My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Source: ARC provided by the author (I was not compensated in any way for my review; my thoughts are mine alone).
Genre: Juvenile fiction
Ivan has a family – a nontraditional one, but a family nonetheless. It includes, Bob the dog, Stella the elephant and Not-tag a stuffed animal. Ivan’s place in the family – the one and only gorilla.
Ivan and Stella are in the unfortunate position of being the entertainment for Mack, who runs a “show” in the Big Top Mall and video arcade. Life within the confines of their “domain” – their cages – is miserable, and Mack is a neglectful keeper and trainer. They live with filthy hay, messy enclosures, and foul treatment.
Because sales and tourists are declining, an additional family member is added – Ruby, a juvenile elephant, who Mack hopes will boost visitors. But it is clear that it will take more than Ruby to save this faltering attraction. After Stella becomes ill, Ivan is determined to do everything in his ape power to make things better for his family. And with a little artistic ability – he succeeds.
Katherine Applegate has written a compassionate novel about the plight of Ivan and his friends. The reader is filled with anguish and sorrow as you follow their mistreatment at the hands of Mack: how is it that that one of the humans in this story is also the one that is the most inhumane? Fortunately, we are buoyed by the fact that George, the mall’s maintenance man, and his daughter, Julia, do show the animals the love and care they deserve.
Ivan, Stella, Ruby, and Bob all become friends that you are desperate to help. They are more thoughtful and caring than most individuals. Ms. Applegate has given us a glorious example that our animal friends might know more about endurance, hope, and faith than their caregivers do. And Ivan is the one and only one to help them all.
This was a joy to read.