THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN
Author : Katherine Appelgate
Publisher : HarperCollins
Pages : 305, Hardcover
Release Date : January 17, 2012
READioactivity on a scale of 5 : FIVE
There is an epigraph at the start of this book that goes,
It is never too late to be
what you might have been.
- George Eliot
I'll just paraphrase it and say, it is never too late to read books like these. Books that are game changers. They change how you think. And you are grateful for that.
One and Only Ivan has won a couple of awards, Newberry 2013 amongst them. That is not why you should read this book. Read it because it will make you a better person. And I don't say that lightly.
It is written in such a simplistic manner - because simplicity is what contrasts the most starkly with the truth out there. It makes the reality stand up like black charcoal marks against pristine white paper. It makes you gasp - yes, thats how things are, I just never paid mind. This is Ivan's story - he tells it from his PoV and how.
Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.
There is a subtle sense of isolation, of loneliness.
It's not so bad, I wanted to tell the little boy. With enough time, you can get used to almost anything.
The subtelity coming from a place where you are so used to being the only one of your kind that you start overlooking the pain. Like you have a splinter deep inside the skin and no one to help take it out. What would you do? Try and try and then just let it be. Distract yourself from its presence. That's loneliness for Ivan and he distracts himself by being immersed in the unlikeliest things - art. He lives in a glass cage (the irony) in a mall-circus.
The glass says you are this and we are that and that is how it will always be.
Despite being seduced by art - Ivan is, in the end, a Gorilla and he eats his subjects (a banana, crayons, you get the idea) before he can draw them. He proudly considers himself a gifted eater.
If family are the people we choose to be close to and trust them Ivan's consists of the daughter of the caretaker, Julia, Bob the dog & Stella, a wise old elephant. These characters add to the depth of the narration.
Special note for Bob. He is adorable as the stray. His humor is of the unintended variety. He does not mean to make you laugh. He doesn't even care to. He's got the sarcastic, don't-care personality. If he were a human, he would be a bad boy with an attitude.
He is content, living in his comfort zone, making astute observations that will surprise a laugh out of you.
Homework, I have discovered, involves a sharp pencil and think books and long sighs.
Things take a turn when a baby elephant is added to the circus to pull up the flagging business. This is where the story picks up speed, adding an urgency to the narration. This shift in the dynamics at the circus with the addition of a helpless baby elephant - trumpeting and crying for her mother will be felt deep inside of the reader - like a slow ache, unfurling itself as the book proceeds.
As a silverback gorilla, Ivan is biologically geared to protect. Just that till now in his little world of the mall-circus, there had been no one to protect. Till Ruby comes in.
Ruby leans against the bars. Her eyes hold the pale moon in them, the way a still pond holds stars.
Now he has to protect the little elephant. She is innocent, she does not know the way of the circus. He doesn't want her to be as jaded as the rest of them. And hence he decides to help her go back home.
And there lies the adventure of the novel.
You are rooting for Ivan and for Ruby. You are jumping and pumping your fists, hoping no one sees you. You will not be denied this pleasure.
And Applegate does not deny. The end is bittersweet but it is an exhilarating journey.
Realistic and yet with the charm of a fairytale. It makes you want to have faith in goodness, as a concept. It makes you want to hug the book or the device it is on.
Go ahead, read the book. If you are a hugger, I'd say go ahead, hug it too. For this books hugs you back allright!!