Wednesday was the last day of school in the El Paso Independent School District. From what I can tell in talking with my friends around the state and country, we were the very last school district on the planet to let out for summer. We had to get in all that extra learning on Monday and Tuesday of this week, don’t you know.
The sketch below was made of a couple of my EPISD friends enjoying happy hour starting 3:16 Wednesday.
Initially, I was going to just write up a couple of reviews for this post of some of the children’s books I have read or revisited recently. Then I started thinking that maybe I could put together a regular blog post, a couple of times a month through the summer, that provides read-along suggestions for you and the elementary school aged children in your life. So I think that is what I am going to do. Along with my fairy tale book review, I am going to review a few of my favorite children’s chapter books.
But I can’t do this without mentioning the summer slide.
It isn’t a piece of equipment along with the summer swing and summer jungle gym at your neighborhood park.
The summer slide is the two+ months of academic knowledge lost by school age children during summer vacation. [source] The greatest losses are in the area of mathematical computation among all students and in math and reading among children living in low-income households. [source]
Fortunately, there are lots of things parents and guardians can do to help battle the summer slide. The Huffington Post offers some great suggestions in their article from June 2014 entitled “12 Fun Ways to Help Prevent Summer Learning Loss”: go on field trips as a family, cook together, have family game nights. You can read the whole article here. Two of my favorite sites RIF.org and Scholastic.com offer great summer reading lists, math and reading-related activities, even a summer reading club challenge.
And then yours truly will be sharing reviews on some of my favorite children’s chapter books right here!
Today I want to share a book I fell in love with when I read it two years ago.
I give you The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.
I met Ivan and this true story based on his life when this title appeared on the Texas Library Association’s Bluebonnet Reading Program 2013-2014 Master List. I sponsored the Bluebonnet Reading Program in my library at Moye and read this book so that I could encourage my babies and their teachers to read it, too.
The One and Only Ivan is also the 2013 winner of the Newbery Award for children’s literature. And boy, it is one poignant, memorable book for readers of all ages.
Ivan is a silver back gorilla who lived in captivity for 27 years. He spends his days painting pictures and developing friendships with the other caged animals in the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade that is his home. When Ivan is given some crayons and paper to occupy himself, he uses them instead as a vehicle to communicate his thoughts and concerns. And when a new animal is introduced into the menagerie, Ivan is forced take a hard look at the only life he can remember ever having. He begins to dare to hope for a new life that is something more. Ivan uses his new-found voice and his friendship with some tenderhearted humans, to advocate for a better life for himself and his animal friends. The One and Only Ivan features characters who will take up residence in your heart and the hearts of the children you share this book with. Read this book then take a field trip to your nearest zoo. Strike up a conversation with your children about the pros and cons of wildlife parks.
This is a picture of the real Ivan.
His story and the story of author Katherine Applegate were featured on an edition of Backseat Book Club in an article entitled “Meet Ivan: The Gorilla Who Lived in a Shopping Mall”, June 2013 at www.npr.org.
You can also read more about the book, the author and the real Ivan here. AR BookFinder determined this book to be a 3.6 (grade three, sixth month) reading level and worth 4.0 Accelerated Reader points. Amazon.com customers give Ivan a 4.7 out of five gold stars, an age range of 8-12 years, grade level of 3-7. The book has 336 pages. You can read their reviews and order the book here.
One of my Style Me Blogger friends, Joy at Quilty Joy Joy invited me to guest post on her blog a few months ago. She suggested that I share a few book reviews on some of my favorite recent reads. I wrote a review for The One and Only Ivan as well as two adult books.
Visit Joy’s blog here to read those reviews.
Then the craziest thing happened.
After I wrote my reviews and sent them to Joy, I got an email back saying that as a child, she had seen the real Ivan!
Isn’t that just nuts? Coincidence? I think not.
Here is what Joy wrote after on her blog to accompany my review:
“Now do you remember how I told you that Leslie just always has a knack for making me smile? I got to this last book review she sent me and I was grinning ear to ear.
I fondly remembered that when I was growing up, my family used to visit Ivan at the B&I shopping center and see Ivan the Gorilla. I can recall thinking that is was so interesting to see a gorilla and I liked peeking in, and we’d often sneak and knock on the glass…even though we weren’t supposed to. Ivan would knock back or just ignore all the kids pressed up against the glass (and in a family with 5 kids, there were plenty of us standing there in awe).
As I grew older, I remember how cold and isolated that concrete cell was, and how gloomy everything looked. Ivan previously caught my attention because he was a majestic and huge gorilla, but I began to see him as lonely and isolated. Often he’d just sit in the corner of the concrete cell, which looked incredibly empty despite his presence. A little t.v. set or his paintings didn’t seem to be enough to make him look fantastic anymore! Knocking on the glass just seemed unkind and more like taunting. The circus amusements of the B&I lost their luster and it all just seemed dingy.
It’s funny how our views change as we age. I went from feeling amused by the sight of Ivan, to having empathy for him because of his lack of connection and companionship.
I was sad when Ivan left the B&I, but I am certain that a cold, concrete cell was no place for man or beast who’d done no wrong. I still have fond memories of the amusements at the B&I, and I am very glad that I was able to see Ivan while he was there, but I was happy that he was freed from that concrete prison and saw nature once again.
I am looking forward to reading the books Leslie has recommended…including The One and Only Ivan. I think that will be the book I start with! In fact, this book is already in my Amazon.com cart! (Thank goodness for Amazon Prime and the free 2-day shipping. I will be reading this book in no time at all!)” ~ Thank you, Joy!
I hope you will grab up a child you love in one arm and a copy of The One and Only Ivan in the other arm, curl up under the shade of your favorite tree and enjoy this incredible book.
Put on your armor and let’s beat this summer slide thing together.
Hugs and kisses,