I was really excited to some news this morning about one of my favorite recent chapter books, The One and Only Ivan, winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal (the highest distinction for American children's literature). If you missed this novel in verse, which is perfect for kids ages 8-12, run out and get a copy as soon as possible! It's the beautiful, bittersweet, and courageous story of Ivan, a real-life gorilla who spent 27 years living in a cage at a shopping mall. Author Katherine Applegate fictionalized Ivan's life story, from his birth in the Congo to life as a family pet, his imprisonment, the animal welfare movement it inspired, and his eventual move to Zoo Atlanta.
To me, the quintessential book moves you, might even break your heart, but finally leaves you with a breathtaking sense of hope. All this, while being imminently readable. And in reading it, you can't help but be challenged and ultimately, changed. The One and Only Ivan is the epitome of such a novel, and it subtly teaches young people how to respect and care for the amazing creatures with whom we share our Earth. The lesson in love and kindness is profoundly delivered, such that readers won't easily forget. You and your children simply must read and talk about The One and Only Ivan together!
This morning, I learned that Applegate has teamed up with recognized children's book illustrator Brian Karas, to produce a picture book version of Ivan's story, which will be released in October. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, is written in a non-fiction format for kids ages 4-8, who might not be ready for the chapter book, or who may be interested in learning more of Ivan's true story. I can't wait to get my hands on this one! I hope you'll pre-order it, or make a note to reserve it from your local library. Ivan's story, and Applegate's superb writing, deserve widespread readership. Here's the lovely book trailer to pique your interest: