Audiobook Review: The One and Only Ivan

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Narrator: Adam Grupper
Length: 3 hrs, 46 mins
Published by Harper Audio on April 30, 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher

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.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan's unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

You know what’s awesome? Short audiobooks. They make me feel like I am getting SO MUCH DONE. Illusion of productivity for the win.

Why Did I Read This Book?
Actually, I wasn’t planning to read this book in print or audio, despite the accolades, because, even though this would have been my childhood self’s thing, my adult self wasn’t all that interested. However, an unsolicited audiobook showed up, and, even though I know I don’t HAVE to do anything with unsolicited titles, I feel like I should try. Plus, I’d heard the book was good and it was three hours, so why the hell not?

What’s the Story Here?
Ivan is a gorilla, a great and mighty silverback, and he lives in this totally sketchy little “domain” in a mall. Straight up, I was shocked when at the end I learned Applegate based this on a true story, because how is that shiz even legal? Ivan and an elephant, Stella, are in these tiny cages at a crappy little strip mall, and perform shows and just what? This seems so unhealthy for the animals, and I just do not get how this was happening. Anyway, the mall circus/zoo thing isn’t doing well, so the guy running it, Mac, purchases a baby elephant, Ruby. Her arrival sets in motion events that make Ivan realize how unhappy he is in his tiny domain.

How Are the Characters?
Hmm, well, I can’t say I really connected with them particularly. There’s an odd mixture of anthropomorphism and trying to retain their animal selves that I could not get used to. I’m all for anthropomorphism in general, but I don’t know. There were just moments where I was left going chicka-what? Bob was totally my favorite, the little dog that would sleep on Ivan’s chest. He was funny how he would always tell it like it is.

Did It Make Me Weep?
Nope. However, I do think this is one of those books that was written to make little children shed buckets of tears, like The Red Fern Grows, though this one at least ends happily. But, seriously, there is animal death up in here and, if I’d been more connected to the characters, gah. Also, some of the deaths are brutal, as in ending in dismemberment, which I was so not expecting from a kids’ book. That would have haunted my childhood self something fierce.

What Am I Left Thinking About?
So in The One and Only Ivan, there’s sort of this theme about how great zoos are, and I thought that was slightly strange. I mean, I get that from Ivan’s perspective, a zoo is totally sweet digs. At the same time, though, I know that zoos are still animal abuse in a sense, and so the fact that they’re almost idolized here was puzzling. I’m not completely anti-zoo or anything, but I just expected it to come down against caging other animals at all, and less how zoos are humans being awesome. Really don’t know how I feel about this, so I’ll probably continue to cogitate on it.

How Was the Narration?
First off, I have to say that I think Grupper did a pretty good job with the narration. He does voices and has a rumbly enough voice to make a good gorilla. Still, his voice just didn’t have much appeal to me personally. It wasn’t one where I was like “Yes, please tell me a story forever,” you know? There are some narrators I could listen to read anything forever, but Grupper just isn’t one of those. While objectively I think he did a great job, I suspect I would have liked the print a bit more on this one, but it’s so hard to accurately make that call without actually reading the book to compare.

Sum It Up with a GIF:

Totally sums up Ivan’s feels.

15 responses to “Audiobook Review: The One and Only Ivan”

  1. LOL I love the tone of this review. Chicka-what, shiz, all the gems came out to play! This sounds good, but not great. I am definitely curious about these mall-zoo’s that you speak of… I know in West Edmonton Mall here there is like an under water aquarium and sometimes there are flamingo’s by it, but elephants and gorillas?? Weird.

    • Christina says:

      Thanks! I love this format that April came up with, because it makes things super casual. I totally channel her. This is sort of what I sound like just talking. Terrifying though that may be. Also, mall with aquarium? That’s a little odd too, but gorillas win.

