‘One and Only Bob’: The tiny, tough dog with a huge heart

Mary Quattlebaum

THE WASHINGTON POST – ‘’Kids really wanted a book about Bob,” said Katherine Applegate of The One and Only Bob, her new novel about a tiny, tough-talking dog.

Bob first sauntered into readers’ hearts in Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, a bestseller that won the Newbery Medal in 2013.

The new book reunites BFFs Ivan, a gentle silverback gorilla; Ruby, a baby elephant; and Bob. This time Bob is the main character rather than Ivan.

All three have been happily removed from the grimy mall circus of Ivan’s story.

The new novel opens with Ivan and Ruby in a wildlife sanctuary. Bob lives nearby with Julia, the daughter of one of the keepers.

Katherine Applegate poses with her dog, Stan, the inspiration for the main character in ‘The One and Only Bob’. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

“I had no intention of writing a sequel,” Applegate told KidsPost from her home in Los Angeles. “I knew the voice would have to be very different. Ivan is a philosopher, an artist. Bob is street smart and funny.”

But she kept hearing the clamour for a Bob tale when she visited schools.

And luckily the inspiration for the beloved character was always close by (and often on her lap) – her Chihuahua mutt named Stan.

“He has a big personality like Bob,” said Applegate, with a laugh. She adopted Stan from a rescue shelter about eight years ago.

In the new book, a rescue shelter is flooded by a hurricane, and a tornado rips through the wildlife sanctuary.

No one can find Ivan. Bob wrestles with doubt and fear. Is he large and brave enough to help his friends?

For the natural disaster, Applegate drew upon memories of a tornado that upended her childhood neighbourhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“It did so much damage,” she said. “I looked out the window, and I could see the inside of my friend’s bedroom. The tornado had taken the roof right off her house.”

At home during the coronavirus pandemic, Applegate enjoys the company of Stan and her two cats, Lightning and Scooter. She’s finishing the third book in her fantasy series, Endling, and putting the final touches on an early reader about an old dog and a lively pup.

Both the print and audio books of The One and Only Bob are available the first week of May.

“Danny DeVito is perfect as the voice of Bob,” said Applegate of the actor who narrates the audiobook. “He sounds wry, funny and sometimes a little sad” – just like the canine character.

DeVito also voices Bob in the upcoming film The One and Only Ivan, which is a mix of live action and CGI, or computer-generated imagery. Sam Rockwell and Brooklynn Prince are the voices of Ivan and Ruby, respectively. The movie release is planned for August.

In the book, Bob is living through a challenging time, and so are kids today, with the coronavirus outbreak, Applegate said. Young people interested in writing might use the extra time at home to keep a daily journal, she suggested.

“Or let your imagination go wild and write whatever you want,” she added. “There’s no need to show anyone unless you want to.”