Book Reviews

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate

2018-10-12-16-14-03.jpgWinner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendship. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point of view of  Ivan himself.

Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

My thoughts:

I’d heard for years that The One and Only Ivan is a must-read. I bought it and put on my bookshelf and finally, finally, I read it. Not only read it, but it was our read a loud bedtime story for the nine-year-old in our home. Funny that the other adults in our home always congregated in the living room for story time as well.

I’m not one for spoilers. I’m the person who makes a point of not watching trailers or not reading reviews so my opinion of a book/movie won’t be tainted. I like not knowing what to expect. My expectations were already high for Ivan, as I’d heard from my friends that I “had to read it.” But when we opened page one of the book, I hadn’t even read the back cover. I had no idea what the story was about, or that it was even written from the point of view of a captive gorilla.

Katherine Applegate did an outstanding job imagining what it must be like to be Ivan, raised in a small cage. What it must be like to be his friends. And what Ivan’s voice would be. She captured the essence of Ivan’s world in all ways.

At about the half way point through the book, my son said to me, “This is a great story leading up to the action part.”

I had to chuckle. “I don’t think this is an action story in the way you think. It’s more of a heart-string story.”

“Oh, I see,” he said.

But every night, when I said, “And we’ll end there for tonight.” He responded with “You always stop at the best part.” He fell in love with Ivan.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. You will be inspired. You will want to take action. You will cheer Ivan on.

This is an unsolicited review, I purchased this book from a local bookstore.

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (Jan. 6 2015)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061992278



3 thoughts on “Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate”

  1. It’s funny you mention the adults congregating to listen for storytime. Ivan happens to be one of my favorite books, I read it two years ago.


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