REVIEW: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

REVIEW: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Published January 6, 2015

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. –Goodreads

Why I chose this book

I have a bulletin board featuring famous quotes and beginnings of middle school literature. One of the books featured was One and Only Ivan. I had never read the book, but the cover had intrigued me and so it had been on my “list.” One of my students asked me if I had read it and when I replied no, he was adamant that I read it. He said his teacher read it to him in fourth grade and that he remembered it being very good. So, I took his advice and I opened the book.

My thoughts

This book is a strong FIVE STAR book. It is told from a gorilla’s point of view and the word choice is phenomenal. I love how the author uses the word “domain” to describe the cage the gorilla is in. This is what a gorilla would call his living space-even if we do not use that word ourselves. I also loved how the author showed the gorilla changing throughout the book through the way he spoke about his life and the vocabulary he used. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t get into any more detail. Just know that when you start this book, you will be hooked from the start. You won’t be able to put it down. You will also want to go save every animal that is in a small cage or circus. This book will make you think and will change you.

Favorite Quotes

  • “Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”
  • “I like colorful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do.”
  • “Homework, I have discovered, involves a sharp pencil and thick books and long sighs.”
  • “It’s never to late to be what you might have been.”


I highly recommend this book for animal lovers!

I am a middle school teacher who loves to read ALL KINDS of books. I am part of the ARC-sharing group LitReviewCrew, a co-creator for the YouTube Channel Legit KidLit and the Podcast Read to Write KidLit. Check out my Linktree for more:

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