Ivan is a silverback gorilla. Stella is an elephant, and Bob is a mutt. They live together at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan lives alone in an enclosure. His cage. A broken window allows a homeless dog, Bob, access to Ivan's space. Bob sleeps on Ivan's belly and is his only physical companionship. In the adjoining cage is Stella, a motherly elephant with a chronic leg injury.
The One and Only Ivan is the story of majestic animals, taken from the wild and put on display for the amusement of humans. Ivan tells the story. It is his story to tell.
Along with his twin sister, Tag, Ivan is stolen from his lowland home as a young gorilla and raised by Mack, the owner of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan adapts to his new life, rarely remembering his life in the wild, but that all changes when Mack buys Ruby. Ruby is a young elephant calf. Scared and vulnerable, Ivan, Bob, and Stella look after Ruby. Especially Stella, who acts as Ruby's surrogate mother. When Stella dies, she extracts a promise from Ivan - to get Ruby out of a cage.
Although The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, it is based on the true story of a real Ivan and tells the story of the mistreatment of animals in roadside carnivals, circuses, and animal shows. Katherine Applegate tells this touching story through the thoughtful eyes of Ivan the silverback gorilla. The dialogue is so believable and the descriptions so honest, I found myself forgetting that these characters weren't human.
The One and Only Ivan is a must-have for any young reader interested in animals, their care, and the conservation of species. The story is powerful without being preachy, and it beautifully highlights the the often horrible existence of captive animals without being scary or horrific.
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