Middle Grade Book Review – The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

After the recent killing of Harambe the Gorilla at the Cincinnati zoo, I was reminded of  one of my favorite books, “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate.



Katherine’s story of Ivan, a gorilla living on display at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade is a poignant look inside his life.    Ivan’s story is told by Ivan himself, in short verses.  True to Katherine Applegates style, I was drawn in by Ivan immediately.  I felt for him as he remembered bits and pieces of the past and how he came to live on display.

Ivan’s point of view also guides the reader through his present life,  of humans gaping at him, his art, his friend the elephant Stella and Bob a stray dog.  It’s not until a baby elephant arrives, Ruby, that Ivan begins to see and want to make a change.  He knows that their lives could all be better.  But how?

“The One and Only Ivan” has some stark realities that may be new to the reader, in the end, Ivan succeeds in his  wish of a better life for himself and all his friends.   Ivan will make the reader cry and laugh, get angry and think about change and how we can make things better.




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