  2. Stephanie says:

    It’s too bad that you didn’t like that one this much…I think it might be a little better in print format? I really liked the pictures too. I don’t know THAT much about zoos, but I do know some of the more advanced ones are working hard to protect animals that are endangered in the wild, so that’s a good thing…although obviously it’s all humans’ fault for screwing up their natural habitats in the first place.

  3. Amy says:

    I would have never thought to read this one either, but I totally agree with just listening to it since it’s so short. Anything less than 5 hours is awesome because it just flies by!! Anyways, I hate it when I’m not really feeling the narrator very much. It’s can really make or break a book for me. And the mall circus/zoo thing sounds totally weird. Great review chick!!

    • Christina says:

      Yes, it’s amazing how quick those go. It almost feels faster than reading the print, even though, intellectually, I know that’s always faster. haha. Yeah, I feel bad, because this narrator isn’t bad, but he just didn’t resonate with me at all.

  4. Giselle says:

    Haha man if you want short audiobooks get Where she Went and If you Stay by Gayle Forman. They were 5 hours each and I swear they felt like 30 mins. The narrators for both are great too. Anyways this one sounds super cute it’s too bad it wasn’t that great. Also, I’m kind of sad that books would be written to make children cry! >.< Animal death usually do get to me more than human death in books, weird eh? haha. It's like when people due in movies the theater is quiet and if a dog gets shot everyone's like AWWWWWWWW Why can’t I ever leave a comment that stays on subject? O_O I kind of want to try this to hear how the narrator does the gorilla lol

    • Christina says:

      I’ve already read those books. Didn’t remember them being SO short. haha. Anyway, that’s awesome that they’re so good because the books are. There’s no way one of her goals wasn’t tears, because dismembered gorillas? Come on. These kids will be scarred. Like with Where the Red Fern Grows. I will always remember the weeping.

      And, yes, I’m the same in movies. OH HELL NO YOU DIDN’T JUST KILL THE PUPPY.

  5. Brandy says:

    My daughter, who was 7 when she read this, didn’t cry either. I don’t know what that says. I may be raising her to be as heartless as me, though she did cry buckets last week when I read the part in Deathly Hallows where Hedwig dies.

    I didn’t think the book was saying zoos were great. I thought it made the point that the wild is the best, but real zoos are doing good things to protect animals that need it. I wonder what message most kid readers are coming away with?

    • Christina says:

      Hahah, awww, poor Hedwig. Books five and seven of HP made me weep buckets. With five it was my fave character biting the dust, and with seven it was both the deaths and just HP being over.

      There just seemed to be so many long discussions about the awesomeness of zoos. I mean, it made sense in the context, but I found it puzzling.

  6. Megan K. says:

    Middle grade novels aren’t really my thing, but glad you enjoyed this overall. I can definitely feel for you about keeping animals in a crappy cage and forcing them to perform – that’s called ANIMAL ABUSE, y’all! Too bad the narrator didn’t quite leave you impressed, too. But that gorrila GIF. <3 Nice review!

  7. Heidi says:

    Hmm…really glad you decided to listen to this one, because I think now that if and when I do pick it up, I’ll go for the print. Yay for short audiobooks though! The length does make it hard to be really invested in the characters and what happens to them though. I…don’t handle animal deaths well.

  8. I’ve been curious about this on for awhile, pretty much since its pre-release date. I never thought about listening to an audio of it though. Its sounds like it’s enjoyable, but sad. I’m a little put off by the animal deaths and dismemberment parts though, with a tender heart and a soft spot for furry beasts it might be too much for me.

  9. Sunny Duvall says:

    I love your last GIF! I probably won’t ever read this book, but I love your review. It’s too bad that you didn’t really connect with the characters, I hate when that happens. But I love that you used “anthropomorphism.” Thumbs up! 🙂

    Sunny @ Blue Sky Bookshelf

  10. Lyn Kaye says:

    I have this one, waiting to be read. I snagged it because it won the gold for Newbery for 1012. Lovely review!

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