Review | The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only IvanIvan is a silverback gorilla who has been living in the Exit 8, Big Top Mall and Video Arcade for the last thirty years. He has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. Ivan tries not to think about his long lost life in the jungle. 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 draw the things he sees.

When Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, arrives at the mall, Ivan makes a promise to Stella that forces him out of his comfort zone. To fulfill his promise, Ivan uses art to express his greatest desires as to what he believes will be best for Ruby. But will the humans understand and respond to what Ivan is trying to tell them?

Not only did The One and Only Ivan win the Newbery Medal for 2013, but I saw a handful of great reviews of this book which made me anxious to read it. I wish I could say I liked the book as much as many others seemed to have. Granted, I’m not a huge animal lover and I’ve wondered if that is one of the reasons that I didn’t like the book, but I still enjoy taking my kids to the zoo and love seeing the wonder and awe on their faces as they look at and ask questions about all the different animals.

Ivan’s story has a happy ending, but I got pretty bogged down by his depressing circumstances, which exist for more than three-fourths of the book. And though the book refers to the zoo as a great, wonderful place compared with Ivan’s home in the mall, it made me question my zoo ethics and if I should be supporting any venue that has caged animals.

The One and Only Ivan certainly would be a good tool to use with children to open the dialogue about the ethical treatment of animals in our society and I think most children would really love and care about the animal characters in the book.


Overall Rating:   3 of 5 stars false

Parent’s guide:

  • Sex: none
  • Violence: none
  • Language: none

Order The One and Only Ivan from Amazon, and start reading this week.