The winner of Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog is . . .
Hooray! Email your mailing address to barbarawatson94(at)gmail(dot)com.Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, my last of 2012, is a book I couldn't leave the year without featuring even though I read it quite awhile ago -- The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It's also a book that, along with Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, I hope makes the Newbery list. Don't consider that any kind of prediction, it's just my own personal hope list.
The premise: Ivan, a gorilla, lives in a mall, inside a walled, glass enclosure. The only remnants of his jungle home are the paintings on his walls. His friends -- Stella, an old elephant and Bob, a stray dog -- keep Ivan's thoughts in the here and now. Not what his life used to be or what it could have been. But then a baby elephant named Ruby arrives and changes . . . everything.
What keeps readers reading: The developing and beautiful friendship between Ivan and Ruby. Because Ivan tells this story, readers are right inside his head. We know what hurts Ivan, what's too painful to think about, and just how much he'll sacrifice for his new friend Ruby. And all the while, Ivan valiantly tries to get a girl to understand what he desperately needs her to know.
What I loved: The emotions this story evokes. It's funny; it's sad. I laughed; I cried. But most importantly, my heart engaged, as well as my head, because not only does this story make readers feel, it really, really makes readers think. Together, those two things add up to one pretty perfect story.
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Happy middle grade reading!