The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

4.6 433
by Katherine Applegate

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Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself.



Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself.

Having spent 27 years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

The One and Only Ivan was hailed as a best book of the year by Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Amazon, demonstrating it is a true classic in the making. In the tradition of timeless stories like Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan's unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope. An author's note depicts the differences between the fictional story and true events.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 3–7—This tender tale of friendship and hope is narrated by a silverback gorilla living at The Big Top Mall, a shabby, circus-themed roadside attraction. For years, Ivan was passively content. He had his art, unlimited bananas, and his friends: Stella (an elephant), Bob (a stray dog), and Julia (a human child). Ivan's eyes are finally opened to his deplorable surroundings when he loses a friend due to neglect. The last straw is when he witnesses the attraction's owner abusing Ruby, a newly acquired baby elephant. Thus, Ivan is inspired to take action. With some help from his human friends, his dream of a better life for all the Big Top's animals just might come true. The character of Ivan, as explained in an author's note, is inspired by a real gorilla that lived through similar conditions before being adopted by Zoo Atlanta. Applegate makes a powerful statement about the treatment of animals—especially those living in captivity—and reminds readers that all creatures deserve a safe place to call home. Castelao's delightful illustrations enhance this lovely story, and the characters will capture readers' hearts and never let go. A must-have.—Alissa J. LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI
Publishers Weekly
Inspired by a true story, Applegate (Home of the Brave) offers a haunting tale told from the perspective of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has been confined to a small “domain” of concrete, metal, and glass for 27 years. Joining Ivan at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade are Stella, an aging elephant, and Bob, a feisty stray dog. While other animals perform, Ivan makes art, watches TV, and offers melancholy assessments of their situation. When Ruby, an inquisitive baby elephant, arrives and Stella dies from neglect, her dying wish is for Ivan to help Ruby escape. The brief chapters read like free-verse poetry, the extra line breaks between paragraphs driving home the contrast between Ivan and humans, who in his opinion, “waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.” As is to be expected, there’s significant anthropomorphism, but Applegate is largely successful in creating a protagonist who can understand humans yet feels like a gorilla. Although Ivan’s role in the events leading to their rescue reads as too human, readers will be left rethinking our relationship to animals. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
Shelf Awareness
“Discover an animal hero that will take his place with other courageous and beloved animals such as Babe, Mrs. Frisby, Charlotte and Wilbur. Adults reading this aloud with children will find it just as rewarding.”
The Horn Book
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books


Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“Animal-loving youngsters and their adults will find plenty of food for thought in Ivan’s extraordinary story.”
Patricia MacLachlan
“A beautifully written, intelligent and brave book. You will never look at the relationship of humans and animals in the same way again. Quite simply, this story is life changing.”
Gary D. Schmidt
“The One and Only Ivan will break your heart—and then, against all odds, mend it again. In cheering for Ivan and his friends, we cheer for our own humanity and our own possibilities. Read this.”
Kathi Appelt
“Katherine Applegate’s beautiful, life-affirming story will soar directly from Ivan’s heart into your own. Read it out loud. Read it alone. Read it.”
Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
"Some animals live privately, unwatched, but that is not my life." Thus begins the self-told story of Ivan, a silver back gorilla on permanent display at the Big Top Mall, off I-95. He "belongs" to Mack, the down-on-his-luck mall owner. He has a few non-gorilla friends: Stella, an aging, ailing elephant and Bob, a stray dog, are his closest. Ivan prefers to call his cage a domain. It contains a pool of dirty water, a tire swing and lots and lots of hard concrete. One wall is painted to look like a tropical forest. From time to time, Mack turns on a TV for Ivan. But that's not all there is to Ivan. He's an artist. Mack gives Ivan crayons and paper, and his framed creations sell for , but Ivan remembers when he got to finger paint with mud. He also remembers the sound of leaves, the taste of tropical fruit and Tag, his sister who died during their capture. The brightest time in Ivan's life is when the night time janitor, George, brings his daughter, Julia, who visits the gorilla. Just as his life seems set forever, a new friend arrives, a baby elephant named Ruby, who inspires Ivan to view his "home" through new eyes. One night, Julia brings finger paints and paper for Ivan, then calls the local news to tell them about this remarkable artistic gorilla. As the public becomes aware of Ivan and his captive friends, a movement to find Ivan a better home grows. Finally Ivan is lured into a large crate and he is moved again, to a zoo. But will Ivan's life be any better? Will he ever see Rudy, Bob or Julia again? This story is based on a true account of a shopping mall gorilla, which was moved to an Atlanta zoo and became a beloved celebrity with his own gorilla friends/family. This tale is, in turn, horrifying and heartwarming. Applegate captures Ivan's voice well: she writes in short paragraphs, and makes Ivan come alive. No young reader who experiences this book will look at a zoo animal the same again. Castelao's illustrations add a winsome charm. Well done! Reviewer: Judy Crowder
Kirkus Reviews
How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage. Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human--except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and, rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers' passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout. Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author's note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Sales rank:
570L (what's this?)
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years


