The One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateAdolescent Fiction
This 2013 Newberry winner is deserving of that honor.
The story is based on the true account of a gorilla who lives his entire life in a cage at a shopping mall in Washington. The book is not like a 'regular' novel. The chapters are little more than a page each and are more like poetry than prose. They are what Ivan, the gorilla in a cage in a mall, thinks and sees.
Ivan likes his life just fine. It's really all he has ever known--the mall, the stares from strangers, his cage. And, he has good friends--Stella, his closest neighbor and an aging elephant; Bob, a stray dog, tiny enough to squeeze into Ivan's cage at night; and Julie, a little human who introduces art and beauty to Ivan. Ivan finds and finger paints small pockets of that life around him and considers his life full. Ivan's life is just fine until he gets a new neighbor, a baby elephant named Ruby and he subtly start to see how small his life is, not full of beauty but only small pockets here and there. All he can think now is that Ruby mustn't be allowed this life that Ivan has led.
It is a sweet and tragic story, especially considering it was based on truth. It has won dozens of awards, and rightly so. I did cry and cry, but isn't that always the test for a Newberry? It is a great read for elementary or middle school and would make a great aloud. It has wonderful messages about friendship, family, community, the importance of art, the importance of one person making a difference and self-empowerment. Plus, it's always a great story when a gorilla saves the day!