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The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, is sweet, emotional, and an all-around amazing book. Ivan, the main character, 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. Ivan is okay no longer living in the jungle. Honestly, he hardly ever thinks about it at all. Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends, Stella, the elderly elephant, and Bob, the stray dog. But what’s the thing Ivan thinks about the most? Art. How to draw, or to describe the taste of mangos in colors, or how to draw the straightest line. That is, until he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home and art through completely 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. It is clear that Applegate has written the book for a younger audience, but I think even adults would appreciate it. Some of the growing up elements in it, particularly in Ruby and Ivan's journeys, are appealing because they explore issues of youth, maturity, and overcoming our past, which is something each and every one of us has to do in some way, at some point. The book also takes a good hard look at the human practice of capturing wild animals, digging deep into what this means for, well, the animals. What emerges is a clear sense that animals matter. The One and Only Ivan doesn't come right out and say that animals can't ever have happy lives in captivity. What it does say though, is that how we treat the animals we keep in captivity really matters. They might not be people, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve comfort and consideration. I highly recommend this story for anybody of any age.

Grade Level:

- Suggested: 3rd-5th

- Advanced: 2nd

- Genre: Realistic-fiction, fiction

- Key Elements: gorilla, art

- Possible Themes: Be able to see things differently

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Happy Reading!

-The Book Lover-

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