Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Genre: Fiction Age Level: MG Series: N/A Pages: Hardcover - 300 Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: MG
Series: N/A
Pages: Hardcover – 300
Publisher: Harper

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.


The One and Only Ivan is a surprisingly deep and thoughtful story for such a short book and touches on subjects that I am passionate about. The fact that is is based on a true story made it all the more poignant.

The story takes a stand against how humans treat animals and while not being graphic, paints a pretty horrific picture. I do not believe in caging animals and am even against zoos to a point, though I do see their benefit. Circuses are known for being the worst in terms of treatment of animals from training methods to the performances themselves and I am glad that this story showed the true horrors of living there. The story also touches on hunting and the subject of raising baby animals. What happens in the story is exactly what happens in real life – the baby animals are cute and fun to take care of, but once they get to big they get shoved in a cage somewhere – if they’re lucky. At the same time the story showed that humans are capable of good; helping and caring for animals and how this good can win in the end.

I enjoyed the way the story was executed, with super short chapters and lovely writing. Ivan’s perspective was truly great and not overly anthropomorphized. He is an artist who has buried his memories of the past and replaced them with the tedium of life at the Big Top Mall. There is also Stella, a kind elephant; Ruby, who is young and curious and Bob who is smart and tough.

This story sucks you in from the first page so only pick this up if you have enough time to finish it in one setting. Its a super easy read with cute illustrations scattered throughout the story so it moves quickly. When the story ends, I guarantee you will have a smile plastered on your face because the ending is perfection.

I recommend this story to fans of Charlotte’s Web as this is yet another middle grade book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.


Have you read this book? What did you think? 


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