This week, I received my library's copies of The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. The book received the 2013 Newbery Medal, and I had heard really good things about it, so I was excited to read it. I'll tell you a little secret: I don't always love Newbery winners. I'm very pleased to say that I felt this one was very deserving of the award.
The story is about Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has spent almost his entire life out of his natural habitat. He was born in the wild, but was later captured and raised like a human baby for several years. He was later placed in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Arcade, which was his home for many years. The book is loosely based on a true story.
The story is told from Ivan's point of view, and includes his interactions with his fellow captive animals and the humans who come into their quarters. Ivan is very intelligent and loves art. He thinks humans use too many words. He takes note of subtle changes in his environment and decides to act when he feels he has no other choice. Ms. Applegate's character development is superb. I often judge books I read by how often I think about the characters once I'm finished reading, and I have to say I've thought about them often.
I won't give away too much information about the plot for those who haven't read it yet, but I definitely recommend the book. I finished it in less than two days. Some people have criticized the book because the ends are tied up with a neat little bow at the end, but considering the high quality of writing and the fact that it's a children's book, I thought it ended nicely. I can't wait to share it with my students.
Have you read The One and Only Ivan or the Romeo Riley books? Share your opinion of either (or both) in the comments! No spoilers, please!