The Newberry Medal winning books are selected annually. They highlight the best children’s books published during the previous year. It helps parents, teachers, librarians, and, yes, children select books that, hopefully, will be cherished for years. It’s often the starting point for a lifetime of reading. It worked for me and one of the reasons why I still like reading them.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is the 2013 winner. Ivan is a Silverback gorilla and the narrator of the story. He lives in a “domain” at the Big Top Mall and Arcade. Ivan and his friends are supposed to be the main attractions at the mall. The mall’s owner hopes customers will come to see the animals and then spend money at the shops. It’s not going well as the mall is losing money. Even when they bring in a baby elephant, the mall’s owner still doesn’t do well.
Ivan’s life isn’t a total bust. He has friends and things to do. His friends include Bob, a wise-cracking stray dog, Stella, an elderly elephant, and George, the caretaker, and his daughter Julie. Julie and Ivan love art and it’s Julie who brings Ivan drawing-paper, crayons and finger paints. Ivan considers himself an artist and, in fact, his paintings are sold in the gift shop.
When the baby elephant, Ruby, comes to the Big Top Mall, she perks up the attitudes of the animals. She is so sweet. She asks all sorts of naive questions and endears herself to all of them. Stella, in particular, loves Ruby and serves as her aunt.
When Stella recognizes that she is seriously ill and about to die, she makes Ivan promise that he will take care of Ruby and find her a better environment. I won’t spoil the story, but what Ivan does is fun and creative and leads to a happy-ever-after ending.
The novel is based on a true story so it has the feel of authenticity. I think animal-loving children will like this one but I strongly recommend this be a child and parent together book. There are lots of places in the story where good discussions can take place.
As for me, I’m interested in seeing what other books this author has written. She’s very good. Anyone have a recommendation?