Ideas for Learners Promoting Literacy, Inquiry, and Meaningful Learning Experiences

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate


Book Summary

Ivan is a gorilla who is a featured attraction with a small collection of animals near an Interstate shopping mall. He enjoys drawing pictures, and the company of his friends: Bob the dog and Stella the elephant. When Ruby, a baby elephant, joins them, Ivan begins to wonder whether this life is good enough for her, or for himself.

The One and Only Ivan book cover
The One and Only Ivan

Book Review

Each small section of the book is told as a short prose poem, which is not distracting or even immediately obvious, but it would be a great way to model a different kind of writing with students.

The writing has a feel of DiCamillo with a splash of Applet (in The Underneath), but the language is less ornate and the pace is faster.  The story raises questions that young readers will be glad to discuss and debate about animal rights and their care, and it subtly challenges their assumptions about heroes and villains.

Topics and Themes for this book:

  • Keeping Promises
  • Animals in Captivity
  • Courage
  • Legality vs. Ethics
  • Hope
  • Responsibility to do the right thing
  • Why good people do bad things
  • Language; Poetry; Visual Symbols

Discussion Questions for this book:

The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.

**Questions Coming Soon**

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