Katherine Applegate (author), Patricia Castelao (illustrator) / HarperCollins / 320 pages
The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, a poignant book with a strong animal welfare theme, has won the 2013 Newbery Medal—a prestigious award given annually to the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Based on a true story, the tale focuses on Ivan the gorilla, an “attraction” at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan is resigned to his lot in life, and wards off the boredom by focusing on his few friends and occasional diversions. But his torpor is shattered when an orphaned elephant, Ruby, shows up at the mall. Her presence ignites a fierce desire to win a better life for Ruby—and for himself. The only question is: how? For once, Ivan must think outside the boxes (figurative and literal) that hem him in.
The story is told in Ivan’s wry, staccato (yet lyrical) “first-gorilla” voice. In the words of Newbery Medal Committee Chair Steven Engelfried: “Katherine Applegate gives readers a unique and unforgettable gorilla’s-eye-view of the world that challenges the way we look at animals and at ourselves.”