Ivan, The One and Only Ivan, is a gorilla. He was alone inside a cage for three decades with no other of his kind around. He looks out and sees the human race for what it really is, and most of what he observes of them I see as well.
This is supposed to be a book for kids, but it is as much as an adult book to me. It has many observations and lessons that most of the human race needs to learn. But this is not a highbrow book, it is a fun book. The characters are fun too and likable. But at times it made me cry. The language is simple so that a young child could read this. Although there are sad parts, there is a very happy ending for Ivan.
This book makes you think about all the conventions of modern human existence and whether we really need them. It also makes you wonder about human behavior and what the animals are really saying about us! Iíve read a few negative reviews of this book where the reader has a problem with the book misleading children by giving human attributes to animals. How else could readers understand what Ivan is saying except by our language? If the book was written in grunts, roars, barks, etc. who could read it? Are we sure that animals arenít artist like Ivan? I think animals have many of the same needs, desires, and feelings as humans.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is a work of fiction but it is based upon a true story. There is a real Ivan who lived at Zoo Atlanta. Before living in the Zoo he had spent over half his life alone in a mall, in a cage. He passed away last August. He was 50. And for the record he was an artist!
Upon Ivan's death, NPR posted this obiturary.
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For an adult book about a gorilla who can talk, I highly suggest Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. This is one of my favorite books. Itís a fun, yet philosophical book. Like Ivan, it has depth within its simplicity.
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And if you still have a VCR hanging around, The Urban Gorilla is a good documentary that includes the one and only Ivan and other gorillas that suffered similar fates.
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