“One day, a still day when the hot air hummed, the humans came.”
~ Ivan, page 128 in THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Age Range: 8-12 years
Grade Level: 3-7
HarperCollins Publishers
Text copyright © 2012 by Katherine Applegate
Illustration copyright ©  2012 by Patricia Castelao


2013 Newbery Medal
2012 Christopher Medal
Gold Medal in Juvenile Literature 2012 California Book Award
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 2013 Crystal Kite Award Winner
#1 New York Times bestseller
School Library Journal Best of Children’s Books 2012
Kirkus Reviews Best of Children’s Books 2012
Amazon 2012 Best Books of the Year
Middle Grade Chicago Public Library Best of the Best 2012
New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
2012 Cybils shortlist
2012 middle grade fantasy (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards)
Texas Bluebonnet Award, 2013-14 Master List

2012 Nerdies Book Award, middle grade fiction
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review, School Library Journal
Starred Review, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


Grab the box of tissue. THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, inspired by a real gorilla named Ivan, will change your perspective, forever! In this illustrated novel told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself, Katherine Applegate has taken the tried and true, “when a stranger comes to town” plot, and authentically created heartache, humor and heroics. Ivan, in and of himself, is remarkable; he creates art. When Ivan meets Ruby, a needy baby elephant, he confronts his fears in order to help his peers. This reflective story about a silverback gorilla’s humanity has a silver lining that will leave you shining.

Like the novel, Patricia Castelao’s drawings are extraordinary, simple, yet, sophisticatedly rendered.

Favorite line
“Someday, I hope I can draw the way Julia draws, imagining worlds that don’t yet exist.”

KEM Sapphire
Katherine Applegate of ANIMORPHS fame has a reputation for weaving humans and animals in unique ways. Her latest narrative combines human emotion and dialogue into the lives of a great silverback and his unlikely collection of friends in the Big Top Mall. Applegate incites sympathy for every one of these characters, not just the indicted performers. We learn to see that the stray dog, the janitor and his daughter, and even the animal trainer have both good intentions and their own personal heartbreaks.

Through quiet, bite-sized chapters, we experience these relationships, the losses each individual has suffered, and the hopes he or she clings to. Although each vignette is packed with emotion and sensory detail, each is also concise enough for readers to digest a little or a lot in one sitting, perfect for a reluctant or busy reader.

Favorite line
“Because she remembers everything, Stella knows many stories. I like colorful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do.”

KEM Diamond
This fictional treasure, based on the captivity of Ivan, a real-life silverback, evokes compassion and empathy for all creatures, great and small.

The extra white space formatting of Applegate’s thoughtful text and Castelao’s moving illustrations calls readers into a deeper contemplation of Ivan’s lonely and desperate experience. This gorilla memoir made me feel the bankruptcy of the collapsing infrastructure and the human flaws and frailties surrounding Ivan and his companions. I cheered for Ivan while he thrived as a primate art prodigy and again, when he rediscovered his true nature as protector.

I’m a better human for having experienced life through Ivan’s eyes.

Thanks to Katherine Applegate and Patricia Castelao for following their creative natures to assemble this poignant story of love and self-worth.

Favorite line
“Humans always smell odd when a change is in the air.  Like rotten meat, with a hint of papaya.”


The One And Only Ivan Book Trailer by Katherine Applegate

Please share your One and Only Ivan comments, too!

2 thoughts on “THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

  1. Sometimes I wonder if the popularity of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN has had a detrimental effect on ticket sales of circuses and roadside zoos. I really hope people who connected with Ivan also make that connection to their own actions. I brought my son to circus protests when he was so little I had him strapped to my back, and I’m currently working to prevent a certain elementary school from sending home circus flyers with the children. It’s all about opening up people’s eyes, and here’s a standing ovation to Katherine Applegate for doing so in such an empathetic, accessible, age-appropriate way!

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