The One and Only Ivan

by Katherine Applegate

Other authorsPatricia Castelao (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2012

Call number



HarperCollins (2012), Edition: 1, 320 pages


When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
The winner of the 2013 Newbery medal is a delightful tale with a host of wonderful animal characters. Based on a real life situation wherein a silverback gorialla lived in captivity at a mall for 27 years until rescued and now residing in the Atlanta Zoo.

Ivan, a silverback gorilla whose billboard
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photo, on I-95, shows a snarly, open mouthed animal, co advertised with Stella the elephant who entertain at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall.

The mall where Stella and Ivan live has fallen on hard times. No longer a viable attraction, the owner Mack is moody and out of sorts. To bring life to the attractions, Mack purchases Ruby, a baby elephant who bonds with Ivan.

When Stella dies, Ivan makes the promise to save Ruby from a life of boredom and chains.

This is a lovely tale, infused with political correctness of saving animals in captivity and providing safe and natural abodes.

The story is sprinkled with the humor of Bob, a tiny, scrawny homeless dog. There are some laugh out loud passages in relation to Ivan not wanting to act as stupid as "a chimp", and there are engaging communications between Julia, the daughter of the custodian, and Ivan as together they discover the love of art.

But, the story fell flat for me. I liked it, but it didn't grab and take hold, nor did it softly endear.

Worth the read, but worth the Newbery medal? I'm not sure.
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LibraryThing member krau0098
I got a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program to review. I was drawn to the interesting description and the adorable picture on the cover. It was a sad and touching book, a neat idea and well written.

Ivan has lived in a mall that is a circus of sorts for as long as he can remember. He
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has a little stray dog that comes to sleep with him sometimes and a roomate, an elephant named Stella, who has a bad foot. Ivan contemplates what happens around him in simple yet surprisingly insightful terms. As the circus mall struggles to make a profit, changes are on the way and one of them shows up in the form of a cute and scared baby elephant.

This is seriously a sad and touching book. I cried through half of it, mainly because of the animal abuse throughout. There isn't a ton of outright active animal abuse, most of it is abuse through neglect. All in all f(even though the book has its up points) I still found the story incredibly depressing.

The book is broken down into short entries made from Ivan's perspective. The entries are a page or two long and then the next entry starts. There are occasional, beautiful pictures throughout. Ivan imagines himself to be an artist just like the little girl who accompanies the janitor at night. Ivan's pictures are sold in the gift shop to make additional money from tourists.

Ivan's thoughts are simple but sometimes incredibly insightful. Applegate did an excellent job of creating and capturing the personalities of all of these people and animals in this book. The story does an excellent job of discussing awareness of animal abuse and it is easy to draw parallels from this story to other societal issues such as inequality or racism.

It is a quick read, well written and pretty much impossible to put down once you start it. For such a simple story and such a short book it packs a powerful message. It should be appropriate for all ages but beware at times things get very sad and animals are treated poorly. So maybe watch our for younger kids who are really sensitive to these issues.

Overall I am glad I read it. It is a very powerful story and is done in a clever way. All of the characters are incredibly well done (both animal and human). Just beware it is sad; both the humans and animals are in somewhat depressing situations throughout the story. Also be ready to cry some both in sadness and happiness. A great story to introduce kids to animal rights issues and animal abuse issues. Reminded me of Charlotte's Web a bit at points.
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LibraryThing member beserene
This extraordinary children's novel, which recently won a well-earned Newbery, wraps the reader in the voice of Ivan, the one and only mighty silverback gorilla, who has been caged at a mall just off the highway for most of his life. The story flows from his frank perspective, and Ivan simply tells
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it as it is, which lends the entire book a tone of unadorned melancholy. The language here is almost unbelievably simple but Ivan's viewpoint is incredibly affecting. There were several times during my one-sitting reading of this that I had to set the book down and just cry. You have been warned.

