One of my goals this year was to read the Newbery Winners since I was born (1995), and I decided to do that in March. I ended up reading backwards, 2020-1995, because I happened to have the book that had won the 2020 award (New Kid) and didn’t want to keep it for too long because I knew it would have a long hold line (as of March 13, there are 0 of our 94 copies currently available). Anyway, along the way, I was working on a presentation about the books and their merits, so I wasn’t sure I was going to review all 25 books, but I wanted to review the ones that really stood out to me. One of those was The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate–an author I feel like I’ve read all of my life, from the Animorphs to the Beach Blondes.
The One and Only Ivan is told from the point of view of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives in a mall tourist attraction–like a janky circus. Told in short, poignant chapters, Ivan recounts his life, his attempts to make art, his caretakers, the other animals (an elephant, a dog) and then something changes: a new baby elephant name Ruby joins the crew, and Ivan knows he will do whatever it takes so that Ruby doesn’t have to live her life in this cage. Ivan will use his voice (aka, his art) to find them a new home. This book is heartbreaking, hopeful, and super well done. I’m always skeptical of “animal POV” books because it’s so easy for them to be weird, but this one works. Definitely worthy of its Newbery medal. There’s a sequel, The One and Only Bob (Bob is the dog who doesn’t live with Ivan but also definitely does) coming out on May 5,2020, making it one of the 1 billion books I want to read coming out that day.
There’s also a movie adaptation coming out this fall! It’s slated to release on August 14, 2020 with an all-star cast. Sam Rockwell as the voice of Ivan, Angelina Jolie as the voice of Stella, Bryan Cranston as Mack (caretaker), Danny Devito as the voice of Bob. I will have to forgo my decade-long Angelina Jolie boycott for this one, but I think it’ll be worth it. It’s a live-action/CGI mashup (ala Jungle Book, I believe) so it will be interesting to see how it plays, visually, but the story is really strong, so I’m hopeful!