Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Released on: January 17th, 2012
Ages: 8 & up
Source: Bought
4.5 stars: I Really Enjoyed It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

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 - quoted from Goodreads

This is a story that animal lovers of all ages will fall in love with. Katherine Applegate does a beautiful job at giving a voice to the true story of Ivan the Urban Gorilla, who spent 27 years living in a cage at mall in Washington State. In telling Ivan's story, Katherine not only allows readers to understand and fall in love with Ivan, but she gives his story an imaginative spin. The fact that does this through Ivan's point of view in first person really fascinated me, and made the story feel that much more genuine. I felt like if Ivan could speak, it would similar to the words Katherine used in telling his story. What an unforgettable character Ivan is.

To help tell Ivan's story, readers are introduced to some lovable animals like Bob the dog, Stella the elephant and Ruby the baby elephant who joins Ivan and his family of misfits at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall. I loved the interactions between the characters, as well as some of the friendly humans, like young Julia. It was interesting reading the story from Ivan's point of view, as I got see how Ivan went from being a young wild gorilla to slowly become more human like, due to his surroundings and how he was treated. Not only that, I loved seeing how incredibly intelligent he is. The story that tugged on my heart strings the most was seeing how protective of Ruby Ivan becomes and watching how his plan to help save her gets put into action. 

I love it when a children's author can weave together both fiction and non-fiction elements into their story. Katherine does an amazing job with this. Ivan's narration felt heart felt, it pulled at my heart strings and made me want to take action. Luckily I didn't need to do, as Ivan now has a beautiful at the Atlanta Zoo. Katherine does a superb job at balancing the various emotions readers will feel while reading Ivan's story. She delicately inserts moments of the harsh reality of exotic animal killings and importing through Ivan's back story and his early memories, to showing how people rallied around Ivan and sweet little Ruby and demanded they receive a better home than the ones they lived in at the mall. She also includes moments of joy, humor and heartfelt moments that will leave readers cheering for joy as Ivan finally gets the home he's so desperately deserved and becomes the Silverback he was destined to be, and Ruby gets the family she desperately missed. In the end, I loved seeing how Ivan was able to slowly revert back to being wild, while balancing some of his human like tendencies. 

This story is so wonderfully written. Katherine's elegant approach to Ivan's story teaches this story's young readers about the conversation that needs to happen with wild animals in captivity, that more needs to be done to protect them and how sticking to our principles can make all the difference, all with out sounding preaching. In fact, if I was a child reading this I wouldn't have picked up on a lot of that. As an adult it was easy for me to pick up on these key elements, but the inner child in me wanted to read more about Ivan. I absolutely enjoyed reading Ivan's touching story. If you're a fan of animals, happy endings and well written children's books I recommend picking this one up. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Published by: Balzer & Bray
To Be Released on: September 25th, 2012
Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Ever since Prue McKeel returned home from the Impassable Wilderness after rescuing her brother from the malevolent Dowager Governess, life has been pretty dull. School holds no interest for her, and her new science teacher keeps getting on her case about her dismal test scores and daydreaming in class. Her mind is constantly returning to the verdant groves and sky-tall trees of Wildwood, where her friend Curtis still remains as a bandit-in-training.

But all is not well in that world. Dark assassins with mysterious motives conspire to settle the scores of an unknown client. A titan of industry employs inmates from his orphanage to work in his machine shop, all the while obsessing over the exploitation of the Impassable Wilderness. And, in what will be their greatest challenge yet, Prue and Curtis are thrown together again to save themselves and the lives of their friends, and to bring unity to a divided country. But in order to do that, they must go under Wildwood.In Under Wildwood, Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis reveal new dimensions of the epic fantasy-adventure series begun with the critically acclaimed, bestselling Wildwood -quoted from Goodreads

I LOVED Wildwood and I'm so excited the sequel will be out this fall!! I can not wait to dive back into the world. Isn't that cover cool looking? If you haven't already, I highly recommend picking up Wildwood. It was one of my top 10 favorite MG reads last year. 
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~