I get so jazzed about Battle of the Books every year. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is a national competition for school aged kids grades 3-12.
Every year they pick a bunch of books for the kids to read, and then in May they ask all kinds of questions. The answer to every question is the title and author of one of the books.
So for example- a question would be “In which book does an entire town try to trick a visitor.” So the answer to that question would be Tricking the Tallyman by Davies.
I like to read the books so that I can talk to kids about them at the library. I like to tell parents which books I think their children would enjoy the most. It also gets me to branch out and read a bunch of new children’s books, or books I missed when I was a kid.
Well, this year I am getting even more into it than I normally would because my oldest will be in 3rd grade next year! So far she doesn’t hate me for getting this excited. We’ll see how long that lasts. I’ve had to promise my husband that I won’t be devastated if she decides not to do it. (I think the only part of that promise I can keep is that I will not be openly devastated about her not wanting to do it. Inside, I will die a little.)
I have been making worksheets and flashcards and quizzes and- I’m going a little overboard. But, I am REALLY enjoying it! Anyway, one book that I have really loved reading from the Battle of the Books list is:
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.
Ivan is a silver-back gorilla. He lives in the top floor of the Big Top mall and video arcade. He has lived there for about 9,855 days (twenty-seven years). His best friends are a spunky stray dog named Bob that likes to sleep on his belly, and a wise old elephant named Stella.
He fills his days with watching tv, drawing art with crayons that sell at the mall for $20, listening to the chattering of humans that come to see him, and listening to the stories Stella tells him at night.
For the most part, he’s content. Tired and bored, but content.
But, when a new, sickly baby elephant , Ruby, is brought to the mall, Ivan makes a promise to protect her. For the first time in years, Ivan starts to remember what life was like before he was the One and Only Ivan. He has to find a way to give Ruby a better life than what he and his friends have had.
The One and Only Ivan is based on a real Silver-back gorilla that spent 3 decades of his life in a circus themed mall in Washington State.
If you have a soul, read this book with a box of tissues. This is a child’s first taste of real animal cruelty, and it is shocking and disturbing. But as an adult, this book, written from Ivan’s point of view, can relate to all sorts of other human tragedies.
This book is about saving innocence and protecting those that are weaker than you.
It’s about making a change when you see that things are wrong. And it’s about standing up for your principles.
It’s just really, really good. It is a children’s book, yes. But, it’s one that I think every person should read.
I wouldn’t recommend trying to get it at a library right now though. Pretty much every copy is going to have a billion holds on it because of Battle of the Books. Just put it on a list, or go buy it. It’s one that you will want to re-read, or read to your kids someday.
How are you guys doing this summer? What fantastic reads have you bumped into? Do you have any reading challenges that you have been working on?