Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

one-and-only-ivanThe One and Only Ivan
Katherine Applegate

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Ivan has a small life within the glass walls of his domain in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He watches TV and spends time with Bob, a stray dog, and Stella, an elephant. He makes art using crayons and paper given to him by his owner, Mack. He doesn’t think of his early life or his far away home in the jungle. And then Ruby, a baby elephant comes to the Big Top Mall, and everything changes. The mall is the wrong place for Ruby, and it’s up to Ivan to make everyone see that. He must find a way to show the humans where he and Ruby belong.

My family and I listened to an audiobook version of this story on our way home from vacation. We had listened to Flora and Ulysses a few days earlier, which was a tough act to follow. As The One and Only Ivan began, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. The beginning contains a lot of descriptions of where Ivan lives and who else lives there. It felt like not much was happening. Not much does happen until Ruby comes into the picture. Suddenly Ivan has a goal, a mission, and he won’t stop until he succeeds. For me, the story was much more entertaining at that point. My favorite character was Bob, the stray dog who always has some smart-aleck comment but who has a sweet heart underneath.

At the end of the story is an author’s note describing how Applegate was inspired by a real gorilla’s tale. Ivan was a real gorilla in captivity who spent later years of his life at the Atlanta Zoo (which I really want to visit!) I thought it was really cool to bring a real story into a novel like this.

Though the overall pace was a little slow for me, I did enjoy reading this book. It has been on my To Read list since it came out in 2012, so I’m glad to finally be able to say I read it. If you like stories featuring animals as central characters, this is a definitely must-read.


Cultural Elements
Most of the characters are animals. I can’t remember any race descriptions.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Ivan mentions that he sometimes flings dung at rude visitors. (He’s in a glass enclosure, so it’s ineffective.)

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content

Violent Content

Drug Content



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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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