READING: “The One And Only Ivan” and “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”

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Two book reviews at once? There is a reason for my madness. I read two books to my ten year old son (who turns eleven on the eleventh) in July. He really enjoyed one of them and he was not enthused about the other one. As an adult, I liked both of them. As a mother, I will recommend one of them for children.

Since I found the two books both similar and dissimilar and I read them within one week of each other, I decided to review them together. Both books are supposedly geared towards children. Both books deal with mature themes. And both books are told from the point of view of a non-human narrator.

However, the two books are vastly different, as well. Let’s get to that:

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Now, first I need to say that I love Kate DiCamillo. After reading and raving about “The Magician’s Elephant”, I happily devoured more of her work. It was good. “The Magician’s Elephant” is still my favorite. So, when I picked up her book, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”, I excitedly began reading it out loud to my child without reading it myself first.

I trusted her.

On the night of my birthday, I finished reading my son that book.

It involved many tears and sobs.

Without wanting to spoil anything, but also needing to discuss an important part of my review, I must say there is a spoiler in this paragraph. Please skip it if that bothers you. This book is about a pampered porcelain rabbit who goes on a journey not of his choosing to learn compassion. If you took “Pinocchio” and combined it with the “Velveteen Rabbit” and then cut out three quarters of the happy ending, you would get this book. It has a part in it where a child dies and I found the situation involving the body definitely not appropriate for the age group it is intended for. Then something else tragic happens to a child and you get no closure from it. That part was the most difficult scene in the book for my family. Not just the dying child but the extreme cruelty to another child by three different men in a row. And I get it. I do. That is the real world.

But I read children’s books as an escape from the real world. The conclusion was predictable and it did not satisfy the ache that was left in my heart from the unresolved ending with one of Edward’s owners.

In fact, almost all of Edward’s companions’ stories are tragic. They all took possession of this porcelain rabbit and are left with a sadness that is never resolved.

According to the Amazon description, this book is supposedly for children ages seven to ten. I do not find that to be true. If I had read this book as an adult short story knowing in advance that it would be melancholy, I would have enjoyed it more. So, if you are an adult who enjoys reading children’s books like I do, then I highly recommend this one to you. It was gut-wrenching but gorgeous. My good friend informed me last week that her twelve year old son loved this book. Each child is different. If your child wants to read this book, I would recommend you reading it first to see if it is appropriate for your child.

Now let’s get to a book I highly recommend for children.

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Before it is said in defense of the book review above that children need to deal with death and life and different hard-knock scenarios through reading books, I am going to agree. I am also going to write that “The One and Only Ivan” has those things. It has death. And in the same vein as “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” it even has an unfortunate occurrence with a body, although this one is not human. However, it is handled with finesse. It teaches children that there will be hard times and that people can be cruel but that there is always hope.

Hope.

That is what I feel was missing from the book in the previous review.

It emphasizes that just one of us can make a huge difference. We cannot wait for someone else to change our circumstances, we have to do that ourselves.

My son and I both loved “The One And Only Ivan.” It won The John Newberry Award. It is recommended on Amazon for ages 8-12 and I would lean towards it being for ages 10-12 (although I happily devoured its pages, too). The writing is short and choppy at first. I had a difficult time settling into it. But it is being told from the point of view of a silverback gorilla, so it is to be expected. And once you recognize that, then it is a very easy and enjoyable book. While reading this story, I had strong reminiscent flashes of reading “Charlotte’s Web” as a child.

Ivan, a silverback gorilla, lives at a mall with other exotic animals. He is the main attraction and the star of a small show. His claim to fame is his likeness on a large billboard that he can see from his tiny enclosure. He paints pictures that are misunderstood. Ivan is content with his life in a compact little cage until a baby elephant arrives one day and makes him take a hard look at the life he has been living. We go on an emotional journey with Ivan as he finally remembers his tragic past and proceeds to try to change the future.

There were several lines in the book that I enjoyed. It was interesting how Ivan saw situations and described things. I enjoyed Katherine Applegate’s writing.

One line from the book that I whispered to myself more than once was, “It is the most beautiful mad I have ever heard.”

Isn’t that lovely? It is Ivan’s way of describing an elephant’s trumpet sound when it is upset. I think it is perfect.

