The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is a Texas Bluebonnet winner for this year and absolutely one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read…and I’ve read a lot. When a book can make you cry multiple times then you know that the author did something right.
This is a story, told by Ivan a silver back gorilla (who happens to be a real gorilla). Ivan has lived in his little cage at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade for 27 years with only his friends Bob, a dog, and Stella, an elephant to keep him company.When a baby elephant named Ruby is added to the sad and lonely group, Ivan makes a promise to find a way to give Ruby a better life. Through his love of art, Ivan finds a way to communicate with a young girl, who helps to make his dreams of a different life come true.
Katherine Applegate makes a note at the end of the story that Ivan is a real gorilla who spent 27 years locked in a cage at a mall without ever seeing another of his kind. He was finally moved to Zoo Atlana to roam and make other gorilla friends. He even does signed paintings!