What makes the story itself all that much more extraordinary is that it was based on a real gorilla who did spend much of his life at a cage in a mall. I won't spoil what happens to fictional Ivan by telling you the fate of our real world Ivan, but this book will raise your hopes and your emotional investment more than you could ever expect. I thought I was sitting down to read a cute animal story... what I found was something incredibly moving, encompassing themes of friendship, love, wildlife protection, abuse, and -- especially -- family. Read it. You won't regret it.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Ivan is a gorilla living in a mall just off I-95, along with Stella the elephant and Bob the homeless dog. He tells his story of where he lives now, as the one and only Ivan a silverback with no other gorillas to protect, with Mack, the owner; George, the man who cleans the cages; and Julia,
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George's artist daughter who has a special connection with Ivan, who is also an artist.

This book, based on a true story, was the Newbery Medal winning title this year. I enjoyed it alright, but it's not a standout title for me. Not much happens until well into the story, and I have a hard time seeing kids have the patience for it. I sometimes thought of Charlotte's Web while reading, the way it focused on intelligent animals and had a somewhat sad tone, but I think overall that comparison hurt my opinion of Ivan even more. I kept on thinking there might be a little more to the story, a little more meat to it, but while it was cute I was ultimately left wanting.
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LibraryThing member yvonne.sevignykaiser
A fictional story about a gorilla who lived in a cage in a shopping mall. Based on the real life Ivan, a gorilla who was kept at a shopping mall in Washington until public outcry. He was eventually moved to the Atlanta Zoo where he lived out the rest of his life.

Our neighborhood kids book group
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read this for our October selection. What a wonderful story and plenty to discuss, we also took the time to watch a few videos of Ivan at the shopping mall and then at the zoo.
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LibraryThing member rgruberexcel
RGG: Intense emotion belies the simplicity of the text. A wonderful read for all ages. Possibly a text for DEAR pull-out groups. Reading Interest: 10-YA.
LibraryThing member lindamamak
Based on a true story of a gorilla who lives his life enclosed in a cage and longs to be free
LibraryThing member leyliagray
Absolutely loved this book. Its written from Ivan's (the silverback gorilla) point of view in a stream of thought manner. Each character stood out with a personality of their own. Bob was particularly endearing to me. I wouldn't recommend this book to the younger kids because it did touch briefly
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on the brutality of silverback gorillas (I winced) and harmful practices that befall captive animals in the care of humans. Grades 4 and up should be okay.

The story focuses on Ivan and his relationship with the humans and fellow captive animals around him. When Ruby, a baby elephant, is introduced into his life, it brings about a change that makes him question their captivity and care because of his need to protect the young elephant.

Heartwarming with humor that made me love this book.
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LibraryThing member rachelick
The One and Only Ivan, a gorilla past his prime, is resigned to his cage (not a cage, a domain, he says) when the reader first hears his voice. He is one of a small group of reject animals, who perform at a has-been circus/mall that is on its way to closing. When a young elephant named Ruby joins
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them, Ivan is slowly reminded of his own youth, which he has spent so much time forgetting, and inspired to take action. The simple format and language belies Ivan's complicated character: even when Ivan cannot self-identify as a real adult gorilla, he persists in seeing himself as an artist, and his constant creation is central to the story. The story, told by Ivan in short, matter-of-fact sentences, is poignant, but I had difficulty immersing myself in it-- Ivan's narrative voice is just slightly incongruent with his characterization, and the format is just the wrong side of too choppy. Read for the issue, perhaps, but not for the story.
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LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Heartbreaking and poetic and hopeful. More coming on the blog.
LibraryThing member edspicer
Applegate, K. (2011). The one and only Ivan. New York: HarperCollins. 305 pp. ISBN 978-0-06-199225-4. (Hardcover); $16.99.

Our third elephant book features Ivan who is not an elephant, but a gorilla. Ivan, however, is a friend with Stella, the elephant. Stella has her four feet chained to the floor
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23 hours a day to break her spirit enough that she will allow a dog to walk on her back. Ivan and Stella live in a shopping mall/arcade and their purpose is to bring in customers. In time, an elephant and a gorilla are not enough to draw a crowd. This is when Ruby, the baby elephant enters the story. She is a hit. Customers flock to see her, but Stella whose foot is badly infected dies because, in part, Mack the owner cannot afford to have her treated by a vet. Ivan promises Stella that he will take care of Ruby and make sure that she escapes the mall. To do this, however, Ivan will need to figure out how to use his artwork to free Ruby. Applegate’s control of the pacing in this novel is superb. Ivan begins as a gorilla, somewhat oblivious to the life he should be living. He calls his cage a domain and cannot really see the truth of his circumstances, living in a mall/video arcade. Ruby vibrant personality and Kipling-like questions gradually ease Ivan into an understanding of what it means to be caged. Written in first person gorilla, this book is sure to be popular with readers who love animal stories and for those lovers of sad books, especially when readers come to understand that this book is based on a real shopping mall gorilla from Tacoma, Washington (who ended up in Zoo Atlanta). This poignant, uplifting story is a natural pair with The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant and will appeal to the same, broad audience.

