Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Spotlight: The One and Only Ivan

(Book spotlights: In which I take the best of the best from the books I’ve read this year and shout out their goodness to all of you lovely folks…)

The One and Only Ivan



I don’t even know why I picked this book up off the shelf at my library. First of all, it’s about animals, and I don’t do well with animals. Second of all, it’s from the point of view of a gorilla, which also is not my thing.

But it was on the express reads shelf at my library, and I’m a total sucker for the express reads (something about how I can’t renew these books because so many people want to read them just draws me in every, single time I go to the library…)

Here’s the blurb:
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

What makes this book so amazing:

The voice.
Applegate gives Ivan this amazing voice, and found myself cheering for Ivan (and crying for him a few times as well.) Amazingly, Applegate somehow wrote this in a way that made me connect with a gorilla. That is talent, friends.

Also, Applegate was brilliant at taking something really familiar, and making it feel new and different. The themes of this book are very common in middle grade novels: unlikely friendships, unlocking your potential, and pushing through when things get difficult. But telling it this way made those themes feel fresh, fun, and unique.


This book is full of heart. I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

First Day of School

I was one of those crazy nerd kids who LOVED school and couldn’t wait for summer to be over so I could go back.

The thing is, summer is fun and all, but I grew up in Arizona. I remember one summer, it was so hot that the bottoms of my Keds melted when I stepped into the street. We had a metal swing set in our backyard which was pretty much unusable from May until September. You can see heat waves coming up off the sidewalk and the news did (does) “heat advisories” against going outside.

So my sister and I (she’s younger than me by a couple years) spent our summers:

Watching Gilligan’s Island reruns, The Price is Right, I Dream of Genie, and Days of Our Lives.

Playing Barbies.

Coloring.

Reading. I read a TON. I remember getting angry because my mom would only take us to the library once a week, and my library card had a limit of 25 books. Yes. I wanted to read more than 25 books in a week. Side note: I also remember being angry that only one Babysitters Club book came out a month. What was wrong with that Ann lady? Couldn’t she chug out multiple books a week? Same anger toward the authors of the Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley University, and Nancy Drew books.

And homework. My mom made my sister and I do worksheets every morning. What’s funny about this is that we were always in the advanced learning programs at school, but I honestly don’t (and never did) feel smarter than most other kids. Sometimes I wonder if we just forgot less because Mom made us do schoolwork all summer, so we had a leg up on everyone else at the beginning of the year when they did all those placement exams. Or maybe it was those 25+ books a week I was reading.

Sending my kids back to school is bittersweet, but I absolutely love this time of year. And my kids also love going back to school.


Did you love the first day of school?