Friday, November 13, 2015

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao is a perfect book for any animal loving child. The Lexile measure of this book is 570, which makes this a great book for children from third grade to adulthood. There are not a lot of words on a page, and the chapters are short. The book is thick 301 pages including pictures, so a struggling reader could gain a sense of accomplishment by reading this book.

Published in 2012, this book won the 2013 Newberry award.  Ivan the gorilla narrates his tale of being imprisoned in a small domain (cage) for nearly three decades. He paints, he has friends, and he wants to save a baby elephant from the fate he has been subjected to. He has never seen another gorilla in person since he was kidnapped from his parents and his sister died en route to the U.S.A.

This story shows that the understanding of one person can change bad situations for animals. Applegate based her fictional story on the real Ivan from Zoo Atlanta. You can read about him here. He has passed away, but they have a lot of information about his life. Applegate took creative license and gave Ivan words, and I am okay with that. How do we know how much animals really know. I think they are smarter than we often give them credit.

This book has the potential to make any child an animal activist. Bob the dog was a wonderful friend to Ivan, as was Stella the elephant, but it was Ruby the baby elephant that helped him become a true silverback and protect his family.

Patricia Castelao's illustrations add to Ivan's simple narration. The beautiful, uncluttered pictures help visual learners fully experience the story.

If you have a reader who gets intimidated by a lot of small font words crowded on the page, he or she will love this book. Here is an example of what your reader will experience: larger font with a lot of white space that allows their eyes and their mind the needed space to process. The pages are a soft cream color, also easier for a struggling reader to deal with.

If you or your child love animals, this is a great book to share. 


  1. Lucky you, getting to read children's books and write about them. No matter how old I get, I still love them best.

  2. Books for children, it is the best thing we should educate children, let them read books instead of playing games. I think so!
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