The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

Large Print - 2018
Average Rating:
Rate this:
When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.
Publisher: Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press Large Print, 2018
Edition: Large print edition
ISBN: 9781432860400
Characteristics: 347 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Additional Contributors: Castelao, Patricia
Call Number: LT J APPLEGATE, K


From Library Staff

List - Page Twisters
DCLbookclubs Nov 05, 2016

Book discussion date: March 25, 2019

When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.

When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.

List - Animal Narrators
DCLadults Mar 17, 2017

Having spent years behind the walls of his glass enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. But when a young elephant, Ruby, joins him in captivity, Ivan is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

A touching story told by a gorilla who has spent 27 years in an enclosure at a run-down shopping mall.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Sep 11, 2020

Ivan is a wild gorilla that was sold into the circus industry at a young age. He lives in a shopping mall circus, and is popularly known for his "angry and violent" act in which he roars and beats his chest as a thrill for the audience. When given a box of crayons and paint, the circus leader finds that Ivan has extraordinary artistic abilities for an animal. Life seemed to be going well for Ivan with his new artistic act; however, when new baby elephant Ruby joined the circus, he and his friends Bob the stray dog, Stella the elephant, and Julia the maintenance man's daughter to protect Ruby from the abuse of circus owner Mack and to send her to the safety of the zoo.

I really enjoyed the story of Ivan's journey, it was surprisingly emotional and leaves a good feeling in the reader. I love the uniqueness of the characters in the story as well as the stylistic narration, told through the point of view of Ivan. Though the sentence structure is short and staccato and the diction is straight forward, "I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It's not as easy as it looks." (Chapter 1), the author Katherine Applegate uses this simple structure to build a relationship between the reader and Ivan and his friends. Although this is marked as a children's book, I think everyone should take the time to read this heartwarming story.

Sep 04, 2020

*Spoiler Alert*
I waited a LONG time for this at the library and when I opened it, I was surprised at how large the print was and how few words were on each page. A kid's book. Wow. I was pretty sure I could read this in a day and then return it to the library so that the other hundreds of people can read it. Well, after 35 pages I am done. Yep, another DNF to add to my very long list. I didn't want to have to do that, but that's what it's come to. Sadly this book was nothing like I expected it to be and I certainly didn't expect to read this:
"I used to have a neighbor, a sleek and thoughtful seal, who could balance a ball on her nose from dawn till dusk. Her voice was like the throaty bark of a dog chained outside on a cold night. Children wished on pennies and tossed them into her plastic pool. They glowed on the bottom like flat copper stones. The seal was hungry one day, or bored, perhaps, so she ate one hundred pennies. Mack said she'd be fine. He was mistaken."
OMG, REALLY? If you think I'm going overboard, that's fine, but seriously? Who would put this in a kid's book? And worse, what circus (in a mall? Really? That alone is totally weird) would allow people to throw objects into an animal's home and not expect the animal to eat them? As someone who worked as a volunteer in an aquarium for over two decades and someone who loves marine life, this is what ruined this book for me, and that was from pages 11-12. But I'll put that aside for a minute. Allowing an animal to eat things that they shouldn't be eating and then it ultimately kills them is animal abuse, plain and simple. Just ridiculous. If this book were about a panda instead of gorilla in the same situation, I'd be livid. I have nothing against gorillas, but pandas are treasures.
Even though this is a kids book, I found it really confusing. Could be that a gorilla was narrating (like that's not weird?), but I kept getting lost. I guess it says a lot about me that I got confused reading what appears to be such a simple kid's book, but that probably just means that I found it somewhat boring.
Hey, I really wanted to read this whole book, but given that animal abuse is clearly outlined on Page 11, I'm afraid of what I might find on future pages. The chapters are extremely short. Don't get me wrong-I love short chapters, but having only one sentence just seems like a waste of paper. I wonder if the writer was trying to make this book easier to read but to me it just made it annoying.
Yes, I could have tried to finish this book, but it would have just added to more confusion. And at this point, I don't really have any desire to see the movie that's coming out. Honestly I'm afraid that the seal will be in it.
Life is too short to read boring, stupid books. If you love this book, that's great, but I did not.

Jun 24, 2020

This was a heartbreaking but unbelievably sweet tale of a gorilla who tries his best to help those around him, especially Ruby.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves animals.
It's a good easy book for those who are reluctant readers as the chapters and paragraphs are short.

I cannot wait for the sequel. The One and Only Bob.

ArapahoeAnnaL Jun 04, 2020

Ivan is a sweet, complex character who will win your heart!

Edwamau May 10, 2020

This was a wonderful story. I listened to it and the narrator did a very good job. You could picture Ivan sounding like this if he could talk to you. The stories focus is on Ivan, the gorilla, trying to save a baby elephant from the life of living in a shopping mall zoo. It is based on a true story and would be a good read for Grade 3 to adult.

Apr 26, 2020

A sad but ultimately uplifting story about Ivan, a lonely silverback gorilla, and his animal friends at a decrepit shopping mall sideshow. Beautifully written, tender, and lovely.

jcljessicaj Apr 22, 2020

Katherine Applegate sure knows how to tell a good story. This is such a tender, heartbreaking yet heartwarming story of fighting for those you care about even when you feel like all is lost.

rachh07 Apr 13, 2020

This heartfelt story tells the tale of Ivan a silverback gorilla who lives on display in a shopping mall. Inspired by a real gorilla, Ivan who was captured as a baby and brought to America to live in a shopping mall for 27 years of his life. Applegate has given these animals a voice, told by the point of view of Ivan, who is thoughtful and creative. He observes daily life from his enclosure and try's to understand humans and why some treat him well when others don't. Not entirely unhappy with his life, Ivan spends his time talking to best friends Stella a gentle, wise elephant and Bob a humorous stray dog. This book takes a hard look at humanity and the cruel treatment of animals. It highlights the importance of loyalty, love and friendship. Beautifully written, this book is a must read for both adults and children.