What People are Saying About This

Patricia MacLachlan

A beautifully written, intelligent and brave book. You will never look at the relationship of humans and animals in the same way again. Quite simply, this story is life changing.

Meet the Author

Katherine Applegate's many books include the Roscoe Riley Rules chapter book series, the picture book The Buffalo Storm, and the award-winning novel Home of the Brave. With her husband, Michael Grant, she wrote the hugely popular series Animorphs, which has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide.

Katherine was inspired to write The One and Only Ivan after reading about the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla. The real Ivan lived alone in a tiny cage for twenty-seven years at a shopping mall before being moved to Zoo Atlanta after a public outcry. He was a beloved celebrity at the zoo, which houses the nation's largest collection of western lowland gorillas. Ivan was well known for his paintings, which he "signed" with a thumbprint.

Katherine lives in California with her husband and two children.

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The One and Only Ivan 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 433 reviews.
Mnloonsong More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book. It is told from the viewpoint of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who is an artist. The language is beautiful. I read it to my 4th grade class and they LOVED it! The students wanted to learn more about poaching and how zoos work. I would HIGHLY recommend this book. Adults will love it also!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this for my 4th grader, but started reading it myself to see if it was appropriate before I gave it to her. I found myself literally crying tears of joy upon reading the end of this story. Ivan is more humane than most humans, as Stella is more patient & wise. Bob is a scene-stealer with his painfully insightful comments about us humans. A wonderful story for all ages!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read for ages 9-90. I don't want to use too many words, you'll understand once you read the book. Get your box of crayons and tissue ready.
KuuipoSays More than 1 year ago
Loved, the book and touched me very deeply because I knew the real Ivan.Here are some details.  Ivan was born in 1962 in Africa and came here at 6 months. In 1994 he finally found a grand home at the zoo in Atlanta. Ivan lived there until last summer where he died at the ripe old age of fifty which is ancient for a gorilla. Most don't live past thirty-five.. Our entire community was deeply saddened by his passing. No one had ever forgotten him; he was special to us. His ashes have been returned to his home here and a memorial with a statue of him will stand in  beautiful local park where he will be remembered for many years to come. As I said, I grew up with Ivan and can fill in his story. He lived a big store called the B&I in Lakewood, WA for twenty-seven years.  Like most of the people who grew up during the Ivan years 1962 - 1994, I remember him vividly. I was a child in the 70's and didn't realize how alize how unfair it was to Ivan to have no other gorillas. I do remember not liking his cage. It had been state of the art in the 1960's but it didn't age well. Although we were ignorant at the time, Ivan was adored by all of us. To the owners of the store who bottle and spoon fed him as an infant, he was part of their family. Really, though, it felt like he was a part of all of us. As a kid, it was a BIG deal to see Ivan and anyone of us from that era have only fondness and love for him. As we aged nd scientific knowledge of gorillas grew,  we knew it was wrong & cruel to keep him behind glass in a concrete enclosure so we were overjoyed when Ivan found a home in the Atlanta zoo. He had a home where he could be outside in fresh air, interact with other gorrilas and be stimulated by his envioronment rather than caged.  There was also a wistfulness for him too. We missed Ivan immensly. Over the years we kept tabs on him, but the internet really gave us the ability to see pictures and his wonderful home. Ivan has a Facebook page where anyone can see him. Go check him out. You will see the tremendous happiness when the page appeared with many comments and memories. You'll also see the heartache at his passing. You will also see this book reference many, many times. We loved him. Go check him out!.    
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book tells about a gorilla stuck in a circus with two elephants. I'm 10 years old, and our librarian read this book to us and we all loved my class was so exited when she read that book to us so, BUY IT NOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
bunsmomtl More than 1 year ago
