Tag Archive | Children’s Books

The One and Only Ivan

ImageOne good thing about being laid up with a bad back is that I am able to read, read, read.  One good thing about being able to read is that once in a while you come upon a gem of a book, a story that is deserving of a little extra attention.  I was lucky enough to stumble upon just such a book this week…it’s called The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  According to the book jacket at the back of the book, Katherine was inspired to write The One and Only Ivan after reading a story about the real Ivan.  The real Ivan is a western lowland gorilla who lived alone in a tiny cage for twenty-seven years before being moved to a zoo in Atlanta after a public outcry.  The special thing about Ivan is that he’s an artist.  He is well known for his paintings, which he “signs” with his thumbprint.

In the story of The One and Only Ivan, “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.

This story made me laugh, weep, think and most importantly feel.  I know I am going to recommend it to as many children as possible at the library…that will be my way of giving it a little “extra” attention.  The world of children’s literature has given this book a lot of “extra” attention too…this past Monday, The One and Only Ivan was honored by being awarded the “one and only” Newbery Medal!  It doesn’t get any better than that!

ImageHere are a few quotes from the book that I absolutely loved…

Pg. 23  “My visitors are often surprised when they see the TV Mack put in my domain.  They seem to find it odd, the sight of a gorilla staring at tiny humans in a box.  Sometimes I wonder, though: Isn’t the way they stare at me, sitting in my tiny box, just as strange?”—Ivan.

Pg. 51  “Gorillas are not complainers.  We’re dreamers, poets, philosophers, nap takers.”—Ivan.

Pg. 114  “Before Mack, before Bob, even before Ruby, I know Stella is gone.  I know it the way you know that summer is over and winter is on the way.  I just know.  Stella once teased me that elephants are superior because they feel more joy and more grief than apes.  ‘Your gorilla hearts are made of ice, Ivan,’ she said, her eyes glittering.  ‘Ours are made of fire.’  Right now I would give all the yogurt raisins in all the world for a heart made of ice.”—Ivan.

Pg. 131  “Every weekend, Mack and Helen took me in their convertible to a fast-food restaurant, where they ordered me french fries and a strawberry shake.  Mack loved to see the expression on the cashier’s face when he drove up and said, ‘could I have some extra ketchup for my kid?’—Ivan.

Pg. 287  “Is there anything sweeter than the touch of another as she pulls a dead bug from your fur?”—Ivan.

Free to be…Be Grateful!

So I was thinking…about freedom.  What a wonderful gift it is to us all.  The dictionary defines is as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”  Wow.  What a wonderful thing we have, and that we often take for granted.
There is a poem called  “The New Colossus” that is inscribed on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  Here is a piece of it…(click on the link above for the entire poem)

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
— Emma Lazarus, 1883

Personally I have always held a certain fascination with Lady Liberty.  To me she is the most beautiful symbol of freedom.  I had the honor of visiting her back in the early 1990’s.  I remember walking through the museum and listening to the stories of those who fled to our country.  It was very moving.  I look forward to visiting her again with my boys, and I can only hope that they will feel the emotions I felt, and realize just how special our country, and what we stand for,  is to us and others around the globe.  So today, on this 4th of July,  lift your torch high and give a silent thanks to those who have made it possible for us to live free…Free to be…Be grateful.

On a side note, I collect Statue of Liberty memorabilia and among the items I have are various books about Lady Liberty.  I would like to share a couple of those with you now.  You can find them at your local library or bookstore.  Here are two of my favorites…

Lady Liberty : a biography by Doreen Rappaport.  This biography captures and reflects on the fervor of those who knew the Statue of Liberty best: the sculptor, the engineer, the newspaper publisher, the poet, and many others who understood her significance and foresaw her magnificent destiny.

Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen.  This book weaves two stories at once: the story of a young girl who emigrates from Russia to America wondering what new name she will choose for herself when she arrives, and the story of young artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi dreaming of a monument he wants to build to honor freedom.  This is a wonderful blend of fiction and non-fiction, and the story will stay with you forever.