Witty Kitty: Review of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Our sister, Rhea, poses with our copy of the book. Ivan’s coloring on the cover kind of matches her coat 🙂

The One and Only Ivan is an excellent novel by Katherine Applegate, and it very deservedly won the Newbery Medal for children’s literature in 2013. Set in a small circus, it stars Ivan the gorilla, billed as “the Mighty Silverback” by Mack, the circus owner, Stella and little Ruby, the elephants, and a stray dog named Bob, who befriends them. Mack doesn’t treat the animals very well, unsurprisingly. Particularly the elephants, who are prodded with a claw stick, sometimes harmfully, into performing tricks. And they are kept in too-small cages. When the older elephant, Stella, becomes too injured to perform, and George begins beating sweet, young Ruby into submission so she will take over Stella’s tricks, Ivan becomes determined to save her.

Ivan happens to be an artistically inclined gorilla, who can make drawings with crayons and paint. Mack tries to capitalize on Ivan’s talents by selling the paintings. But Ivan outsmarts him and uses the artwork for something more.

Ivan is based on a real gorilla, also named Ivan, who lived in a tiny cage in a shopping mall circus and, after public outcry, was moved to Zoo Atlanta. He also painted, signing his name with a thumbprint.

This is a wonderful book, and the fact that it’s based on a true story, makes it all the more compelling. Non-human animals do have talents, complex inner worlds, and dreams, and they don’t like being in cages any more than humans do.

Witty Kitty gives this one five bonito flakes, and can’t wait to read more books by Ms. Applegate!

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