Sunday, April 29, 2012

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

I had been hearing about The One and Only Ivan for a while and planned to buy the book sooner than later, when one Monday morning it simply walked into my classroom. "Mr. Wilhorn, I want to show you this book. It is, like, the best book I have ever read," said Claire, the student holding Ivan out to me. "You need to read it." I'm not sure how I responded, but I know I was excited to finally have the book. Then Claire said, "Oh, by the way. Since you always have us write journal entries about the books we read, YOU have to write a journal entry to me."

So I did. And Claire and her mom graciously allowed me to use our journal conversation as a review of The One and Only Ivan.

Dear Miss Claire,

Thank you for loaning me The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I had been wanting to read it ever since seeing people on Twitter recommend it, so I was pleasantly surprised when it suddenly appeared in the classroom.

Ivan is a silverback gorilla. That means he a grown-up gorilla, and the silver or grey on his back makes him a leader in his family. The problem is that he’s the only gorilla living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. His family includes his dearest friends, Stella, an elephant, Bob, a stray dog who claims to be homeless by choice, and Ruby, a baby elephant recently added to the Big Top Mall.

Ivan is quiet, calm, and peaceful. He says that the picture of him on the billboard that shows him angry is wrong. “Anger is precious,” he says. Anger is used by a silverback to maintain order and protect his troop, but Ivan says, “Here in my domain, there is no one to protect.”

Deep down you can see that Ivan is still a noble and protective silverback gorilla, but I think being in the cage for so long - 27 years! - has made him forget. He says he has a bad memory, but when he tells Ruby a goodnight story, he shows that he can remember things from his past. He tells about his sister, Tag, and others in his family.

Ivan is a man (or gorilla) of his word. He promises to take care of Ruby, to protect her even though he thought he had no one to protect, and without giving too much away, Ivan is able to protect her, even though he is stuck in his cage.

Finally, Ivan is a talented artist. When he lived in the jungle he painted with mud, but now he uses crayons, markers, and paints to make pictures that Mack sells in the mall. Most of the time people don’t understand what he has drawn, but they like that he draws anyway. But his greatest creation, a giant painting, makes a huuuuge difference in the lives of Stella, Ruby, Bob, and others.

Thanks for loaning me the book, and I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,
Mr. Wilhorn


Dear Mr.W,

I am glad you have been noticing the little things about Ivan. And I’m glad you are enjoying the book. But what is Ruby feeling at this point? Does she feel scared or sad? If yes, what happened and why? Oh, and make sure to watch what happens with Stella in the book.

Sincerely, Your Dear Student,
Claire


Dear Miss Claire,

I think Ruby is one of the smartest characters in the book. When she tells about how she got captured, she realizes that just because bad humans captured her, not all humans are bad. She even said that before a bunch of humans try to help them. It's like she knew there were good people who might help them. She is sad and misses her family, but she is happy that she has Ivan, Stella, and Bob - her new family.

I was not too surprised at what happened with Stella. There were some clues along the way. But I was very impressed - incredibly impressed - with how Ivan takes care of things.

Thank you for your response.

Sincerely,
Mr. Wilhorn

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