The One and Only Ivan
“The One and Only Ivan” is a heartwarming and thought-provoking novel for young readers written by Katherine Applegate. Published in 2012, it won the Newbery Medal for children’s literature in 2013. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla, the book explores themes of friendship, captivity, empathy, and the power of hope.
The story is narrated by Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has spent most of his life in captivity at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. The mall is a rundown place, and Ivan shares his space with other animals, including Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. Their owner, Mack, is more interested in making money than in the well-being of the animals.
Ivan’s life is monotonous, consisting of little more than watching TV, painting pictures with his fingers, and interacting with the other animals. He has grown accustomed to his life in captivity, but everything changes when Ruby, a baby elephant, arrives at the mall. Ivan forms a close bond with Ruby and becomes her protector.
Stella, the wise elephant, imparts important life lessons to Ivan and Ruby. She tells them about the beauty of the wild and the need for freedom. As Stella’s health deteriorates due to the harsh conditions at the mall, she implores Ivan to promise that he will help Ruby escape and find a better life.
Ivan is deeply affected by Stella’s words and is motivated by his love for Ruby to take action. He begins to question their captivity and the injustice of their situation. He realizes that they deserve a better life, free from the confines of the mall.
With the help of Bob, the stray dog who serves as Ivan’s loyal friend, and the unexpected assistance of Julia, the daughter of a janitor at the mall, Ivan starts to plan their escape. Julia provides Ivan with paper and crayons to communicate with the outside world, and he begins drawing pictures that convey the animals’ desire for freedom.
While working together on their plan, Ivan and his friends also connect with George, a compassionate zookeeper who used to work at the mall. George shares their concerns about the animals’ well-being and joins their cause.
As they continue to work on their escape plan, Ivan creates a powerful painting that captures the essence of his feelings and dreams. This painting becomes a symbol of their hope and desire for freedom.
The novel emphasizes the importance of empathy and the value of standing up for what is right. It also highlights the idea that even those who have been captive for a long time can find the strength to fight for a better future.
In a climactic and heartwrenching moment, Stella’s health deteriorates further, and she passes away. Before she dies, she tells Ivan and Ruby to keep their promises and seek freedom. Stella’s death serves as a catalyst for Ivan’s determination to free Ruby and the other animals.
Ivan and his friends continue to work on their escape plan, and their efforts gain momentum. Ivan’s powerful painting becomes a symbol of their cause and attracts the attention of the public. People start to question the treatment of animals in captivity, and the media gets involved.
Amid the growing public support and pressure, Mack, the mall owner, realizes that he can no longer keep the animals in such conditions. He decides to sell Ruby to a zoo where she can be properly cared for. Although this seems like a setback, it gives Ivan and his friends hope, as they see it as an opportunity to rescue Ruby.
The novel builds to an emotional and suspenseful climax as Ivan, Bob, Julia, and George execute their plan to save Ruby. With the help of a truck, they transport Ruby out of the mall and into a better life. The animals are relocated to a sanctuary where they can live more natural and fulfilling lives.
“The One and Only Ivan” concludes with a sense of triumph, as the animals are finally free from captivity, and Ruby can grow up in a more suitable environment. Ivan’s journey from a complacent captive to an advocate for freedom is a testament to the power of love, determination, and the belief that change is possible.
The novel leaves readers with a lasting message about the importance of compassion, empathy, and the need to stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves. It also highlights the idea that even in the most challenging circumstances, hope can inspire change and lead to a better future. “The One and Only Ivan” is a touching and inspiring tale that resonates with readers of all ages.