"It's not a perfect place . . . A perfect place would not need walls. But it's the place I need."
That's what Ivan says about zoos. And that's about how I feel about this book. It's not a perfect book, but it's a book that is needed. I suppose in a perfect world we wouldn't need books that anthropomorphize animals to provoke thought and discussion about the emotional lives and needs of animals.
This book is truly heartbreaking, but in a very subtle way. It's not overly sentimental and it never resorts to cheap tricks to tug the heart strings. Ivan's 'voice' is just so authentic and his acceptance of his pathetic fate (at least in the beginning) is just so devastating. His eventual rebellion (and the reason for it) is so incredibly moving. Lest anyone think it's all doom and gloom, I can assure you it's also a totally funny and charming story. I will never, ever forget Ivan and his me-balls. I giggle every time I think about it.
There are a few plot points that I didn't love, but overall I was completely riveted by this book from start to finish. I love the characters! Not just Ivan (who is absolutely wonderful), but also Stella and Ruby, Julia and her dad, and even Mack.
I love that this book didn't take the easy way out and make Mack completely evil. People who do cruel things to animals often do so unintentionally. They do it out of habit and because there is no one around to challenge them. And *that* is the kind of thing that makes this book special. Books that present the world in black and white may be easier, but what's the point?
Children are the perfect audience for this story. Children are more sensitive to injustice and hypocrisy than adults. I hope many children and their adults will share and discuss this story for many years.