Yesterday, I asked my students to write the formulaic "I am" poem as if they were one of the characters in Ivan. Their writing showed how they understood the characters deeply. One of my students, who absolutely struggles mightily with reading and writing, was captivated by the story. I had him dictate the poem to me and I was touched by how much he was able to express and how much he understood. It's the power of an exquisite book, being read aloud by someone deeply in love with the story.
Ivan, Ruby, Stella, Julia, George, Mac...these characters feel like friends to me now. While a fantasy, themes of home, friendship, power, equity, and "becoming what you might have been" are universal struggles.
There are some books that grab you and don't let go, and for me, The One and Only Ivan is that story. Till next year, Ivan.
(Below are tweets exchanged today with the one and only Katherine Applegate- not only brilliant, but generous to respond to school children and their teacher.)