Back in 2012 anyone and everyone on my birthday list received the same book, Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. The book tells the story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla captured at birth and brought to America where, for twenty-seven years, he has lived a caged existence in a shopping mall which, as he points out, is not as easy as it looks. There he is befriended by, in the dog’s own words, a mutt going under the name of Bob. Together they battle against the odds to protect a small baby elephant, Ruby, and the book has a moderately happy ending when both she and Ivan are taken into the local zoo and are able to become part of families of their own kind. If you haven’t read it then go out and buy a copy immediately because you are missing one of the great children’s books of all time.
So, what, I can hear you asking, happens to Bob? Well, he goes to live with Julia and her parents, George and Sara. George works at the zoo and so, as long as he is prepared to suffer the indignity of being pushed into Julia’s backpack while they go through the entrance gate, Bob is able to visit his friends on a regular basis. And they are doing fine. Ivan has found himself a lady friend. Girlfriend? I’ve never been sure what they call it in gorilla. As for Ruby, the elephant family have taken her to their hearts and are keeping her excesses of enthusiasm under control. Much easier for them than for a human. You try putting a two-hundred pound baby elephant in time out. Bob, however, while he is happy living with Julia and her family, still has, well I suppose you’d have to call them issues. You see Bob and his puppy brothers and sisters were placed in a cardboard box and thrown out of a moving car onto the side of the road and as far as he knows Bob is the only one who survived. While the world might think that men and dogs are each other’s best friends, Bob is not so sure; Yes, he definitely has trust issues.
And then there comes the day when there is a storm warning and the town is threatened by a tornado. The zoo is devastated, animals are injured, some escape, and for a time Bob is unsure about the safety of both his adopted human and animal families. But what is that voice he hears? That woof so well remembered, so longed for, but surely gone forever. Could it possibly be the voice of his true sister, Boss? Bob has to find out and in doing so he also has to learn a great deal about trust and about forgiveness. I figure if I’m going to forgive myself, I better be ready to cut everyone else some slack too.
This is another wonderful tale from Katherine Applegate. I cried and I laughed and I cried again as I read it. It is full of kindness, warmth and real love shown on the part of both the humans and the animals in the story. Be warned, if you’re on my birthday list you are definitely going to get a copy! And for everyone else, may I leave you to ponder this very profound thought, which might just possibly have a lot to say to bloggers: peeing without a potential audience is like talking to yourself.
With thanks to HarperCollins Children’s Books and NetGalley for a review copy.