Monday, January 02, 2012

The One and Only Ivan

Applegate, K.A. The One and Only Ivan (link to the trailer on YouTube)
Ivan is a real gorilla who was captured from the wild in 1964 and lived in a Washington state shopping mall until the mid 1990s. He now lived in Zoo Atlanta. It’s good to know this information before reading the book, because Ivan’s life in the mall is a sad one. He has a grimy cage with a tire swing and a dirty wading pool, his diet is substandard, and he has to perform three shows a day. There is an elephant, Stella, at the mall who hates being there, especially when she becomes ill and does not get proper medical care. Ivan is treated well by the custodian’s daughter, who brings him crayons and paper so he can draw, and Bob, a stray dog, sneaks into his cage at night and sleep’s on Ivan’s stomach. When a new elephant, Ruby, is brought to the mall, Stella makes Ivan promise that he will do all he can to get her into a proper zoo. Using the one method of communication he has-- drawing-- Ivan managed to get all of the animals moved to a more suitable location.
Strengths: Really, we need to decide now which division this will be in when it is nominated for the Cybils! Realistic fiction or fantasy because the animals’ thoughts are presented? The style of this book-- short, simple sentences-- fits the subject matter perfectly. Ivan’s sad history is recounted without being maudlin. This manages to portray the triumph of the spirit in a way that is accessible to struggling readers, who make up the majority of my animal book readers, without in any way being simplistic. I’m not alone in loving this one-- Reading Rumpus does, too.
Weaknesses: I cried when Ivan went to the zoo, because I worried about Bob. Not to spoil things, but Bob is well taken care of!

I did not think that I would like this one, but since K.A. Applegate caused me to nearly faint by e mailing and asking me to read it, I felt I should. My children were HUGE Animorphs fans, and Ms. Applegate very kindly sent them autographed copies that they got for Christmas which thrilled them to pieces. But seriously, I don’t do animals that “talk” in any way, and this was a great book. I even liked the artwork!

Abrahams, Peter. Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood St.
Expected publication 1/19. ARC received from Baker and Taylor.
Robbie lives with her writer father and lawyer mother in NYC. She has recently moved from public to private school, and while she is on the basketball team, she's not making a lot of other frien. When she finds that a client of her mother's is doubling the rent for the soup kitchen where she volunteers, she wants to help. Luckily, a charm bracelet she got from a homeless women makes odd things happen. She lucks into $3,100 in cash falling out of the evil Sheldon Gunn's pocket, is able to thwart bullies who try to steal her glasses. She and her friends Ashanti, Silas and Tut Tut start to realize that there is a bigger plot by the New Brooklyn Redevelopment Project to shut down their favorite places (like Mr. Nok's Thai restaurant) and put new buildings up instead. Can Robbie use her newfound powers to stop Sheldon Gunn and the even more evil Egil Borg?
Strengths: Fairly good mystery, with a nice message of underdog businesses bringing flavor to a community.
Weaknesses: The gimics detracted from a good mystery. Robbie didn't need the charm to accomplish what she did, and the Robin Hood connection is rather weak, except for the troubling incident where she takes the cash that Gunn dropped and gives it to the soup kitchen. Even though she meant well, that's not the moral lesson we hope kids learn!

Thanks to Kate Coombs over at The Book Aunt for The Versatile Blogger Award. These awards are a good way to highlight other bloggers that my readers might find useful as well. I really enjoy:

Heidi Grange over at GeoLibrarian
Karen and Nancy at Kidsmomo
Ms. O at Ms. O. Reads Books
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty
Provo City Library Children’s Book Review

Here are the rules:
•Thank and link to the blogger who bestowed the award.
•Share seven random facts about yourself (see below).
•Spread the love by passing the award to five other bloggers--and be sure to let them know.

Seven random facts about me:
1. I worked as Doodles, the giant Chick-fil-A mascot, in high school.
2. I wear a lot of pleated skirts.
3. ...and cardigans. (Like to be true to my cultural heritage!)
4. I wrote the world's worst novel in the 8th grade
5. I hate to cook.
6. My dream job is teaching Latin at Eton College
7. I am currently knitting a sweater for my dog, Sylvie.


  1. Thanks so much, Ms. Yingling! We love your blog and are honored and excited to chosen for your Versatile Bloggers list.
    Staff of the Provo City Library Children's Department

  2. Exact same reaction here -- I was also quite thrilled to get a personal email from the author! But it did sound like something I would like. I'm still on sort of a sabbatical from MG fiction (I earned it!), but it's on the top of my pile when I am ready for that genre, so I'll probably get to it by next week at the latest.


  3. OK. So apparently I was completely distracted or had just completely lost my memory that day but I finally connected something. I USED TO GO AND VISIT IVAN AT THAT DUMB B&I MALL. Moved away from WA in 91. It was so sad, that place. Lame mall, to begin with. And his area was so boring. And they had a cage with a "dancing chicken" where people put in a quarter and the floor of the cage heated up and of course the poor chicken started hopping around.
    I seriously need to go get that book, don't I?