I'm usually not at all good at reading award-winners. THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN was a birthday gift, and honestly, I hadn't even heard of it before it won the Newbery this year.
That said, it's adorable, poignant, and un-put-downable.
It's the story of a gorilla, raised in captivity, and ultimately who rescues himself from his prison at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Told entirely from Ivan's perspective, it's a story of friendship, loyalty, and love.
After finishing the book, I read this Interview with Katherine Applegate from School Library Journal. Knowing that Katherine Applegate cut her writing teeth on ghost writing middle grade books, and writing formulaic Harlequin Romance, gives me such a sense of respect for her. Working writers must write, and she's learned her craft through writing a lot of different types of books, for a lot of different audiences.
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.