in general is pleasant for Ivan. He's got his favourite stuffed gorilla toy, friends in Stella the elderly elephant and Bob the stray dog, and his television. Ivan hardly thinks about the jungle at all anymore. Mostly he thinks about his art, and how to capture his thoughts with colour. Then he meets Ruby. Ruby is a baby elephant, taken from her family and brought to Big Top Mall to renew interest in the exhibit. Through her eyes, Ivan comes to see their home, and his art in a different light, and it's up to him to make things change for the better.

It's not very often that a book comes along that gets spoken about in the same breath as Charlotte's Web, but Katherine Applegate's new book has received lots of well-deserved praise and attention since it's release in January, and when we reach the 60th anniversary of its publication, I believe it will be as fondly remembered.

There's no question that animal stories are heart-tugging, but this one is especially so because it challenges us to think about the lives of animals being kept in captivity, and what it does to their quality of life and their happiness.

From the moment you meet him, you know that Ivan is special. Once the star-attraction at the Big Top Mall, he knows that people are not as interested in him as they once were, but that doesn't really bother him.  He has his friends and his art, and his memories of life in the jungle with his parents and twin sister are faint. It has been many years since he's even seen one of his own kind, and though he doesn't initially understand what the feeling is, he's lonely. Ivan's voice is pitch perfect. He has a very simple and straightforward way of viewing the world, and much like Charlotte, he finds his purpose in his promise to Stella to save Ruby.

The novel illustrates the best and the worst of humanity, and captures the both the heart-warming and the heart-breaking aspect of these animals and their relationships. Katherine Applegate is a masterful writer, and the quality of the prose alone makes this a book not to be missed.