If we were looking for a slam-dunk positive reaction to The One and Only Ivan, it didn’t happen. We all agreed that the spare writing of this book was wonderful, even poetic, and that the transitions from one thought to another in ‘Ivan’s’ mind were perfect. A couple of our members just didn’t think the story rang true. One person thought that ‘Ivan’ was too humanized…he was an ape – how could he think like a human? Perhaps the author hadn’t done sufficient research into the behavior of apes. But others felt that ‘Ivan’s’ thoughts exactly made sense – especially since he had been raised by humans before being brought to the mall, and the idea of ‘suspending disbelief’ made everything quite plausible. We mostly all liked the minimalist little illustrations that were sparsely placed throughout the story, and felt that they were terrific. We also thought this would be a good book for reluctant readers, since the text was quite accessible, and not too dense. We learned that sadly, the real Ivan died, at age 50, at Zoo Atlanta in August, 2012.
As for our picture book, Big Mean Mike, everyone pretty much loved it, although a couple of people thought it presented a bad example for children: a bully being the hero. But others pointed out that ‘Mike’ never actually bullied anyone…he just presented that impression, and because of that everyone was scared of him. It raised the issue of judging someone on their outward appearance rather than their actions, and also the fact that a seemingly ‘rough’ person could easily have a soft spot…like ‘Mike’ did for the little bunnies. We thought the illustrations by Scott Magoon were terrific, and matched up well with the story.