Quick Thoughts: “The One and Only Ivan”

“The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate

Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade Fiction

GoodreadsSource: Library

Summary from Goodreads:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.


Even though this book has been praised and awarded, I was still hesitant to read it. I’m really not an animal story fan. I like animals well enough but animal stories aren’t really enjoyable for me. Just as I expected, I liked the story okay but didn’t love it or anything. Ivan does have an interesting story but in some places it felt a bit ‘preachy’. By ‘preachy’ I just mean it felt very in your face about how bad Ivan’s situation was.  Maybe it was because I’m an adult and already know that Ivan wasn’t in a good situation for animals but that message got to be annoying.

The style and narration was not what I was expecting. It’s told through first person and had a very free verse style going. I guess that makes sense because gorillas don’t know English/have the same level of understanding as us. It needed to be told in that way to capture Ivan’s voice properly but I wasn’t a fan of it.

The bottom line? It was an okay read. Might be more enjoyable for younger readers and/or animal story fans.


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