Love this book! I laughed and cried. This a book that should be on school's reading lists.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was spectacular, and, so far, the only book ever to quench my unsatiable hunger for new books for two whole days (with the exception of Pride and Prejudice). I cried through nearly the whole book and it was so sweet! The One and Only Ivan is a must-read book for EVERYONE. Personally, I am not an animal-lover and, when I found out this was an animal-centered book, was a bit skeptical, but I love it. It is an amazing read and everyone and anyone should read it. It ought to be on the required reading list of EVERY school in the nation and in the world. New favorite book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i read the one and only ivan it made me cry it was really sad and it was awared the nebary honnor book of 2013
7hir7een More than 1 year ago
I requested this book for review from LibraryThing because I was a big fan of the Animorphs series, penned by Applegate as K. A. Applegate, when I was young. I had never read anything other than these books by her before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I did suspect, however, that I would like it. I was right. I am very glad that my receipt of the novel was only delayed and not cancelled, because it would have been a shame to miss this one. The One and Only Ivan is a wonderfully written, feel-good novel. It is a novel written from the perspective of a gorilla named Ivan. For years, he has been a feature of the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He has lived in his domain making quiet observations about the humans that come to stare at him through the glass panes. He doesn’t think about his old life in the jungle. That’s the key to living in his existence — his twin sister couldn’t let the jungle life go, and died as a result. There are no other gorillas at Exit 8. His only friends are an elephant named Stella and a skinny, stray dog named Bob. When a new elephant baby named Ruby is brought in to help salvage the business, Ivan is torn between his seeming inability to make any headway with the humans and fulfilling his promise to secure Ruby a better life. If there was ever any doubt that a children’s novel could make an adult tear up, The One and Only Ivan dispenses with this notion. I don’t even like monkeys, and am not particularly fond of gorillas either. But the talent of the author’s storytelling overrides my original biases. Applegate is so wonderful at writing from Ivan’s perspective — taking an outsider’s probable observations of humans and putting them to paper in a way that is simple, yet poignant and often funny, charming, and sometimes alarmingly resonant. The messages of this novel are much like that of a well-crafted Disney movie or something of the like that is widely held to be enjoyable by children and adults alike. The content is simple and whimsical enough for children to enjoy, but the lessons about humans and their differing treatment of animals is serious enough to give adults something to consider when they are done reading. I highly recommend this novel. Applegate has proven, once and again, that she is a talented author. Even if you don’t particularly like gorillas, don’t let that stop you. The One and Only Ivan is a novel that transcends the characters; it is a story of humanity and the thoughts and feelings of animals that we are often too quick to ignore. This book was obtained freely through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Succh a wonderful book!!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This beautifully written book has truly touched my soul. Told in animal voices, Applegate reveals their stunning everyday insights and offers an honest portrayal of their lives in captivity.It is easy to see why this wonderful book was awarded the 2013 Newbery Award. Highly recommend for grades 4 and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One pf the very BEST books i ever read.If i cuold give it more stars i would.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the One and Only Ivan the story takes place in a mall where Ivan and other animals live in cages. Ivan a silverback is no longer interesting to people and causes Mack the owner to lose money. When a new animal comes in to earn more money Ivan has to try getting her out to a better place. He promises Stella a different animal that he will get the new animal out. Ivan then has to use his very small art skills to help get the new animal out. I gave this book 5 stars because I liked the characters and how an animal could be so smart. I liked how Ivan used his skills to get the new animal out. I never got bored because everything kept coming after another. I would recommend this book to everyone because it’s so good.
