Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate


I read this book for my Literature & Media for Children class. I am using it for the Treasure Hunt (a number), Women Challenge, Bookworm Bitches 2013 A-Z Title Challenge, Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Book Club Friday, and Literary Friday.

Summary from Goodreads: Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all. Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line. Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better. Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

My review for my class: This touching novel tells the story of Ivan the gorilla in short chapters. The chapters aren’t numbered but titled based on their content: “tricks” and “comfort” are examples. This adds a unique spin to the book and encourages the reader to pay attention. There are a few simple black and white illustrations by Patricia Castelao interspersed throughout The One and Only Ivan, mostly of the characters. If there are any negatives to this amazing book, it is these illustrations. As there are not very many and they are not particularly detailed, they don’t really add to the story. Readers would be better off imagining what the characters look like in their own minds. Readers become attached to all the animals in the story and experience a range of emotions, from tears to laughter. The story is very funny and Ivan makes readers laugh out loud with his observations of humans and throwing of “me-balls.” The fact that the novel is based on a true story only adds to its charm. Ivan was a real gorilla who lived at the B&I Shopping Center in Tacoma, Washington for most of his life. Sadly he died last August, eight months after the publication of The One and Only Ivan. He did get to live the last 18 years of his life at Zoo Atlanta with other gorillas. This book is definitely appropriate for children of all ages (as well as adults!), who will love the story of the animals and understand the themes of friendship, family, and love.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars! I cried. So sweet!

5 stars



  1. Pingback: Books Read in 2013 | I Like Big Books

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