2013 Newbery Medal Winner: The One and Only Ivan

2013 Newbery Medal Winner: The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

Ivan the gorilla lives at the Exit 8 Bigtop Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan lives in a small glass domain with nothing but a food bowl, a stuffed toy and a television…and the humans that come and press their faces to the glass and point and stare. The zoo owner sometimes gives Ivan a crayon or paint. Ivan  likes to draw pictures.

I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.
It’s not as easy as it looks.
People call me the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan. Mighty Silverback.
The names are mine, but they’re not me. I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan. (pages 1-2)

Doesn’t that remind you of Harry Potter when he says to Hagrid in the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, “But I’m just…just Harry!”

Ivan does have a couple friends, an old elephant named Stella and a stray dog named Bob that sneaks into Ivan’s cage every night to sleep on his warm belly.  The three of them get by. They don’t talk much about what could be better, they just deal with every day. When the Exit 8 Big Top owner realizes attendance is way down he buys a baby elephant, a terrified baby elephant named Ruby, to make more people want to visit.

We’ve got a new arrival. This is Ruby, folks. Six hundred pounds of fun to save our sorry butts. This gal is gonna sell us some tickets.” (page 69)

Ruby’s arrival makes Stella and Ivan see their situation in a different way. Stella, in particular, can’t stand the idea of Ruby growing up at the mall. While Ivan and Stella have grown old and gotten to the point where life at the mall is good enough, they don’t think life at the mall is good enough for Ruby.  So, in the spirit of Charlotte’s Web, Ivan hatches a plan hoping to save Ella from a lonely life at the mall, a plan that just might save the others too. You’ll cry and cheer both. It’s cool to see Ivan get his Mighty back. He isn’t just Ivan. He’s Ivan the Mighty Silverback. Author: Katherine Applegate

Ivan’s story is based on a real gorilla that lived for 27 years in a mall zoo but now lives at Zoo Atlanta in a habitat made especially for gorillas. Ivan will turn 50 this year! You can read about him and the effort it took to move him to his current home.

The One and Only Ivan Web Comic Used With Permission:

Unshelved strip for 7/5/2013

If you like Ivan here are some more stories that imagine what life would be like from the animal’s point of view. We can never really know of course, but it IS interesting to imagine. You also might like to read about the gorilla Koko. Koko learned sign language, which makes you wonder if we CAN learn a little about what animals think. The last four books are about scientists who study gorillas in the wild or in captivity. Really, really fascinating. And I’m warnin’ ya…the animal stories will make you cry, just like Ivan. If you have a pet you’ll go hug it and think more about your responsibility and what it means to have an animal friend.
Charlotte's Web A Dog's Life Black Beauty Whittington
Koko Love Koko's Kittens Gorilla Doctors Dian Fossey
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7 Responses »

  1. i am only 11 and i read this book and it made me cry for hours on in so this book made me realize life is short but the journey is long so its good to take a chance and pertect the ones you can.

  2. this book was awesome!! I downloaded it on my nook. even though i have not finished it it is 1 of the best books i have ever read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. If you are an animal lover and advocate, The One and Only Ivan is a must read. Likened by many to Charlotte’s Web, this remarkable story touches on the tragedy of captivity and the power of friendship. It’s been a long time since I’ve come across a voice in children’s literature as memorable as Ivan’s. Told through the ‘mighty silverback’s’ eyes in a poignant first person narrative, Katherine Applegate perfects a minimalistic prose that combines humor, wit, and tenderness in an uplifting story about a special gorilla who uses his creativity and artwork to save a friend.
    Ivan was torn from the wild as a young gorilla and became an attraction at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Instead of the jungle, Ivan now made his home behind Plexiglas, and instead of playing tag with his sister, finds joy in painting pictures of bananas, watching westerns on TV, and talking with his friends Stella the elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. Over 27 years, Ivan has accepted the outcome of his life, but when Ruby, a baby elephant also ripped away from her home in the wild, becomes the new attraction at the mall, Ivan has a realization. Captivity is no life, particularly for a young spirit like Ruby. So he sets out on a journey to save his new friend’s life, and in turn changes his own.
    Though this novel touches on serious topics like animal abuse and confinement, a consistent tone of hope runs throughout, and the story’s emphasis is placed on friendship, creativity, and determination. I laughed, cried, got angry, and celebrated as I read Ivan’s account, and I instantly added this title to a list of my favorites. I will be surprised not to find this title winning awards in the coming year. I’ve read a lot of great books over the year, but The One and Only Ivan is something special.

  4. The review and trailer is really nice, after reading this, i am really waiting to read this books. Thanks for this post.

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