The One and Only Ivan

By: Katherine Applegate


Evaluation of the Book: There is precise language in this books since it is written in the first person through the eyes of a gorilla. Katherine Applegate did a phenomenal job making sure that the topics she is trying to convey to the readers aren’t too harsh but there, plain to see, all the same. Even though the topics are pretty intense, Ivan is so innocent and really sweet that I think kids can really understand him and start to grasp what is going on around him. The animals contemplate life in captivity and domain vs. cage.


“Sometimes they make chimps look smart.”

There are unexpected insights through the characters to show the readers the humanistic insights and feelings they characters have. These characters while “just animals,” demonstrate more compassion and love than the actual human characters. The care that Stella shows Ruby and even how Ivan treats Bob, the stray mall dog. The only other person we see this in is Julia, the young daughter of one of the caretakers. While the owner is more of a cruel sort of human. The readers can tell pretty early on that he sees the world through dollar signs.

Ivan is pretty chill and calm considering he is a huge silverback gorilla. I feel like the book treats its topics the same way: understated. I listened to the book and then picked it up just to look at the illustrations, which I didn’t know were in there until after I finished listening to the book. Leafing through the pages the I realized the book was not as long as one would think it is looking at the book. The font and the spacing is pretty far apart.

“Memories are precious … they help tell us who we are.” 


How did you learn, and how much were your views and opinions challenged or changed by this text, if at all?
I was not aware that this book was actually based off a real gorilla. That just made the book even more touching for me but it also made me a bit angry. The story already made me upset because of the overall treatment of the animals but man, when I found out it was based off a real story, I couldn’t believe it. I have always been a lover of animals. So the fact this story is based off a silverback gorilla being locked up in enclosed mall, already irked me. Add in the fact that a baby elephant, Ruby, was being introduced and was on the same route of treatment as Stella, the older elephant, my blood started to booooil. Zoo’s are already pretty sketchy and I absolutely refuse to ever go to Sea World. But a mall????? GAAHH!

How well does it address things that you, personally, care about and consider important to the world?
This book addresses some pretty intense, but important, topics. I wasn’t completely aware what I was getting into when I picked up this book. When I read this book I was on some kind of middle grade, animal protagonist bender. The topic of animal cruelty came up and if there is anything that makes me so angry is hearing about animals being hurt. Compassion is another main topic in this emotional book. I think it is important for kiddos to understand this word and see what it looks like, even if they’re reading about it. We live in a crazy world and can always use a little more compassion. I love that Julia tries her best to stand up for the animals because she truly sees the injustice. Her father is filled with self-doubt because he is bogged down with adult worries, and I get that, but sometimes it takes a strong willed little girl to make us realize that we’re trying to justify a wrong.

What is your overall reaction to the text?
I cried. I criiiiied when Stella died. I was sitting in my car listening to the audiobook and was in tears in the parking lot at my place of work. I have always been worried about people listening at the most inopportune moment but I never thought about how the audiobook would actually affect me. I looked like a mess. All because Stella the elephant died. People kept asking me what was wrong afterwards. Yeah, it was great. Other than that, I think it was an amazing and touching story. I really felt for the little girl, Julia. She just want to paint and help. There were so many times that I was choked up while listening to it. The reader did such a good job. I’m not usually an audiobook fan but this one really got me.

Illustrations: Patricia Castelao

Conclusion: Five golden bananas! It’s a Newbery book, of course! I keep seeing that it’s going to become a movie. I don’t know how I feel about this. If I go watch, I’ll probably be a sobbing mess in the movie theatre.

“I like colorful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do.”

APA Style Format: Applegate, K., & Castelao, P. (2014). The one and only Ivan. New York, NY: Harper, An Imprint of HarperCollins.


3 thoughts on “The One and Only Ivan

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