the one and only ivan by katherine applegate

The One and Only Ivan is the winner of a Newberry Medal and is on the 2013-2014 Bluebonnet Masterlist, a candidate for the Texas state award for MG literature (the kids vote for their favorite). The book is told from the perspective of a gorilla (Ivan) who is part of a road-side attraction at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Anyone who has been to the circus and seen the tigers will know that this story can’t be a happy frolic.

As much as I was looking forward to this novel, the writing was difficult for me to enjoy. It is very Spartan—gorillas don’t use many words—so the beginning of The One and Only Ivan is choppy. It is worth reading, though, because the story has a very sweet finish. I think many Texas kids will enjoy this book and it might win the Bluebonnet award.

Theology: Gorillas don’t believe in God

The One and Only Ivan is a secular novel. It’s one of those novels that highlight how animals are treated in captivity and the cruelty that can be associated with such conditions. Zoos are held in a positive light in this novel (as many should be). While I believe animal cruelty should be the object of scrutiny, I wish some people were as concerned about humans as they are animals.

Rating: G

The book is clean and appropriate for all ages.

Social Issues:

The treatment of animals.

Have you read The One and Only Ivan? If so, what did you think? If not, what is your favorite Newberry winner?


2 thoughts on “the one and only ivan by katherine applegate

  1. I haven’t read this one. Honestly, I haven’t read many of the more recent Newbery winners. Now that my daughter is learning to read, I’ll have to start. My favorites in the past have been Johnny Tremaine, Rifles for Watie, The Golden Goblet & especially The Bronze Bow. (I tend to like all Elizabeth George Speare’s books, though.)

    Is it subtle with the animal cruelty preachiness? I like books to have some sort of message but I prefer when it is subtle rather than beating you over the head or manipulative.


    1. Wow- I’ve never read any of your favorite Newberrys. Interesting…

      I wouldn’t call the animal cruelty subtle, but it certainly isn’t gratuitous. It’s somewhere in the middle = realistic? The book is based on a real gorilla that lived in a mall for 26 years.


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