In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate

copyright date: 2012
primarily marketed for: young readers (3rd-5th grades)

“In cheering for Ivan and his friends, we cheer for our own humanity, and our own possibilities.  Read this.”
-Gary D. Schmidt

“This beautiful, life-affirming story will soar directly from Ivan’s heart into your own.”
-Kathi Appelt

“A Beautifully written, intelligent, and brave book.  Quite simply, this story is life changing.”
-Patricia MacLachlan

These are the quotes found on the back of this book.  Enough said, right?


Even these powerful words don’t begin to explain how special this book is.  I want to purchase this book for everyone I know.  I believe this book is the new Charlotte’s Web.  It is that good.

The One and Only Ivan is the story of a gorilla who is kept in captivity at a highway-side mall/zoo.  His cage consists of glass walls, a jungle mural, and a cement floor.  Ivan’s story is based on the story of an actual gorilla, which just makes it all the more heart-wrenching to read.

The story is told in Ivan’s voice:
It’s hard to put into words.  Gorillas are not complainers.  We’re dreamers, poets, philosophers, nap takers.

Ivan’s main struggle comes from being kept in captivity.  Mostly, Ivan is able to accept the circumstances of his life.  He has friends that include an elephant named Stella, a stray dog named Bob, and young girl named Julia (the caretaker’s daughter). 

However, when a baby elephant is added as a new spectacle, Ivan and his friends start to look at examine their lives through new eyes. 

Although, Ivan wants to do something to change things, his options are limited.  A caged gorilla does not have many resources.  (Although neither did a certain pig and spider we all know and love…)

At times this book is desperately sad, but it is ultimately a book about finding strength in friendship, in stories, in words, and in humanity.  Read this book.


  1. We really DO share a book brain! I just ordered this last week and am awaiting the arrival of my copy with even MORE anticipation since reading your review!

  2. I want to read it next!-Dalton

    (it took me a whileto figure out how to comet without having to sign up!)

  3. You said it was wonderful. I read it. I agreed. I told a kid. He's reading it. And so it kid, one book at a time, you are changing the world.