kherbrand More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the Newbery Challenge.  It won the Newbery award in 2013.   When I first started it, I didn't know how I was ever going to get into it - as the dialogue was between Ivan, Stella and Bob - a gorilla, elephant and dog.  I thought it was going to be very childlike.  Well, I thought wrong.   It wasn't long before I was genuinely interested in the well-being of these three friends.  They cared about one another and were really more family than friends.  This family expands when a baby elephant is brought into this strange zoo-in-a-mall.  Her name is Ruby and Stella takes her under her wing.  Unfortunately Stella is old and her health is failing.  She teaches Ruby as much as she can before she passes.  Ivan does promise her that he will make sure that Ruby does not stay at the mall forever like they have.   With that promise on his mind and in his heart, he starts a campaign to try to get people to understand that they want to be outside with other animals like them.  He has been creating "art" that is sold at the mall for years, but now he starts to draw a bigger picture using many pieces of paper.  He hopes the young girl who always comes to visit him will be able to figure out what he is trying to say.   I really enjoyed reading this book, and found it even more interesting when I discovered it was loosely patterned after a real gorilla named Ivan.  This gorilla also lived at a mall for twenty seven years before the public outcry that sent him to live at Zoo Atlanta with other primates.  There are some great themes here regarding friendship, bravery and cruelty to animals.  And yes, it does deal with death, but I think it handles it in a way that young children can handle.  
novel-lady More than 1 year ago
Finally, a Newbery book that will appeal to the majority of young readers. This is the perfect story for families & teachers to read aloud. Beware: you will be moved to tears of happiness. (Librarianreader)
book4children More than 1 year ago
Holy smokes did I ever love this book! It had such an emotional connection for me. It was a really quick read, so I finished it in one short sitting. I can totally see why this book won so many awards last year. It deserved them. It is a touching read that will stay with you long after the last page is read. It's a beautiful, beautiful story. I loved getting to know Ivan and follow him as he searches for a way to keep the impossible promise he made to a friend. His story was so touching, it had me sobbing as I cheered for him and his friends. I still get choked up when I think about it. Seriously, an amazing story. Highly recommended!
classicalall More than 1 year ago
I was an Elementary Public School Teacher and I read about Ivan quite awhile back.  My specialties were 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.   I am going to read it again and have my grand, great grandchildren and children read it to those too young to read. I, too, would recommend it  to ALL ages, as I am now almost 83.  READ IT, if you have a heart, you'll have to LOVE it. 'classicalall'
steveforbertfan More than 1 year ago
Every person should read this book, it is warm, charming, sad, happy and all of a sudden Ivan becomes alive in your heart! A Great book for kids and for adults who are kids at heart
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was grate i dont even know what to say but this book is gtate for kids 5+
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Summary Ivan, a mighty Silverback Gorilla, lives at the “Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.” He is part of a small circus with a small dog named Bob, and an old Elephant named Stella. Ivan has been part of the circus for 27 years. As life goes on, less and less visitors come to see Ivan, who is locked up in his domain. But hopes go from bad to good for a bit as a new animal arrives. Her name is Ruby, she is a young Elephant. Even though more visitors come to see Ivan and Ruby, the owner of the circus is forced to sell the animals and the property to avoid bankruptcy. All of the animals were moved. Ivan and Ruby in particular went to the Zoo Atlanta. Bob was adopted by the daughter of the janitor for the former property. Ivan and Ruby were more satisfied there because they were with more of their kind. Book Review I liked this book. The pictures were very detailed, so I was able to vision what was happening in my head. If there weren’t any pictures I could still get a picture in my head with the adjectives that Katherine Applegate used. I was able to get the story from Ivan’s perspective of view. If you like animals and heartbreaking stories, this is one to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ivan is an gorilla artist that lives in the big top mall in captivity. He hardly remembers hisnold life as a wild silverback gorilla or any of his family. He dosent find his life so bad because he has his friends, bob, a stray dog, and stella, an elderly elephant.but when a baby elephant named ruby comes to the mall, he must save her so she can roam the outdoor zoo. The genre of thie book is realistic fiction, but what makes it unique is that it is told from ivans point ov view. The one and only ivan is a terrific book.
AnnieGarr More than 1 year ago
My 4th grade daughter & myself loved this book. Easy read. Hartwarming.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It made me cry to the very last minute. It was maybe the best book I read in a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book i've ever read. I found my self crying, laughing, and awing. I think this is a great book for any one. Take it from a 12 year old. ( that's how old i am.) READ THIS BOOK!!!! NOW!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They should make a movie