It really birings to light the emotions of the animal; shows teh amount of feelings an animanl may have. WONDERFUL! Q5P5 AHS/Emma V
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LibraryThing member CatheOlson
I was hesitant to chose this book thinking an animal book would be too silly or something . . . but Applegate's Home of the Brave is one of my favorite books ever so I decided to take a chance. And I am SO GLAD I DID. This book was wonderful--heartbreakingly wonderful. I just loved every
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character--both animal and human. Ivan the artistic gorilla, Stella the stoic mother elephant, Bob the tough on the outside but not so tough on the inside dog, and of course Ruby the baby elephant who just wants to be loved. And the humans: George the sympathetic caretaker and his daughter Julie, a bit like Fern in Charlotte's web because she can almost understand Ivan--or at least understand his art. Every character was real--even Mack the owner of the menagerie, though we hate what he's doing, there is more too him than just badness. The situation was just so sad but so well done--the minute I finished the book, I immediately passed it on to my daughter . . . maybe not the best idea to give it to her at bedtime though because I could not get her to turn out her light, she was so immediately drawn into the book. I highly recommend this deeply moving book which teaches compassion towards animals.
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LibraryThing member RefPenny
Ivan is a gorilla in a small circus/zoo at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He was originally a wild gorilla but has now grown used to his man-made ‘domain’ and enjoys drawing pictures that are sold in the gift shop. When a baby elephant called Ruby arrives, Ivan starts to remember his
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childhood and capture and hatches a plan to ensure Ruby has a better life than him.
This book is written by Ivan, so is written in short chunks using simple language. You quickly identify with Ivan and get a sense of what his life is like. This is a beautiful and moving story suitable for children aged 10 and up but would make a great read-aloud for younger children.
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LibraryThing member JRlibrary
A touching story told by Ivan, who is a silverback gorilla.
Would make a great read aloud.
Has some very discussable moments and some great potential quotes since Ivan is quite wise.
LibraryThing member stined
What can a thoughtful, creative gorilla with nothing to do accomplish? What happens when his best friend (an elephant) dies? Do human beings really have heart? In 'One and Only Ivan', we witness the relationship between the animal world and the human world. Based on real events, this fictional
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story is about a captive gorilla that makes a difference in his world.
This book would be a great read aloud. It has short chapters, fairly easy language, and a lot of action.
There were only a couple issues with the book. First, some of the chapters are somewhat disconnected. Second is the obvious bias toward circuses and zoos. Just like Ivan's condition in the beginning of the story, many zoos keep animals in much less than optimal conditions. Other zoos do offer animals great habitats and living conditions. And unlike the elephants in the story, not all circus animals are mistreated.
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LibraryThing member KWROLSEN
The One and Only Ivan is a sweet and at times, very sad, story told from the perspective of Ivan, a domesticated gorilla. The gorilla lives in an isolated “domain” at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall with other captured wildlife. He is saddened by the death of Stella, a captured and sick elephant that
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is forced to perform 3 times per day for only a few tourists. Once Ruby arrives, a baby elephant, Ivan promises to help her escape to a zoo where she will be taken care of properly. Ivan concocts a plan and succeeds with saving himself and the other animals.

Applegate’s writing is creative and emotional. I found myself teary-eyed in many parts of the book. I enjoyed the short chapters and illustrates throughout the novel. The poignant message is important for both adults and children to think about.
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LibraryThing member cinnamonowl
I could not read this book!!! Let me preface by saying I am a vegetarian, and have been since I was a teenager and read Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle. I volunteer weekly at our local shelter and was recently on the board of an animal rescue group. I am extremely sensitive to animal stories, and
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I had a feeling this book was a bad idea.

