Late to the show: The One and Only Ivan

Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015. 341 pages. Hardcover $21.29, ISBN 978-0-06-242524-9; Tr. $6.84, ISBN 978-0-06-199227-8; PLB $13.71, ISBN 978-1-48983-627-4


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes


Genre: Animal stories


Part of a series? No.


Plot Summary:

This story, told by Ivan the gorilla, relates Ivan, Stella the elephant, Bob the “wild” dog, and Ruby the baby elephant’s tale of woe, stress, and victory. Their “victory” is bittersweet as not everyone can survive the cruelty that humans perpetrate upon animals. As Ruby says, however, not all humans are bad, and it’s up to Ivan to find a way to persuade good people to help him and his friends find a better life outside of cages.


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Be prepared to cry your eyes out! This is a sweet, beautiful, and extremely poignant book. I cried several times while reading it (reinforcing my “no books with animals on the cover” rule!). It’s definitely a worthy read, but have some tissues handy if you use it for a book club.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great book club book. There are many topics that come up throughout the novel that would lead to powerful group discussions — animal rights, art, and humanity could all be fruitful topics. A book club activity could be finger painting or watercoloring like Ivan does. (Ideas from myself)


Grade Level: 3-6


Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2013

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 2/1/12

Kirkus Reviews starred 10/15/11

Newbery Medal 2013

School Library Journal starred 1/1/12


Reviews referenced:

Eisenhart, M. (n. d.). The one and only Ivan (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Bird, E. (2012, March 7). Review of the day: The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Publishers Weekly. (2011, Nov. 14). The one and only Ivan (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from


Does anyone die? :  YES. Stella dies and it is very sad. Ivan survives.




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