The One and Only Ivan

ivan docs

oen and only

I connected the padlet link to my class site, which my kids can easily access…

My kiddos have done great with the PADLET today! We ran into one problem: Our network would not support the padlet wall on our netbook/student laptops. It also wouldn’t support our padlet wall on my iPad here at school — It did, however, work on my docking station laptop. Therefore, that was our only source of “padletting!” Most of my kiddos were able to respond today, but those who didn’t, will have the opportunity tomorrow. Once we all get our posts completed, we will go over it together as a whole group. I will pull the wall up on our smartbaord and each child will get a chance to read their predictions.
Check out what we’ve got so far! 🙂


The One and Only Ivan is a book about a gorilla named Ivan and his two friends, Stella, an elderly elephant and Bob, a stray dog. The three of them live in a mall were they perform shows and are put on display in unnatural, unhealthy, confined spaces. Ivan understands humans he also understands art. He is laidback and accepting of his life in the mall. After some time, the animal’s ignorant caretaker noticed a decline in foot traffic in the mall. He decided to bring in a baby elephant named Ruby to “spark” up some business. Stella looked after Ruby as her own until she died of her ongoing foot infection that was not treated properly. Before dying, Stella asked Ivan to look after Ruby and to remove her of the terrible living conditions. He used his knowledge, intuition, and protective skills to accomplish this feat. This is an unforgettable story about triumph and compassion.

Where do I begin?

From the first page, after three short sentences, I, the reader was already empathizing in regards to Ivan. “I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.”

This was one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. I am in love with this book and plan on reading it aloud to my students starting TOMORROW! I cannot wait to share this moving story with them and I am certain that it will teach them all about compassion, leadership, loyalty, and triumph.

The book is believable BECAUSE of it emotional reality. It is impossible to read this book and not have empathy for Ivan. He has been through so much in his life and remains true to himself throughout. He is not affected by how he is perceived by those (human bystanders) around him and has immense compassion for those he cares about. Whereas a teary-eyed boy shopping at the mall thinks “he must be the loneliest gorilla in the world,” he is not. He has his friends and he has his art. Ivan is resilient and is able to adapt to his surroundings, even a glass box.

This book is believable because emotionally, you walk a mile “on Ivan’s knuckles” while reading.

Ivan is unique and quirky. When I think of (or thought of, prior to reading this book) gorillas, I think of grouchy, chubby, daft, angry creatures. Ivan exhibits none of these abysmal assuming traits (besides being chubby J) – in fact he is easygoing, intelligent, hopeful, resilient, and artistic.

I was able to relate to Ivan’s character in many ways. This retaught me a common lesson. Silly but true, don’t judge a book by its cover. I was hosting a misconception and generalization about gorillas, obviously. After researching “the real” Ivan and other gorillas, I have learned that they are, in fact impressive creatures. As an animal lover, I was disappointed by my generalization. What a great life-lesson to teach my kiddos (in relation to animals AND people).

The two main settings are vital in exhibiting the book’s plot. The mall and the zoo naturally contrast. Ivan and Ruby leave their inhabitable and deathly (in regards to Stella) mall under ignorant care for a zoo which Ivan defines as “…not a perfect place . . . A perfect place would not need walls. But it’s the place I need.” I struggled with this a bit. Even as a child, I thought of animals at a zoo as being held captive, and wished they were in the wild, in their natural habitat. I now have a new outlook on zoos. Zoos host animals in a safe, healthy setting, malls do not.

Katherine Applegate’s style won me over. Before reading the book I did some research on Applegate and learned that she is an animal lover. I am one in the same, love love love animals. I appreciate her crisp, direct, to-the-point language in the book. The book is BIG, no doubt. I was intimidated by its size and I know a child (student) would be as well. From the first sentence, I think a reluctant reader’s concerns would be “thrown out the window.” “I am Ivan.” Three words, three sentences, I think I can handle this.

When relating this book to my own life, I think of the need to care and protect. Ivan knew that his father’s sole purpose in life was to protect him. In the mall, Ivan had no one to protect, until he made the promise to Stella. He would protect Ruby, and he did just that. I feel that my need to care and protect translates to me as a teacher, and that has been passed down from my mother, who is also a teacher. To care, protect, and teach are our sole purposes in life.

Elementary aged students should read this book or have this book read to them by their teacher. There are many worthwhile themes throughout. Courage, compassion, leadership, triumph, the list goes on and on. The students can empathize with Ivan and his friends and make connections with the characters. While reading this aloud to my students I plan on teaching lots of prediction minilessons. This book will probably take about a week to read (reading a short amount each day). Each day I plan on having my students make predictions on a padlet I will create.

Yes, the author builds tension in the book. It was hard to process the death of Stella. She was treated poorly and inadequately. At a zoo, her foot infections would have been treated properly. But without the event of her death, I think Ivan would not have taken the leadership role he took so well. He would not have gotten himself and/or Ruby out of the unnatural environment.

If this book had not been written from Ivan’s point of view, I don’t think it would be as powerful, and I don’t think it would have been the Newbery Metal winner. Spoken from Ivan’s point of view, this story is believable and relatable.

In conclusion, I believe this book is absolutely deserving of the Newbery Metal. It has brought me so much joy and I cannot wait for it to bring joy to my 20 sweet kindergarteners, as well!

After reading this book, I naturally researched “the real” Ivan. I was very sad to learn that he died last year. However, his life is celebrated in this wonderful book.










My kiddos are loving the book!!! We are 90 pages in after only two days!





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