Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The One and Only Ivan - Teaching Writer's Craft
Over the summer, I read The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate because it was the Newberry Award winner for 2013. I loved it so much that I decided that it should be one of our class's read-alouds this year and I am recommending it to everyone who reads YA books.
Here is a brief summary from the author's website:
You're probably hooked already, but this book has so much more to offer third graders than a good story. It's a sweet story (with nuances built in for adults). It's filled with humor, but also prompts critical thinking. There is character development. There is suspense and surprise. These traits help make The One and Only Ivan an award winner, but these traits can often be found in good books.
What is unusual about this book is the accessibility of the author's craft in writing this book. The writing is spare. Each sentence seems to be carefully crafted. It is very clear that each sentence, each word, is important. Ivan doesn't waste words, but he thinks humans do. In fact, he says, "Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot." Sentence formation is important. There are complex and compound sentences, but there are also lots of short, simple sentences.
The book uses figurative language liberally. It is almost poetic. Applegate uses personification, similes and metaphors beautifully. Here are just a few nuggets:
"I liked having sips of soda poured into my mouth like a bubbling waterfall."
"The [cake] frosting peaked and dipped like waves on a tiny pond."
Can't you just taste the sweets?
The One and Only Ivan is not told by a third person narrator, but is told from Ivan's point of view. This forces the reader to consider how things appear to Ivan and if he agrees with Ivan or not. It makes the reader think about the author choosing to tell the story as Ivan.
I have read and re-read this book. I am looking forward to teaching with this book. I just wish I had the funds for every third grader to have their own copy.