Some books are worth reading again and again. This one is one of those. I read it a couple months ago and blogged about it here. I was impressed with it then. This time, though, it has caught a hold of my heart. When I read it the first time I thought it was a 'cute' story. Now, however, I have a bit of a reverence for it. Katherine Applegate has done an amazing job of using simple language to express big ideas. This book would make a great novel study.
The story seems to run along tickety boo, and then Stella, the elephant dies. Events unfold, causing Ivan to be thoughtful about his life's experiences....just like what happens to people. Part of the story touched me so much I had to stop and put the book down for a moment to take a minute to reflect, along with Ivan.
p. 129 Somehow I knew that in order to live, I had to let my old life die. But my sister could not let go of our home. It held her like a vine, stretching across the miles, comforting, strangling.
We were still in our crate when she looked at me without seeing, and I knew that the vine had finally snapped."
Wow....the vine snapped. Amazing visual!
And, like a true gifted entertainer, the author had me laughing a few pages later:
p. 136 While Mack and Helen were busy in the living room, I wandered into the kitchen. A cake covered in thick chocolate frosting sat on the counter.
I like cake - love it, in fact - but it wasn't eating I was thinking about. It was painting.
The frosting peaked and dipped like waves on a tiny pond. It looked rich and gooey, dark and smooth.
It looked like mud.
....he takes the icing and starts painting with it on the refrigerator door, continuing until he's used every bit of the frosting.
Then you turn the page and it says:
p. 138 I soon learned that humans can screech even louder than monkeys.
After that I was never allowed in the kitchen.
p. 8 Sadly, I cannot read...Once, however, I was able to enjoy a book left in my domain by one of my keepers.
It tasted like a termite.
p. 2 Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peel and leave them to rot.
Everyone knows peels are the best part
p. 27 Stella loves the moon, with its untroubled smile. I love the feel of the sun on my belly.
She says, "It is quite a belly, my friend," and I say, "Thank you, and so is yours."
p. 31 They think I'm too old to cause trouble," Stella says.
"Old age," she says, "Is a powerful disguise."
p. 32 Humans do seem to enjoy watching me eat. Luckily I'm always hungry.
I am a gifted eater.
p. 43 Homework, I have discovered, involves a sharp pencil and thick books and long sighs.
I enjoy chewing pencils. I'm sure I would excel at homework.
p. 60 Humans always smell odd when change is in the air.
Like rotten meat, with a hunt of papaya.
p. 66 Bob, who has been chewing his tail, pauses, tilting his head. "Is that a true story?"
"I always tell the truth," Stella replies. "Although I sometimes confuse the facts."