The One and Only Ivan

Title: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate

Illustrator: Patricia Castelao

Publisher: Harper, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4
Rating: 5/5 stars

Awards: Newberry Medal

In her book, The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate skillfully weaves the emotion of both human and animal as they relate to one another. This poetic novel is a must read for all animal lovers. Ivan, a friend-to-all silverback gorilla, spends his days at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, as a showpiece to shoppers and mall-goers alike. He and his other animal compadres were a revenue-inducing gimmick the mall owner added to a once-failing mall in an effort to avoid bankruptcy. For a while, the animals brought hordes of visitors however, more recently the visitors trickle more and more slowly.   The struggle Ivan endures, coming to terms the actuality that his habitat is actually a cage, endears the reader.  However, all hope is not lost as Ivan searches for a way out for at least one of his animal friends all the while worrying that her new home must have someone to tell her stories when she can’t fall asleep.

Applegate uses simple poetic verse to encapsulate Ivan’s simple animal mind and sparse habitat. However, with little words, she paints a picture of a compassionate gorilla who cares more about the well-being of other newer additions to the mall than he cares for himself. Her use of metaphors and similes are a surprisingly simple way Ivan compares the life of a gorilla to the lives of his human visitors. Castelao uses simple black and white drawings to mimic the simple life of the animals, but also includes intense shading in the illustrations which align with the deep emotions of both animal and human.  The rhythm of each word creates a drum beat slowly quickening towards the climax of the novel. Ivan will draw a novice poetry reader into the genre with a story that is poignant and passionate. An added bonus is the fact that this poetic novel is based on a true story.

Review Excerpt: “Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates.” –Kirkus

Related activities: In library class, students can research other animals who have become famous for their own artistic expression.

Works Cited:

Applegate, Katherine. 2012. The One and Only IvanNew York: Harper.

“The One and Only Ivan.” Kirkus Review October 15, 2011.


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