Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Book Reported: The One and Only Ivan
It's rare that I finish a book and think, I have to blog about this right now. The One and Only Ivan did that to me.
When I saw it released from Harper, I was immediately engaged. I know Ivan! Sure enough. When my husband and I moved to WA in the eighties, we happened upon a mall called B & I, on Tacoma Ave South. We pulled in and checked it out. I bought our second cat, Frodo, from there, in fact.
Walking through the mall, though, I knew I wouldn't come back. It felt like an airless block of concrete. There were no windows, no skylights. And that's when I turned the corner and came face to face with Ivan, the Silverback gorilla.
Recovering from the shock of a gorilla in a mall, I felt sickened to see him in a 14 x 14 foot cement room behind glass. I could barely look at him, as shoppers streamed past, seemingly oblivious to the wrongness. We knew we wouldn't return to the mall. But Ivan remained.
When my husband delivered pizzas as he finished his college degree post military, it was a standard gag to give the newbie a pizza for Ivan at B & I. Some joke on the new delivery guy. I hated that Ivan was the butt of their tease.
What a joy when media attention finally arrived, and Ivan was released to a zoo in Atlanta, after twenty-seven years. And because of that freedom, Katherine Applegate in California had the start of her fictionalized novel.
Told from the point of view of Ivan the gorilla, I hesitated, fearing the work would read sweetly. It doesn't. Ivan's viewpoint traps you as you look out from his skin. Freedom, family, loss, and joy are captured in the journey of one gorilla's plight. Clean occasional illustrations by Patricia Castelao accompany the text, echoing the intense emotions in one more media.
I recommend The One and Only Ivan, out of my own nostalgia, but mostly for the beautiful writing and illustration, and the warning that we not repeat this mistake. Hopefully, on my next visit to Atlanta, I'll be able to see Ivan again. Albeit in a zoo, he will be outside. Well done, all who worked to free Ivan. Well done, Katherine Applegate for sharing Ivan's story.
The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
illustrations by Patricia Castelao