OPL_KIDS Mar 30, 2020

Inspired by a real gorilla who lived in a mall for nearly 30 years, The One and Only Ivan is a fictional story filled with friendship, sadness, hope, and a ragtag group of irresistible animals. During a heart-wrenching plot twist, Ivan makes a promise to an old friend that will not only change his life, but the lives of everyone around him. Despite these emotionally challenging twists, The One and Only Ivan has plenty of fun and optimism that keeps the story light, making it an excellent choice for a fun and quick weekend read. This book would be an excellent option for any animal loving reader or for anyone looking for middle grade fiction featuring animals that talk.

Reviewed by Miss Allison

HelenMep Feb 18, 2020

Based on the true story of Ivan the gorilla, who was kept in a small room as part of a mall attraction in America. This book is written from Ivan’s point of view and really brings to light how cruelly animals can be treated by humans. It does contain some descriptive parts about horrible events in Ivan’s life but it felt real without being over the top. A beautifully written book that I’d recommend for adults as well as older children.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Sep 11, 2020

_sanahi_ thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Jul 19, 2020

manreetd thinks this title is suitable for 9 years and over

indigo_elephant_500 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 8 and 99

May 19, 2018

Number1HorseLover thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

May 18, 2018

blacktealatte thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

May 06, 2018

Hiny thinks this title is suitable for 7 years and over

Mar 10, 2018

navy_moose_59 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 7 and 12

Feb 12, 2018

daisy0001 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 9 and 15

Jul 26, 2017

Divya8720 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

Nov 28, 2016

erica100 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

View All Ages


Add a Quote
May 19, 2018

She's far away, belly deep in tall grass with others by her side.
"She's here, Stella," I whisper. " RUby's safe. Just like I promised."
I call to Ruby but the wind tugs at my words and I know she'll never hear me.
Still Ruby pauses for a second, her ears spread wide like tiny sails.
Then, with lumbering grace, she moves on through the grass.

May 19, 2018

I miss my old cage.

I miss my art.

But most of all, I miss Bob.

My belly's cold without him.

Nov 28, 2016

"Hello, I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It's not as easy as it looks."

Aug 15, 2016

"But here, I had no one to protect"

Aug 15, 2016

"And it's not a domain," I add.

I pause, and then I say it. "It's a cage"

Jul 13, 2016

"My name is Ivan"
"I live in a glass box"

Aug 15, 2015

"I nap when I can."

May 05, 2015

"I gaze at the huge, shadowy box, and suddenly I understand how Ruby feels. I don't want to go into that box.

The last time I was in a box, my sister died."

JCLChrisK Apr 30, 2013

Bob, who has been chewing his tail, pauses, tilting his head. "Is that a true story?"

"I always tell the truth," Stella replies. "Although I sometimes confuse the facts."

JCLChrisK Apr 30, 2013

In my new life as a human, I was well tended. I ate lettuce leaves with Thousand Island dressing, and caramel apples, and popcorn with butter. My belly ballooned.

But hunger, like food, comes in many shapes and colors. At night, lying alone in my Pooh pajamas, I felt hungry for the skilled touch of a grooming friend, for the cheerful grunts of a play fight, for the easy safety of my nearby troop, foraging through shadows. . . .

Sometimes I lay awake, wishing for the warmth of another just like me, asleep in a night nest of tender prayer-plant leaves.

I liked having sips of soda poured into my mouth like a bubbling waterfall. But every now and then, I longed to search for a tender stalk of arrowroot, to feel the tease of a mango, just out of reach.

View All Quotes


Add a Summary
Jun 10, 2015

"The One and Only Ivan" is a novel by Katherine Applegate. Ivan is a silverback gorilla who lives in a stationary circus. Ivan is good friends with the other animals in the circus, especially Stella the elephant and Bob, a stray dog. When Stella dies, Ivan makes a promise to save her young friend, Ruby, from a life of captivity. It takes some time, but Ivan and Ruby are eventually moved to a zoo. "The One and Only Ivan" is a book of great courage and hope.

Jul 25, 2014

Having spent 27 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.

Jul 07, 2013

This book is told from the point of view of the gorilla Ivan. Ivan is treated as a means for income and certainly not a respected animal of God's creation. Applegate's story tells of Ivan's friendships with the other animals in this shopping mall mini-circus.


Basically what we have here is Charlotte’s Web if you took that tiny spider and replaced her with a 300-pound gorilla. Which, to be frank, would normally bode badly for said gorilla. And certainly badly is how Ivan, the titular hero of this tale, bodes when you consider that he is trapped in an off-highway mall circus. Ivan’s never questioned his fate seriously, considering that he’s been there for twenty-seven years. Then one day Mack, the owner of the mall, decides that the only way to drum up more business will be to buy a new resident. There’s already Ivan and Stella, the elephant with an injured foot that doesn’t seem to be getting better. To this mix comes Ruby, a baby elephant not long captured from her home in the wild. Thanks to Ruby, Ivan sees that this is no place for a baby of any sort and he must use all his brains and intelligence to find a way to save not just her but himself as well.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Related Authors


Subject Headings


Find it at DCL

To Top