“The One and Only Ivan” is a 2013 children’s book written by K.A. Appelgate. The charming story relates the tale of a silverback gorilla, Ivan, living at a run-down, cheap, interstate-exit mall, performing three shows during the day, 365 days a year for the few tourists who make the stop.
Ivan is content with his life, which he shares with several other animals, including a stray dog and a sick, old elephant. When the owner of the mall brings in a baby elephant to boost ticket sales, Ivan is determined to get her to a real zoo, where she can comfortably live out the rest of her days in the presence of humans who truly care for her.
As Ivan plans to get her out, he starts to remember his life before the mall, as a wild, silverback gorilla.
This book is lighthearted, well-written, highly appealing and easily read by children.
Yes, “The One and Only Ivan” is a children’s book. Not a young adult novel, but a straight-up children’s book, which won the coveted and highly prestigious Newbery Medal.
If Newbery Medal rings a faint bell in your brain, it’s the annual award given to a work considered to significantly contribute to children’s literature. You may remember past Newbery Medal winners from your pre-middle school years, titles including “Shiloh,” “Holes” and “The Tale of Despereaux.”
Only time will tell if “The One and Only Ivan” becomes ingrained in this new generation’s collective consciousness like “Holes” did for many college-age students, but the book is off to a good start.
“The One and Only Ivan” is not only commonly assigned in elementary schools ahead of the curve (don’t expect this book to be found on any Louisiana lists), but Disney has purchased the rights to adapt this piece into a feature film.
The average college reader will most likely get very little out of reading this work, and the average college student needn’t bother with “The One and Only Ivan.”
However, the right book at the right time can instill a lifelong love of reading in a child, and this is as good of a children’s book one is likely to find written this decade.