I made it about 8 pages and had to stop. Not because there was graphic animal abuse, but just knowing how they were living really bothered me. And then one animal died. So, I am taking this book to work, and donating it to my library. I think it will help teach children about animals and how they should be treated. I also saw on other reviews that lots of people liked this book - so it must be cute. What I read was certainly well written.

I gave it a shot, but I just couldn't do it. I know the kids at my school will enjoy it though, and I hope the message sticks in their brain.
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LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
This absolutely adorable, absolutely touching, and basically absolutely awesome. It's a surprisingly quick read, so it doesn't take much time at all to go through the charming little story.

Seriously, my -only- complaint is that it took so long for the book to get to me (it was about four months
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late), but it was definitely worth the wait.

I strongly recommend this to everyone.
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LibraryThing member ladyicewing
The one and Only Ivan is a sweet, kiddish book. I really loved it and recommend it to anyone who loves a short read.
LibraryThing member innermurk
I love a good story from an animal's point of view. This one was a little different from what I'd expected, but it was a very good and quick read. The story takes place in a small circus based in a mall off the freeway. I didn't know until the end that it was based on a true story, but it doesn't
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affect the storyline in any case. The characters were all very well done, believable, likeable, rounded out and each possessing their own agendas, desires, and both good and bad behaviors. The gorilla, Ivan is our point of view character, and we see life through his eyes as he becomes aware of his situation and moves from a survival make-the-best-of-it mode, into developing a plan to help Ruby the baby elephant and ultimately himself.
The chapters are divided up by thought, and the plot really takes you from one thought to another rather than along a chronological storyline. This allows for easily inserting flashbacks, and things that happened earlier in the story without interrupting flow. This also gives a bit more emotional impact on the reader as some chapters consist of one thought, just one sentence, which allows that thought more space to sink in than if it were surrounded by others. Ivan gives out wisdom and insightful observations, without being overbearing as they are simply presented as his thoughts.
There is a good balance of how animals are treated, both cruelly, and kindly, which should give a good platform for children to start thinking about how animals should be treated. The people in the story do good and bad things as well, which is another great point of discussion as there is not a simple black and white bad guy to blame for all the troubles.
I really enjoyed this story and think a wide variety of readers will as well. It is simple enough for younger readers to enjoy, and insightful enough for older ones.
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LibraryThing member SJKessel
Applegate, K. (2012). The One and Only Ivan. New York: Harper.

304 pages.

I've taught one of Katherine Applegate's other books, Home of the Brave, four or five times over the last several years and with each rereading I'm still impressed by Kek's perspective and the level of empathy Applegate manages
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to create for her characters. I was super excited to pick up her latest book The One And Only Ivan.

Appetizer: Ivan is a lone silverback gorilla who has lived in a small exhibit in a mall for decades beside an elderly elephant named Stella, parrots, a macaw and a stray dog named Bob. While Ivan makes do with his small domain, more than anything, he longs to see other gorillas.

After a new young elephant named Rosy arrives at their small mall, it falls to Ivan to help take care of her, bringing up some painful memories and cementing the fact that the small band of animals need a different possibility for their future.

With some parallels to the classic Charlotte's Web and based on a true story, Applegate anthropomorphizes Ivan the silverback gorilla to capture his unique perspective, sense of longing and explore issues related to animal abuse.

At first I struggled with how humanized and well spoken Ivan was. But despite this difficulty of suspending my disbelief, I still found the text to be accessible and a quick read. Each of Ivan's vignette's is short, causing me to think, I'll read just one more...oh, look, I've read fifty pages...."

In terms of topics to teach, Ivan proves himself to be quite the artist. Picasso and Rembrandt are mentioned and a teacher could use these mentions and Ivan's own discussion of art as an opportunity to discuss how art can inspire change and influence emotions. A teacher could also have students research the behavior patterns of gorillas or elephants. You could also focus on issues of animal abuse with students examining instances reported in the news, exploring laws related to the treatment of animals or maybe writing creative stories about animals that include happy endings.

With a little bit of extra work, a teacher could also discuss bias and the way the story leads the reader to see from a particular perspective. (To help draw out the way a book employs ideology to try to sway readers, I might pair The One and Only Ivan with the picturebook Vegan Is Love: Having heart and taking action by Ruby Roth which has caused a bit of controversy and is pretty overt as the title expresses about its stance toward the treatment of animals.)

