What You Need to Know:|
• The One and Only Ivan is a powerful and moving story.
• It is well-written and the characters are well-developed. This is a story you can be proud to give your young
reader (and you should read it, too!).
• There is talk of death in this book, and a beloved character dies.
• While the story is by turns sad and scary, there is humor and humor throughout (mostly in the form of a little dog
• This story is based on a real ape named Ivan, now living at the Atlanta zoo.
The One and Only Ivan has incredible depth. In a relatively short amount of pages, Katherine Applegate has developed a rich and multi-layered story about Ivan the Mighty Silverback. Applegate takes the reader on Ivan's journey of self-discovery, a journey that leads to his freedom, literally and figuratively. I found this book to be profound in its message, and I encourage you to put it in as many young readers' hands as possible.
Ivan is a silverback gorilla. He is the Ape at Exit 8. Ivan lives at a run-down mall and was once the main attraction there. But the mall has hit hard times and the crowds are no longer coming. Ivan is bored and his friend Stella, the elephant, is chronically ill. Mack, the owner of the mall, doesn't have the money to care for Stella properly, nor does he have the money to advertise. So Mack decides to buy a baby elephant with what little capital he has, thinking a baby elephant might draw the crowds back into the mall.
Ruby arrives just in time to bond with Stella. Stella has been in captivity so long, she never had a chance to be a mother. Stella is a natural and takes Ruby on as her own. Unfortunately, it is a fleeting victory. Stella succumbs to the foot infection Mack has long been ignoring, and Ruby is orphaned for a second time. Before she dies, Stella makes Ivan promise to take care of Ruby and get her out of captivity.
This presents a great dilemma for Ivan, because in order to protect and save Ruby, he must confront his own harrowing past that he has long been trying to suppress. But Ivan is a silverback, and he understands he is mighty and noble. He made a promise to Stella that he intends to keep. With the help of Julia, the young daughter of the mall maintenance man, Ivan ends up freeing all the animals and getting them shipped to the zoo, where they are placed with other animals of their own kind. While some may not consider this to be freedom, it was certainly an upgrade from the decrepit mall situation in which they formerly lived.
The One and Only Ivan is based on a true story. The real Ivan now resides at Zoo Atlanta. I think it would be very valuable to share Ivan's real story once your young reader is done reading this special book. I especially like the feelings of empathy this story will surely provoke in the reader and may even move some budding activists to action. The example of Julia, the young girl who advocates for the animal's rights and wins, will surely spur some to like-minded endeavors.
2012, 320 pages
Animals, Good Book Club Selection, Compassion/Empathy, Determination, Excellent Read-Aloud, Friendship, Overcoming Fears, Illness/Death, Self-Awareness/Discovery
• What do you think was Ivan's greatest challenge?
• What did you think of Ivan's view of the world?
• Did you think his thoughts were actually like what animals in captivity think? If not, what thoughts do you think
• What did you think of Julia? Did you think she was brave?
• Did any of the animals make you laugh? Why?
• Did you think Mack was wrong for not taking care of Stella properly? Why or why not?
• What do you imagine Ivan's life would have been like if he had never been captured?
• Did this story inspire you to do anything to help animals? In what way?
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