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.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.
My rating: 5/5 stars
Pros: Beautiful writing, Good characters, made me think
Cons: Nothing important
I decided to buy this book due to the recommendation of one of my favorite booktubers, Whitney from Whittynovels . I tend to take the recommendations of booktubers I enjoy watching since the reason I started watching them was either because we have similar taste in books or because their taste is a bit more varied than mine and I want to branch out. In Whitney’s case, we tend to have similar reading tastes, though not always the same.
When I started reading this book, I did so randomly, on a whim. I just wanted a quick, light, fluffy read. However, when I started this book I was very pleasantly surprised. The writing is beautiful, though not overly flowery. The book seems as if Ivan could have actually written it, which really helped me to get invested in the story.
Speaking of Ivan, he is a very well written character. His thoughts are completely honest and his confusion about why humans do certain things is interesting and thought-provoking. The other animals that surround him are equally well-written. Stella is lovable from the start and seems to be almost a maternal figure to all of her friends. Bob is hilarious and his insistence on independence is as admirable as it is adorable. Ruby is sweet and seems just like any child: innocent, curious, and in need of attention from the adults around her. The humans surrounding these animals are equally interesting. From Mack, the owner of the mall who is desperate to keep his business afloat and sometimes does some not so good things to do so. To George and Julia who are the good human characters. Especially Julia, who bonds with Ivan over art. All the characters in this book are wonderfully written and all add something to this beautiful story.
This book also made me think, in a way I never expected a middle-grade book to. Not because I think children’s books can’t be deep and meaningful. I know that they can be. Yet I think sometimes they aren’t because some authors misjudge children and don’t see them as the thoughtful little people they are. Yet Katherine Applegate didn’t do that at all. While reading this book, I found myself putting little postits near particularly thought-provoking quotes. This book made me think not only about how we humans treat animals, but also about how we treat each other.
This book was a beautiful, touching, thought-provoking experience. I would recommend this book to anyone, of any age.