The One and Only Ivan

This was a quick but a great read. The story is told from the point of view of Ivan, a Silverback Gorilla, who was captured as a baby, raised as a human then finds himself in a cage in a mall along the highway when he got too big. He shares the mall with other exotic animals, including the wise Stella, an elephant, and Bob, the stray dog. Then Ruby, a juvenile elephant, comes along.

I know it is hard to put into words how animals really think, since we do not really know how or what they think about. But, for me, the book was able to adequately put into words what they may be thinking. It is as if the author was able to empathize with Ivan, Stella, Bob and Ruby.

The glass says you are this and we are that and that is how it will always be. – Ivan

A lot of insights, which is only possible through observation, was also present in the book.

I’ve learned to understand human words over the years, but understanding human speech is not the same as understanding humans. – Ivan

Gorillas aren’t chatty, like humans, prone to gossip and bad jokes. – Ivan

Humans in the story were depicted in various ways – insensitive, brutal or caring, which I think is the simplest classification possible. Ivan was lucky to have Julia and her father George as keepers in the mall since they were instrumental leading to the story's conclusion. Julia, in particular, was key. The world needs more of her really.

Additional quotes I liked from the book are:

  • This one talks about focusing on yourself and not what others think –

Humans don’t always seem to recognize what I’ve drawn. They squint, cock their heads, murmur. I’ll draw a banana, a perfectly lovely banana, and they’ll say, “It’s a yellow airplane!” or “It’s a duck without wings!” That’s all right. I’m not drawing for them. I’m drawing for me.

  • Another one is on memories, as mentioned by Stella the Elephant –

“There’s a difference,” Stella says gently, “between ‘can’t remember’ and ‘won’t remember.’” “That’s true,” I admit. Not remembering can be difficult, but I’ve had a lot of time to work on it. “Memories are precious,” Stella adds. “They help tell us who we are.

Overall, I liked this book. Simple but a lot of heart in its pages.

I am still on the fence as to zoos over natural habitat but reading a lot about poaching and illegal hunting makes me think twice. But, I know animals need protection from humans since they are defenseless against bullets and greed, among others.

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