Review | The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The One and Only Ivan #1
Middle Grade
HarperCollins | January 17, 2012

About the Book:

The problem with secrets is that they’re too easy to keep collecting.

Luna Allen has done some things she would rather no one ever know about. She also knows that, if she could go back in time, she wouldn’t change a single thing.

With three sisters she loves, a job she (mostly) adores, and a family built up of friends she’s made over the years, Luna figures everything has worked out the way it was supposed to.

But when one of those secrets involves the man who signs her paycheck, she can’t find it in her to regret it. Despite the fact that he’s not the friendliest man in the world. Or the most patient.

Sometimes there are things you’re better off keeping to yourself.


The One and Only Ivan was the very first book that kept my daughter, Baby Chick, awake all night reading. I sent her to bed with no idea she would stay up reading until 5 o’clock in the morning.

I lectured her, but secretly…
I was so proud!

At the time, I chose not to read it.

Growing up I was fascinated by two animals. Horses, and gorillas. I owned the Koko the gorilla books and if given a choice I wrote all of my school reports about gorillas or Diane Fossey. The gorilla exhibit at the zoo both fascinated me and made me sad. There’s just something that feels so wrong when I look at a gorilla in a cage.  I believe any animal in a cage is heartbreaking, but there’s something so aware inside the eyes of a gorilla.

When I was a little girl, when my sister was a baby, we all went to the Toledo Zoo. The big exhibit at the time was the birth of a baby gorilla. When we arrived, the mama was holding her baby in the back far corner, turned so the viewers couldn’t see her infant. However, when she saw my mom holding my baby sister, her posture changed. She stopped hiding. She brought her baby to my mom, tilting her arms, as though showing and sharing beloved infants with another mommy. They are our cousins, and seeing them in captivity breaks my heart.

For all those reasons, I didn’t read this story about a silverback gorilla kept inside a cage at a mall.

When the trailer for the Netflix movie hit the television, I decided to finally read this children’s book. I’ll admit, I was looking forward to another book vs movie post. (I love writing those, and they get great views.) So, for purely selfish reasons, I picked it up and finished it in a day.

It was exactly what I expected. Heartbreak. It is a beautiful children’s book. I’m so glad my daughter read and loved it. I’m thrilled Katherine Applegate wrote it. However, it was so sad. I was sad for Ivan, Stella, Ruby, and Bob. Even in the end, I was still sad for them.

I was only sadder still when I found out Ivan was real. That caged mall gorilla is a true story. The circumstances and side characters were make-believe, but the story of Ivan was real. How he came to live in the mall was accurate.  Where he ended up, and the effects of living in isolation were all true too.  Tragedy.

The One and Only Ivan was an excellent, but heartbreaking read.

About Birdie

Don’t look for her in any bar, club, crazy raging party, or anywhere there may be a large gathering of strangers. She’s more likely to be found tucked into the corner of the couch watching one of her favorite shows, or preferably under a comforter with her current novel.

4 Responses

  1. My daughter also read and loved this one. I don’ think I’ve ever read it. With the movie releasing, I did see something here (I’m in the Seattle/Tacoma area) on the news about him. I wish I had paid more attention. It was early video with the guy who brought him home, I think. I never saw Ivan in person.


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