This book brought many tears as well, but I got my happy ending.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them? Would you recommend them to children?

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10 thoughts on “READING: “The One And Only Ivan” and “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”

  1. So glad to hear you enjoyed The One and Only Ivan. I really liked it as well. Have not read the other one, but it is on my to-read list. Recently read The Wednesday Sisters (adult book) and really enjoyed it. Always look forward to your reviews!! BTW, are you on Goodreads?

    • Thank you Barbara! I will definitely try “Wednesday Sisters.” I am in the middle of “The Outlander” series right now. I am so glad you liked “The One And Only Ivan”, too. I was sobbing when he decided to be a gorilla. And seeing Ruby??!! I could barely read it outloud I was such a blubbering mess. I am not on Goodreads. I do not like how harsh people can be to people who do not view a book the same way they do. The comments can get crazy. I do read Patrick Rothfuss’s reviews, though. Please let me know of any other books you are enjoying. Mwe have very similar tastes and I always enjoy your picks. : )

      Have a wonderful weekend!

      Jenni

  2. You are such a good momma to read to your kids. I want to start doing that with the boys with chapter books. We read smaller kids books, but I think my 6yr old would like a chapter book. I just need to decide what book series! I remember reading with my mom and I am sure you son will have fond memories of your reading…whether the book was sad or not… 🙂

    • Thank you! I used to read Junie B Jones to both of my kids at that age. We thought she was hilarious because she is so bad, but if you read them, you might want to quickly skim it yourself first. Some parents do not like her antics. He is the child that loves me reading to him. My daughter will have none of it. : (. I am not sure how much longer I have to do it.

      Have a lovely weekend!

      Jenni

  3. If you enjoy WWII stories, I would suggest All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Recently read this based on an article in our local paper and seeing it on the best seller list. Can’t remember, did you read Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo? Really liked that one too. Currently reading The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy which goes back and forth between present day and WWII Germany. Liking it quite a bit as well. As far as Goodreads, I like to go on for suggestions (then check to see if they are available thru my library’s digital book area), and to see what my friends are reading. Also like keeping track of the books I read and whether I liked them or not. Very rarely do I read or even write a review. Have a great Friday!!

    • I do sometimes read WWII stories. I am mostly a light story reader. Although one of my favorite books that I read ten years ago called, “Losing Julia.” Although that one is WWI. I will look up the ones you have mentioned. I am 3/4 of the way through “Flora and Ulysses.” I am having a hard time with it and I do not know why. I think it is because the mother is so unlikeable.

      I hope you have a happy weekend! Thank you again for getting back to me! : )

      Jenni

  4. I love that you read to your son! (This is the kind of parent I aspire to be one day.) My dad used to read to me, and it gave me some really lovely memories, especially now that he’s gone. Also, I really like the way you write reviews. It’s important to be honest, and I agree, that first book sounds like it needs a higher age rating. “Ivan” sounds wonderful, though – I love stories where you gradually realise the protagonist is “something” unusual. There’s a story by Iain M Banks called Odd Attachment that you might like, but it’s not for kids. Fropome, the main character is a tree-like alien pining over his unrequited love until he “starts to turn brown and curl up at the edges!” But then, a human appears and starts firing its laser pistol at him, and things start to get… interesting. 😉

    • Thank you Gwen. I really struggled with this post. I always want to be honest and I also really do not want to be negative. It is a difficult line. But honesty wins. But I kept putting off publishing it until my husband convinced me it would be okay. That book sounds awesome. It actually sounds like something my husband would love.

      Have a fantastic weekend!

      Jenni

  5. Great reviews, Jenni!

    Did you read Madeleine L’Engle when you were a kid? I just heard that Disney is going to make a movie of A Wrinkle In Time with the woman who wrote Frozen. I so hope it is going to be good. I love that novel!

    • Thank you Cynthia. I did read all of her books as a child. In fact she grew my love for fantasy and science fiction. I think I am the only person (besides my husband) who really disliked that movie. I hope that “A Wrinkle In Time” is good. I am kind of scared to see it. Although both kids will be made to read the book first before they watch it, so it might be awhile. Actually, you just gave me the next book I will be reading to my son. Thank you! I own three copies.

      Have a great weekend and sweet dreams!

      Jenni

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