The One And Only Ivan Katherine Applegate Book Review

The One And Only Ivan is quite a departure from Katherine Applegate’s Animorphs series, allowing for Applegate’s writing to truly shine in this middle grade break out novel. Ivan is a silver back gorilla who has lived in captivity as a feature at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall And Video Arcade for 27 years. He is resigned to his fate. Until one day a baby elephant named Ruby arrives and Ivan must make a change.

The One And Only Ivan Katherine Applegate Book Cover

The One And Only Ivan

Katherine Appelgate uses an unusual writing style in The One And Only Ivan. It is told from the first person point of view of Ivan. Ivan is not one to waste words and feels that humans talk too much. The prose is sparse and is very close to being free verse. The style absolutely works for the story and does not feel gimmicky.

The One And Only Ivan has a stellar cast of characters. One roots for Ivan and hopes he will leave The Big Top Mall. The best thing, however, about Ivan is seeing his interactions with the other characters. We get to see how much Ivan cares about his friends: Bob, the free dog, Stella the old elephant with the vast memory and young, stubborn Ruby. Even the humans are interesting characters  – not all of them are portrayed as bad.

The book effortlessly weaves themes of captivity and animal mistreatment. One can see how for the elephants, the mall is not nearly as spacious for them – it’s not an ideal living situation. Ivan’s boredom from his captivity intersects with his discovery of art — and how the ways he uses art mark his changes. THEN we also get themes of principles and sticking to one’s convictions, all wrapped up in a wonderful package.

The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is a quiet read, but absolutely recommended to young animal lovers. It is full of heart and a touching, affecting story.

Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.

Other reviews of The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate:

Abby The Librarian
Krazy Karyn’s Books And More

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I reviewed this one recently too and loved it. Such a heartfelt, memorable book. Definitely one to keep an eye on for next year’s Newbery.

  2. Lovely! I get to meet her tonight–she’s signing at Once Upon a Time in Montrose, CA.

  3. I want to have a classroom just so I can fill it with all the middle grade books you recommend.

  4. This sounds like a highly intriguing read. I wonder who Ivan is based off of? Maybe her husband the infamous Michael Grant? lol

    Great review April.

  5. I saw this one on the Vine but knew it would make me cry. Animal mistreatment is one of my hot-button issues–poor Ivan! It does sound worth some tears, though.

  6. So sweet sounding! Seeing all these younger books you review makes me wish I had kids or knew people who have kids… okay, I actually don’t know many people who don’t have kids, but none of them are really old enough to talk books with yet. Luckily, I have several friends (with kids) who are readers so you’d better believe I’m gonna be pushing some April-reviewed books on them in the next few years so they can share them with their kiddos!

  7. This sounds like the perfect birthday gift for my Grandmother! (She has Alzheimer’s, but loves to be read to – and her birthday is coming up soon! She’s also an animal lover, and this sounds perfect to keep her attention!)

    Thanks for the great review April – I hadn’t heard of this one before.

  8. My household would love this book…all of us. Plus the cover is great. One of my girls has three Animorphs books checked out from the library right now.

  9. Aww, this book sounds so sweet and kind of quietly serious. I’ve never read any of Katherine Applegate’s books before, but this one sounds like winner. 🙂

  10. Yay! I’ve been waiting for this review, a middle grade animal book by the author of Animorphs? Sign me up! I love the themes presented, and I’m really glad that it was done in a way that doesn’t portray all humans as bad.

  11. lovely review. i just met katherine last week at a signing and she was great in person. she talked a lot about the real live ivan and how she was inspired to write the book. i will definitely be picking it up.
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  1. […] how Katherine Appelgate writes – especially her award winning fiction. I absolutely loved The One And Only Ivan which won the Newbery award. So, obviously I am not the only person who thinks Appelgate has […]

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