The One and Only Ivan

Living at Big Top Mall, Ivan, the gorilla, knows only the world he can see through a thick glass wall and hear about from Bob, the stray dog who visits via the small broken piece in the cage. Wise Stella, the elephant, gives glimpses of a life in captivity, but it’s not until Ruby, the baby elephant, arrives that everything changes.

Stella dies. Ivan consoles Ruby by reaching way back into his memories he didn’t know he still had and tells her stories of his parents, his sister and playing in the vines. Then come stories of capture and fear and living with humans.

Humans, in The One and Only Ivanare complex. Humans have saved animals’ lives and humans have been cruel. Two humans prove to be the kind of friends that Ivan and Ruby need most–the kind that listen, care and help.

Told through Ivan’s voice, Katherine Applegate has crafted a graceful masterpiece about friendship and as much freedom as we can get.

Explore animal care and the real gorilla Ivan was modeled after.


About AnEducationInBooks

Wendy BooydeGraaff is the author of Salad Pie, a children's picture book published by Ripple Grove Press. Her work has been published in Emrys Journal Online, The Emerson Review, Jellyfish Review, Bending Genres, SmokeLong Quarterly and Leopardskin & Limes, and is forthcoming in NOON. Read more work at or find her on Twitter @BooyTweets.
This entry was posted in Children's novels, social issues, strong characters, Voice and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The One and Only Ivan

  1. Anonymous says:

    Applegate is deeply concerned about a number of animal-welfare-related issues that come to the fore in this book, some of which are more complex than can be addressed in the voice of a gorilla in a book for 8-year-olds. Interesting discussions may ensue — one reader may feel that the narrative (and the glossary) suffers at times from didacticism or information overload, while another could be moved to become the next Jane Goodall .

  2. Thanks for discussing this book. It looks very powerful.

  3. Congratulatons to Katherine Applegate on her Newbery Book Award for The One and Only Ivan!

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