Forgiveness of one's self and others is at the heart of Katherine Applegate's new book, "The One and Only Bob."
That this forgiveness is for and given by a small, scruffy dog makes the story no less moving or deserving.
This book is the sequel to 2013 Newbery Medal winner "The One and Only Ivan," which was inspired by the true story of a western lowland silverback gorilla.
Ivan was born in the Congo and captured by wildlife traders. He was sold in 1964 and spent more than 20 years performing and caged at a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington. Whether Ivan ever made friends with a stray named Bob or a young elephant named Ruby is where this amazing story comes into creation.
As we meet Bob, "a dog of uncertain heritage," in his own story, he is living a great life in a loving home with Julia and her parents. He no longer has to scrounge for food or hide from danger. He has a bed of his own, meals, belly rubs and tennis balls. Julia's father works for the animal sanctuary where Ivan and Ruby now live.
Bob, though of uncertain lineage, is small and mighty, no wimpy lapdog. However, the fact that he was small enough to get through a hidden hole in Ivan's cage is how they met in the first place. Now, his miniature status allows Bob to ride in Julia's backpack into the park where pets are not allowed. He can scramble along the stone fence between the gorillas and elephants and lay low to visit his friends.
The book touches on Bob's memories of his past as an abandoned puppy and how he survived. When a hurricane bears down on the city and an unexpected tornado hits the animal preserve, Bob's life, along with Ivan and many others, is turned upside down.
Bob hears a bark that brings back memories of his life when he was on the streets. This begins a desperate search for a sister he thought was gone and a struggle for survival for a group of animals trapped in a damaged, rain-soaked shelter. Bob learns what it is to be a true friend and the importance of family, whether it is your blood family or the one you create.
This is where the true journey for forgiveness takes place. How can Bob forgive himself for staying alive and finding a home when his other siblings didn't? How can he freely forgive others if he can't forgive himself? Katherine Applegate sends Bob on an adventure that will be both life-threatening and soul-searching.
"Maybe it's easy to forgive others once you learned how to forgive yourself."
Very wise words for man and his best friend.
Being a dog lover, this book pulled at all my heartstrings. I liked learning more about Bob's past and seeing how he was adapting to "the good life," as they say. It was also good to revisit Ivan and Ruby, and the bond these three very different animals created. I sincerely hope that a third book will follow Ruby and her adventures so I get the chance to visit this group of characters again.
Also, knowing that Danny DeVito is voicing Bob on both the audiobook and in the upcoming Disney movie, "The One and Only Ivan," makes me smile.
Donna Loehner is the children's programming associate at the Missouri River Regional Library.