The One and Only Ivan

th-3Today I finished reading The One and Only Ivan.  I read this book aloud to my rising 6th grader who when I paused would say “Just one more chapter…please!” and then towards the end of the book changed to “NO!  You can’t stop now!” As a result, the 300 page book was finished in less than 24 hours.

Although I haven’t Googled it to see if I am correct I would say the theme of the book is that living things want and need others to help them through life — no one should be a one and only.  It is a wonderful story of friendship and compassion.

This book won the 2013 Newberry Award and is leveled at F&P S or DRA 40.  It looks like it will also become a Disney movie in the future.  It is an easy and quick read as Applegate writes in short sentences and short chapters.

I think the book could be used with students by highlighting the following chapters:

  • Glossary – The author puts a glossary at the BEGINNING of the book.  This could foster a great conversation about WHY.
  • Names – (p. 2) – Reading this chapter could foster a discussion on the importance of word choice.
  • TV (p. 23) – Ivan a gorilla quickly understands how romance and western movies work after watching them on his TV.  This can easily start off a beginning of the year conversation about genres.
  • Jambo (p.63) – An important mini-story within the larger story that shares the tension between humans and animals in captivity. This could spark a discussion on point of view.

My book had extras added to the end to include Applegate’s Newberry Medal acceptance speech.  It was a wonderful speech and by reading it I learned that the story was based on a REAL gorilla who lived in a shopping mall in Washington.

Here is a link to an NPR interview with the author:


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