This Week’s Unsynchroniz-ed Pick

The reason (okay, excuse) for my delay in posting a pick goes something like this:

While I was reading:

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Ada was reading:

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I’d already read it a few months earlier and wasn’t as wowed by it as Ada seemed to be (and yes, I know it’s a Newbery winner, but there’s no accounting for subjectivity). And since right after reading it, Ada went on to read:

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I picked up:

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Which I liked alright, but it wasn’t appropriate for Ada or middle grade readers generally, so posting about it was off-topic. Meanwhile, Ada went on to:

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Which also didn’t knock my socks off—although Brian Selznick’s illustrations certainly did. So finally today the time has come to admit that we’re out of synch over here in the reading department, finding ourselves drawn to different stories for different reasons. Although we at least can  agree that we’re enjoying our read-aloud of:

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So it’s not completely hopeless, anyway. Where does this leave the Pick of the Week? Where I started, with:

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It’s actually just won the 2013 Newbery, lest anyone think I have a chip on my shoulder about award-winners. And even though Ada hasn’t read it (dare I qualify that with a “yet?”), I’m going to risk stating outright that I think she’ll find it as compelling as I did.

The story is simply told. It’s narrator is a gorilla—the eponymous Ivan—and his thought-language skills are basic. Even so, there is humor and pathos in his telling of his tale, of how he was taken from his family in the jungle to live in a cage in run-down circus mall, and his friendship with the other animals trapped there. The broadness of empathy—of Applegate for her protagonist, in the expression of a written character for the actual gorilla that inspired the story, of the reader for both the imagined gorilla and real-live gorillas still out there in the wild—is the real miracle of this book. And not for the first time on this page, I find myself reluctant to say much more about the story itself, for the simple reason that I don’t want to spoil a second of a reader’s discovery of it for him or herself.

It’s a quick read but a worthy one, with a subject that spans abilities; a second-grader will find the language fine-going, while a fourth-grader will pick up on the humor and also grasp the weightier aspects that surround the ethics of zoos and circuses and taking animals from their natural habitats. My thanks to Michelle Edwards for recommending it in the first place!

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