Katie Reads: The One and Only Ivan


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.

Do you like animals? Do you like sobbing uncontrollably?

The One and Only Ivan is a very popular book in schools right now. Like so popular that they just finished reading it in the class I went to observe today (for my teacher’s classes, I don’t just go hang out in classrooms…). So during a quiet moment when the students were silently working on writing, I picked up a copy and plowed through it.

Applegate used a unique style to really capture Ivan’s voice and make the readers feel sympathy for him. And wow do you feel sympathy. Ivan talks about how gorillas don’t waste words, and Applegate follows through on this. The prose is simple and poetic. We really see how Ivan feels, but Applegate does a good job keeping Ivan’s point of view firmly gorilla.

The book has some pretty dark moments, but it has to in order to tell an honest story. It’s unfortunate, but there are many animals that are ripped from their habitats and forced into small cages or other unsuitable living environments. There are also people who use violence to train animals to perform in shows. But like in this book, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be a happy ending.

Good for fans of: sad animal books, animal conservation rights, animals who do art

Not good for fans of: sad endings, people who pretend they have no emotions and never cry ever.

Stay magical readers!

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