Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only IvanTitle: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate
Illustrator: Patricia Castelao 
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January, 2012
Genre/Format: Animal-Fiction-Fantasy/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all. 

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line. 

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better. 
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.
What Kellee Thinks: My introduction to Ivan started 6 years ago when I began teaching and I was introduced to a story about Willie B., the oldest living Atlanta gorilla, and I became fascinated with apes in general. I found a National Geographic video called "The Urban Gorilla" that had Willie B. in it, but it also had a gorilla named Ivan who had been introduced to the zoo 7 years after the Atlanta zoo made their Ford African Rain Forest which now exhibits the largest gorilla collection. This introduction to Willie B. and then Ivan began a journey into a love for all great apes which has really become a passion for me.

So, as you can see, I am a sucker for this book. And I even fell more in love by how beautifully it was written and put together. This book is almost a novel in vignettes. The way that Katherine Applegate wrote for Ivan is straight to the point but deep at the same time which I really feel fits a gorilla's personality.  I can picture Ivan sitting, alone, for hours feeling just the way that Katherine Applegate wrote for him.  But just like in Willie B.'s story that I read for the first time 6 years ago, it is the end when he gets to Zoo Atlanta that got me. What redemption for Ivan after a life of restraint. The beauty of the prose mixed with the simple, realistic illustrations made for a brilliant book about friendship, loss, and making a difference.
What Jen Thinks: I really wasn't familiar with the real life Ivan but I love that this story came from a true story with a happy ending. When I saw Katherine Applegate (see pic!) talk about Ivan at the Children's Literature Breakfast this year, I was struck by her comment that this is a chapter book with possibly the shortest first chapter. She also commented that throughout the book there is a lot of white space so it should be appealing to students who might be overwhelmed by a book. I love that she gets it when it comes to struggling readers.

The other part of her presentation that really stood out to me is that she urged people to think twice before taking their kids to a circus. She explained that there is a large disconnect between what people do and what goes on behind the scenes to be able to get animals trained to perform tricks. I am so proud of her for saying that in front of so many people. To me, that's what Ivan's story is about. It's about recognizing how we treat animals and paying attention to what it means for an animal to be entertainment for humans. As a vegan, I think there is also a huge disconnect between what people are eating and where it comes from and what the animal has been through to get to their plates.

The One and Only Ivan is told from the eyes of Ivan. I love how Katherine captures his personality and his voice. She also really tells his story: where he came from and what has shaped who he is and, most importantly, why he cares so much about Ruby to try to make a difference. It really is a sad story and she eases us into it but also takes the reader along as Ivan begins to find some hope in changing his situation. I can't imagine you reading this book and not falling in love with Ivan.

John Schu shares the wonderful but haunting book trailer for Ivan here.
Read Together: Grades 3 - 6
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 7
Read With: Nonfiction books about gorillas, Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Mountain Gorillas by Gene Eckhart, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Good Morning, Gorillas (Magic Treehouse #26) by Mary Pope Osborne, The Last Mountain Gorilla by Gary Ponzo, Looking for Miza by Craig Hatkoff, Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen (adult)
Snatch of Text: 

People call me the Freeway Gorilla.  The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback.

The names are mine, but they're not me. I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan. 

Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. 

Everyone knows peels are the best part. 

I suppose you think gorillas can't understand you.
Of course, you also probably think we can't walk upright. 

Try knuckle walking for an hour.  You tell me: Which way is more fun?" (p. 2)
Mentor Text for: Vignettes, Point of View, Characterization, Mood, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write about at time in your life when you felt helpless. What were you able to do about the situation? What was frustrating about feeling like you couldn't do anything?
Topics Covered: Gorillas, Friendship, Loss, Death, Freedom, Greed, Determination, Hope, Family

Jen and Kellee *heart* it

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