Want personalized picks that fit your family?
Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.
The One and Only Ivan
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 2013 Newbery Medal winner The One and Only Ivan, by Animorphs co-author Katherine Applegate, was inspired by the true story of a gorilla who, after more than a quarter century of captivity in a tourist trap, now lives happily in a fine habitat at Zoo Atlanta and is renowned for his art. In Applegate's tale, he's acquired a few fictional friends, and the story has picked up some plot embellishments driven by the arrival of an innocent baby elephant. One thing both the true and fictional Ivan share is that he and his twin sister were captured as infants in Africa, and his twin died in transit. Over the course of their lives, Ivan and his friends encounter many examples of both the best and the worst the human race has to offer, and some kids may be ill-prepared for the cruelty.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Based on the true story of a gorilla who now lives happily in a lowland gorilla habitat at Zoo Atlanta but before that had spent 27 years in a cage in a shopping mall after being captured as a baby in Africa, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN tells, from the gorilla's standpoint, of life in the circus mall, being gawked at by tourists, and how it all seems so normal. But the arrival of a baby elephant starts to trigger memories, and before long Ivan finds himself making promises he's not sure how he's going to keep.
Is it any good?
Animal-loving kids -- and just about anyone with a heart -- will become quite fond of the artistic Ivan and his multi-species friends (including the kid, Julia). Applegate's affinity for animals led her to co-author the hugely popular Animorphs science-fiction series, in which kids have the power to transform into a particular animal and thus see the world from their perspective. Her decision to tell Ivan's story through the gorilla's eyes will be more engaging for some kids than others, but it's a good bet for those who've enjoyed other animal-oriented tales.
Applegate is deeply concerned about a number of animal-welfare-related issues that come to the fore in this book, some of which are more complex than can be addressed in the voice of a gorilla in a book for 8-year-olds. Interesting discussions may ensue -- one reader may feel that the narrative (and the glossary) suffers at times from didacticism or information overload, while another could be moved to become the next Jane Goodall.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the families of gorillas and elephants and how attached to one another members of those families become.
Do you have a zoo you can visit that features habitats like the ones in the animals' original homes so you can see how they really live? Do they seem happy?
Which was better for helping Ivan solve problems, throwing balls of poop or creating art?
Animal stories are very popular with kids. Why do you think that is?
- Author: Katherine Applegate
- Illustrator: Patricia Castelao
- Genre: Animals
- Topics: Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: January 17, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love animals
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.