The One and Only Ivan
Emma was asked to read an award-winning book for school and make a diorama, so we headed to the bookstore to find one. She’s in second grade. She had a few choices ----a Newbery Medal and Honor Book or a Caldecott Medal Book. The Newbery award is given to "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” The Caldecott Medal annually recognizes the preceding year's "most distinguished American picture book for children.” In short, one has a bunch of words and the other has pretty much nothing but pictures.
Our choice was obvious, so we headed to the local big box bookstore.
The Newberry section clearly noted it was for grades 3rd through 6th. We looked for the section of Newberry books for younger readers, but apparently it does not exist. At my subtle suggestion, Emma decides to look for picture books. As it turns out, the Caldecott books are mixed in with the other fifty thousand children’s books that unfortunately did not win the Caldecott medal. While I love bookstores, I hate trying to find a specific book. It is a needle in the proverbial haystack. It’s no wonder most people these days prefer to go online when looking for a book, especially a specific title. I was on Amazon searching for the list of Caldecott award winning books while standing in a bookstore finding it impossible to find what was allegedly directly in front of me. So we hesitantly return to the section of Newberry books I again pointed out to my ambitious child was a little more advanced than we needed.
With my assistance, Emma starts perusing the titles. Every time she would pick one up, regardless of subject matter, I would check the number of pages, size of font and spacing of the words. From what I could see, we were in trouble. One particularly thick book had a cute elephant and a silverback gorilla on the cover, adorned by a very large, gold Newberry sticker. Emma’s pupils dilated ever so slightly and I saw little hearts swimming in her beautiful brown eyes. I turned directly to the back to see it was a voluminous 300 pages, but I was too late, Emma had made her choice. Being the master attorney and negotiator I am, I was able to convince my eight-year-old to bring home a “back up”, Sarah Plain and Tall, a more palatable 95 pages in what appeared to be about 12 point font.
What followed over the next week and a half was some of the most precious time I can remember spending with just Emma and me. She would read night after night and I would follow along over her shoulder, helping her with the words she did not know.
The One and Only Ivan is a beautiful story about a gorilla who lives in a zoo which is the main attraction at a mall –the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade to be exact. Ivan is an artist who makes a promise to a friend. The story is about how he keeps it. I’m not going to give it away, because you really should read it with (or to) your kids, but one of my favorite parts is toward the end. In a poignant statement about community Ivan says, “Is there anything sweeter than the touch of another as she pulls a dead bug from your fur?”
I don’t think so Ivan.
Amid all the hustle and bustle of our daily routines, which seems to be exacerbated during the holidays, what will matter most when we reflect on the good stuff is life on life interaction –sharing stories that make you feel grateful with those you love.