This is a complex story with a lot of beautiful and poetic language that also takes on a lot of serious and difficult issues: Cruelty towards animals, removing them from their natural habitats, the experience of losing a loved one and of having to take care of others, feelings of isolation, etc.
This novel also serves as an examination of human nature. Ivan and his animal friends have both been loved and mistreated by the humans in their lives. And while humans do largely serve as the villains throughout the book, they aren't always found wanting (pages 102-104, for example).

Dinner Conversation:

"People call me the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback.
The names are mine, but they're not me. I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan.
Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.
Everyone knows the peels are the best part." (p. 2)

"I live in a human habitat called the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. We are conveniently located off I-95, with shows at two, four, and seven, 365 days a year." (p. 6)

"'He looks lonely,' they say.
Not long ago, a little boy stood before my glass, tears streaming down his smooth red cheeks. "He must be the loneliest gorilla in the world," he said, clutching his mother's hand.
At times like that, I wish humans could understand me the way I can understand them.
It's not so bad, I wanted to tell the little boy. With enough time, you can get used to almost anything." (pp. 21-22)

"Because she remembers everything, Stella knows many stories. I like colorful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do." (p. 63)

"When I say the words, they surprise me. "You want me to take care of Ruby."
Stella nods, a small gesture that makes her wince. "If she could have a life that's...different from mine. She needs a safe place, Ivan. Not--"
"Not here," I say.
It would be easier to promise to stop eating, to stop breathing, to stop being a gorilla.
"I promise, Stella," I say. "I promise it on my word as a silverback.'" (p. 112-113)

"It didn't take long for my parents to find my name. All day long, every day, I made pictures. I drew on rocks and bark and my poor mother's back.
I used the sap from leaves. I used the juice from fruit. But mostly I used mud.
And that is what they called me: Mud.
To a human, Mud might not sound like much. But to me, it was everything." (p. 125)

Tasty Rating: !!!!
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LibraryThing member ginarentz
I enjoyed this book and hope that my daughter will read it when she get older. The content is a bit depressing but the characters have amazing voices which gives this little book so much personality. Each character from Ivan to Bob all have great qualitites that can be learned for the younger
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reader. The age I think this book would be appropriate for is the 12-16 years of age. Like I mentioned before, it can get a bit heavy and sad but the ending is a great place to leave off of. All are happy and a reunion between both artists will occur often, I suspect.
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LibraryThing member onyx95
Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade off I-95 is where you will find the One and Only Ivan, a fierce silverback gorilla and all his friends. There is and elephant (Stella), a dog (Bob) and a stuffed gorilla (Not-Tag). When Stella starts to have difficulty performing daily in the center ring for
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Mack, he brings in a baby elephant (Ruby) to try and bring more of the humans in. As a silverback, Ivan feels the need to protect his family and that is what they had all become to him over the many years that he had been at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall. After making a promise to Stella, Ivan uses his own special talents to protect and get a message to Julia, the maintenance mans daughter, the only person that would understand his form of communication.

What a charming and heartwarming story about a group of animals who become a family. Written from Ivan's point of view and in the most simple and unique of ways. Easy to follow and understand all of it while being a touching story also. Deceptively large book with about 300 pages, but several are short pages or have a picture included. The stories and jokes that are told between the animals are an added bonus to let you connect to the animals as characters. Some of the sentences are one or two words and feel abrupt, but over all a very enjoyable story that I am eager to share with my kids. Thanks to HarperCollins and LibraryThing for readers copy.
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LibraryThing member darlingdumpling
Story told from POV Ivan the gorilla, living in a strip mall circus. Very interesting broken up, Avi "Eva" style writing
LibraryThing member agrudzien
Good story and a great book for reluctant readers - the story goes by fast as Ivan is a gorilla of few words.

Based on the true story of Ivan, the gorilla who lived in the Big Top Mall for 27 years, this book gives Ivan a voice he never had when he was there. After years of only knowing his
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"domain" and the few constant companions amid the gawkers and shoppers, a new friend is brought into his life and gives him strength and hope that the Big Top Mall might not be his everything.
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