The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
When I was 8 years old my older sister read most of Charlotte's Web to me. I say most, because so long after the fact I can't really remember if we finished it together. But I know it was a book we shared, because I can still hear her saying "Some pig," in her twelve year old's voice. It was a special book to me, and still is. Not only because we shared it, but because Charlotte's Web covers so many important themes to a child: belonging, injustice, friendship and love.
Now, as a grown-up, trying my best to keep up with the best that children's literature has to offer, I am pleased to say that Wilbur has found a rightful heir in Ivan the gorilla. Ivan, who is based on a real gorilla, has spent the last 27 years without any other gorillas around. As a silverback, this is very confusing. Ivan knows his job as a silverback is to protect his troop, but with no troop to protect, Ivan is robbed of a central part of his identity. However, when a baby elephant is introduced onto the scene, Ivan finds his purpose, with resonating results.
Simply and elegantly told, The One and Only Ivan is the kind of book that I hope families will share. Kids will like the humor, as well as the unique setting and cast of characters, while adults can relate to Ivan's longing to protect the baby elephant. Bringing together that wide range of ages is no easy feat, and Applegate (who is a Northern California local) does so with fabulous result. And while I could not help but compare Ivan to Charlotte's Web, the title is apt: there is One and Only Ivan.
--Maggie from the office