I got a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program to review. I was drawn to the interesting description and the adorable picture on the cover. It was a sad and touching book, a neat idea and well written.
Ivan has lived in a mall that is a circus of sorts for as long as he can remember. He has a little stray dog that comes to sleep with him sometimes and a roomate, an elephant named Stella, who has a bad foot. Ivan contemplates what happens around him in simple yet surprisingly insightful terms. As the circus mall struggles to make a profit, changes are on the way and one of them shows up in the form of a cute and scared baby elephant.
This is seriously a sad and touching book. I cried through half of it, mainly because of the animal abuse throughout. There isn't a ton of outright active animal abuse, most of it is abuse through neglect. All in all f(even though the book has its up points) I still found the story incredibly depressing.
The book is broken down into short entries made from Ivan's perspective. The entries are a page or two long and then the next entry starts. There are occasional, beautiful pictures throughout. Ivan imagines himself to be an artist just like the little girl who accompanies the janitor at night. Ivan's pictures are sold in the gift shop to make additional money from tourists.
Ivan's thoughts are simple but sometimes incredibly insightful. Applegate did an excellent job of creating and capturing the personalities of all of these people and animals in this book. The story does an excellent job of discussing awareness of animal abuse and it is easy to draw parallels from this story to other societal issues such as inequality or racism.
It is a quick read, well written and pretty much impossible to put down once you start it. For such a simple story and such a short book it packs a powerful message. It should be appropriate for all ages but beware at times things get very sad and animals are treated poorly. So maybe watch our for younger kids who are really sensitive to these issues.
Overall I am glad I read it. It is a very powerful story and is done in a clever way. All of the characters are incredibly well done (both animal and human). Just beware it is sad; both the humans and animals are in somewhat depressing situations throughout the story. Also be ready to cry some both in sadness and happiness. A great story to introduce kids to animal rights issues and animal abuse issues. Reminded me of Charlotte's Web a bit at points.
It appears that I will be adding The One and Only Ivan to an ever growing list in which I am in the minority of not liking a well-loved book.
It's a heartbreaking tale of a gorilla in a mall who is not openly mistreated, but certainly not very well treated. He has a kind heart and only wants what is best for the newest member of his mall menagerie. Though, like many well-intended people (or apes?), Ivan doesn't foresee all of the ramifications of his plan.
Almost immediately, this book resonated as a modern Black Beauty, just using an ape rather than a horse. It is a story that, based on what I thought I'd be reading via the blurb, I was tricked into reading. I wanted a happy, feel-good book and instead wound up with animal cruelty.
I suppose that I should have mentioned at the beginning of this review, that I grew up in the real city where the real Ivan was. I remember going to to see him as a child, watching him play on his tire swing. Unlike in this story, the real Ivan was not sent to a local zoo, he was sent across the country. It broke my heart when he went away. I understand that he shouldn't have been kept in a mall, but the child in me didn't understand why we would never be able to see him again. And unlike in this story, the real Ivan never really acclimated to his life in the zoo. In my heart I believe that he died sad and lonely. I know this is not how Ms Applegate wrote her story, but it does influence my opinion of it, and thus, this review.