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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2013. The book is about a gorilla, Ivan, who resides in a small zoo located in a shopping mall. Ivan has a small domain where he spends his time drawing (which are sold in the gift shop), watching TV, and observing the little surroundings he can see. He is friends with the elephant, Stella, that is located nearby, and Bob, a stray dog that sneaks in and sleeps on Ivan’s belly. When a new baby elephant, Ruby, joins the menagerie Ivan starts to notice how cruel this environment really is and decides he must find a way to get them out and to a real zoo where they will be properly cared for and have space to move. This story is inspired by the real Ivan, a gorilla who lived in a shopping mall for 27 years until he was adopted by the Atlanta Zoo. See the story here.

This book was fun and humorous at some times, but mostly pretty sad. The conditions they live in are abhorrent, and the memories they share with each other about how they came to be at the mall are devastating. It was very powerful to tell this story through the animals’ points of view. I listened to the audiobook version, which was read by Adam Grupper. Grupper has a deep baritone voice which was perfect for a gorilla. He was also able to make unique and easily discernible voices for all of the other characters.

The sequel, The One and Only Bob, is due out next month and a movie adaptation of The One and Only Ivan is supposed to come out in August.

You can listen to the audiobook on Hoopla and find both the e-book and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

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