It’s Monday! What are you reading? – The One and Only Ivan

ItsMondayGraphicThis week I have been reading the 2013 Newbery Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate.  This week’s post will look at the novel through the lens of the Newbery criteria.


The One and Only Ivan was an amazing novel!  The story is based on the real-life Ivan:  a gorilla who was part of a mall “circus” for many years before being transferred to Zoo Atlanta.  Applegate creates an Ivan who is compassionate, intelligent, and the true hero of his story.  If you have not read this novel, I seriously suggest it go to the top of your To Be Read list!


The Newbery Medal is “awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the book considered except that it be original work.” (ALA Newbery Criteria)

So, how does The One and Only Ivan meet these criteria?

Most Distinguished:  Applegate’s novel is “individually distinct” and is “marked by excellence in quality”.  The novel is one that is truly an original story that is written in a compelling manner.

Contribution to American Literature for Children:  The ALA defines American Literature as the text of a book.  The Newbery is specifically awarded to books that have been written for children up to age 14.  Ivan definitely meets this criteria by being a children’s novel.  While there are illustrations, the “meat” of Ivan is in the prose.


The One and Only Ivan is also distinguished in its plot, setting, and theme.

PlotIvan – When analyzing Ivan in terms of plot, a few things come to mind.  First, Applegate fully explores Ivan’s story.  The novel has a clear exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action.  We as readers get to travel along Ivan’s journey in a logical progression.  We discover, along with Ivan, the conflicts he must resolve, the choices he must make, and the course of action.

Setting – Applegate created a vivid setting for her novel.  We first encounter Ivan in his “domain”.  Throughout the course of the novel, we learn more about Ivan’s home, and the setting of the novel, as he himself begins to look at his world differently.  Applegate has led us through Ivan’s existence and home in a crafty manner.  The setting, and his awareness of it, help us to see why Ivan takes the course of action that he does.

Theme – What is the theme of The One and Only Ivan?  This novel explores the deeper issues of compassion and love that inspires us to change our world.  Ivan is a very kind-hearted soul.  He aches when his friend Stella (the elephant) is in pain from her wounds and injuries.  He takes the responsibility for getting Ruby to a new environment as his friend Stella dies.  Ivan is a truly loving and compassionate soul.  He will do anything to make his friends feel better and to not hurt.  We all can learn from Ivan.

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, is a truly magnificent work of literature.  I emotionally connected with the plight of Ivan and his mall family.  I ached when Stella hurt.  I cried when Ruby cried.  I got angry when Ivan was angry.  The characters that Katherine Applegate created for us have become my friends.  The emotional connection with the characters is what makes this story.

Ivan’s story, as told by Katherine Applegate, is one that teaches all of us to be a bit more kind, caring, and compassionate.  I am eternally  grateful that I have read this beautiful novel and look forward to many re-reads in the years to come.


What did you read this week?  Have you read The One and Only Ivan?  Let’s talk below!

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7 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What are you reading? – The One and Only Ivan

  1. I agree, this was such a wonderful book! I am actually putting her other books on my “To be read” list now, because I was so impressed!

    Initially, I was concerned about how she would portray the inner voice of a gorilla, but the prose was so well done! I found deeply connecting with the characters, and totally cheering them on.I also liked how the theme of Identity played such a strong role in the story–Ivan really came to understand himself more through the whole process of freeing Ruby, don’t you think?

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  2. I absolutely loved this book! I could totally read this book over and over. It was so easy to connect with Ivan because Applegate gave us such a great description on each character. I loved that we knew everything about Ivan’s Domain. It gave us a better description on why Ivan made certain decisions.

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  3. I couldn’t agree more! I’m sure I’ll be reading this many many times in the future… not only for my future students, for me too! Did you get emotionally attached to any characters? I really enjoyed Stella just because of how protective and motherly she was over her friends.

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