The One and Only Ivan – by Katherine Applegate

This book is a beautiful combination of things: humor, compassion, fierce longing, deep friendship. It combines the harsh reality of a low-income circus with the fanciful whimsy of a self-aware artistic gorilla. It’s written as narrative poetry, but pulls off the street-wise voice of a stray dog who insists that “poodles are parasites”.

the one and only ivanI felt deeply for Ivan, the caged gorilla living in a shopping mall exhibit, advertised by a peeling billboard alongside the highway. I felt even more deeply for him after reading the back flap and discovering that his story was based in fact. This may be a story of talking animals, but it’s one that’s striking in its humanity—as we follow Ivan’s struggles and successes we learn more of what it means to be human… and get some good laughs along the way.

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