The One and Only Ivan, a wonderful novel by Katherine Applegate, won the Newbery Award. The award is given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This is big, exciting news in our household this afternoon!
My tween loved The One and Only Ivan. It's a great tween novel about a silverback gorilla named Ivan. Ivan really did exist, and the book is a fictionalized account of his life first in a mall in Washington state and later in a zoo.
The story starts in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, where Ivan is used to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain and is friends with Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog, who are also part of the show. Ivan is also an artist and his artwork is sold in the mall gift shop. Then Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, appears and Ivan wants to make things better for her. He does so with the help of a little girl, Julia, who is ten years old. Ivan becomes protective of Stella and, as Applegate puts it, he has "the chance to be the mighty silverback he was always meant to be." Ivan tells the story, and his voice and perspective of the human world are powerful.
My tween said that it was a fun book to read because "it gives facts and educates but is still a good story and I laughed in a couple parts. It made me want to read more. And only the supergood books that are phenomenal make me want to do that."
And my tween said she would really like Katherine Applegate to write a sequel. This, to me, is as much as a stop the presses event as the Newbery Medal. My tween also said that the book "was sad in parts and sometimes you feel really badly for Ivan, Ruby and the other characters." I have to agree that the book can be profoundly sad at times, but it does not stay that way and there is always an undercurrent of hope.
Watching my tween read this book was an interesting experience, as she was very absorbed by the book, both physically, mentally and physically. She seemed very crumpled during the sad parts but was bouncing on the couch while reading the ending.
My tween said that she enjoyed the illustrations in the book because they showed her more about Ivan, and she said she "wanted to know as much about Ivan as possible." I also found the pictures, although quite restrained and simple, to have a big impact. The hardback book is 300 pages, but it is not a long or hard book. It contains short chapters with very short paragraphs, many only a couple sentences. It makes for very fast reading.
This book explores some universal themes that ring especially true with tweens, including loneliness, understanding, saying good-bye and friendship, but on a level that is meaningful for both kids and adults. Ivan's desire to protect and improve the world for young Ruby will ring true with parents. I also liked that this was not a "boy book" or a "girl book." There is a universal appeal to Ivan that transcends age or gender - that's the beauty of The One and Only Ivan.
My tween said she would "definitely, for sure" recommend The One and Only Ivan. I agree, as does the Newbery Medal committee.
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, and has been given since 1922. See a list of past winners, including Beverly Cleary and Madeleine L'Engle, here.
Tween Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5.
Mom Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Have you read The One and Only Ivan? Let us know what you thought in the comments, please! And if you liked this post, please click the "like" button at the top.