The One and Only Ivan (One and Only #1)

by Katherine Applegate (Author) Patricia Castelao (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade
Series: One and Only

This stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships.

Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point of view of Ivan himself.

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.

Winner of the Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller!

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author's note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. 


The book’s wide-spaced lines, plentiful white space, and pleasing black-and-white illustrations make this a quicker read than the page count might suggest. Animals fans will enjoy this one.

Hornbook Guide to Children

In short chapters that have the look and feel of prose poems, Applegate captures the voice of Ivan, a captive gorilla who lives at the "Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade." 

Publishers Weekly

Inspired by a true story, Applegate (Home of the Brave) offers a haunting tale told from the perspective of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has been confined to a small "domain" of concrete, metal, and glass for 27 years. Joining Ivan at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade are Stella, an aging elephant, and Bob, a feisty stray dog. While other animals perform, Ivan makes art, watches TV, and offers melancholy assessments of their situation. When Ruby, an inquisitive baby elephant, arrives and Stella dies from neglect, her dying wish is for Ivan to help Ruby escape. The brief chapters read like free-verse poetry, the extra line breaks between paragraphs driving home the contrast between Ivan and humans, who in his opinion, "waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot." As is to be expected, there's significant anthropomorphism, but Applegate is largely successful in creating a protagonist who can understand humans yet feels like a gorilla. Although Ivan's role in the events leading to their rescue reads as too human, readers will be left rethinking our relationship to animals. Final art not seen by PW. Agent: Wernick & Pratt Agency. Illustrator's agent: Kidshannon. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 3-7--This tender tale of friendship and hope is narrated by a silverback gorilla living at The Big Top Mall, a shabby, circus-themed roadside attraction. For years, Ivan was passively content. He had his art, unlimited bananas, and his friends: Stella (an elephant), Bob (a stray dog), and Julia (a human child). Ivan's eyes are finally opened to his deplorable surroundings when he loses a friend due to neglect. The last straw is when he witnesses the attraction's owner abusing Ruby, a newly acquired baby elephant. Thus, Ivan is inspired to take action. With some help from his human friends, his dream of a better life for all the Big Top's animals just might come true. The character of Ivan, as explained in an author's note, is inspired by a real gorilla that lived through similar conditions before being adopted by Zoo Atlanta. Applegate makes a powerful statement about the treatment of animals--especially those living in captivity--and reminds readers that all creatures deserve a safe place to call home. Castelao's delightful illustrations enhance this lovely story, and the characters will capture readers' hearts and never let go. A must-have.--Alissa J. LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI

Copyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Important."—The Horn Book

One of my favorite books of all-time

I loved getting to know Ivan, Ruby, Stella, and Bob. This books will break your heart, AND leave you hopeful.

This book was amazing .

The One And Only Ivan was a heart warming book it all ways changed my feeling's too warm , laugh out loud , heart braking , and mad .

this is so sad and fun to read

so cute

this is a good book

best book ever movie is awsome you should watch it.

i love it

This book is sooooooo AMAZING!!!!!!

I love this book and have reread it so many times. It is so inspiring. I love how it is a series now and I want to buy all the books. You need to read it!!!!

I loved this book

I think this book is super well explained by the author. I love the story line and super well explained characters . It is also so heart warming and just a little bit sad but it happy in the end. It is such a good book!

This book was AMAZING

The book was so interesting, sad and happy all at one time. I just couldn't stop reading till the end. I'm so excited to find out what happens next inside The One And Only Bob. Wonderful books and wonderful author too Amazing Work!

This book i luv

This book was really good. It is super fast to read. It is AMAZING! I would read it again and again. Okey, I might be exagerating but honestly it is good! Trust me! READ. IT.


i love the one and only ivan because ivan is a smart gorilla, bob is a silly dog, and ruby is a cute elephant, but my favorate thing about this book is that its based off of a movie!

amazing book

Edit Your Review

I highly recommend this book It has the Best series' I like about it. is that IVAN can talk to people'the illustrator has done a lot of amazing Books

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
January 06, 2015
One and Only
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV002020 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Apes, Monkeys, etc.
JUV003000 - Juvenile Fiction | Art & Architecture
JUV002080 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Elephants
Library of Congress categories
Bluebonnet Awards
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Nene Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Flicker Tale Children's Book Award
Winner 2013 - 2013
Great Stone Face Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2013
Finalist 2012 - 2012
Newbery Medal
Winner 2013 - 2013
Christopher Awards
Winner 2013 - 2013
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2013 - 2013
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
E.B. White Read Aloud Award
Finalist 2013 - 2013
Sunshine State Young Reader's Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Rhode Island Children's Book Awards
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Kentucky Bluegrass Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2014 - 2015
Virginia Readers Choice Award
Winner 2014 - 2014
West Virginia Children's Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Black-Eyed Susan Award
Nominee 2013 - 2014
Grand Canyon Reader Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Golden Archer Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Maine Student Book Award
Third Place 2014 - 2014
Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
Winner 2014 - 2014
Sequoyah Book Awards
Winner 2015 - 2015
Charlie May Simon Children's Book Award
Honor Book 2014 - 2015
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award
Second Place 2015 - 2015
North Carolina Children's Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Nutmeg Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Massachusetts Children's Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2016

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