“The One and Only Ivan”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! I smiled at his jokes, became teary eyed and heartbroken, and then kept my fingers crossed when things just might go right. Applegate captures Ivan’s voice perfectly. I feel I was able to engage in “deep reading” as I read because my mind was free to comprehend, question, and analyze what I was reading. The text is written on a 3rd grade level, but the ideas, thoughts, and feelings are intense and require deep thought and connection. Written from an animal’s perspective, Ivan’s point of view was fascinating. It was different from typical children’s novels because it was from an animal’s point of view, but it was realistic. I became so involved in Ivan’s story, I began to believe.  As Ivan explains his living situation and his life at the Big Top Mall, I began to feel sorry for him. He interacts through the text, asking questions, joking, and giving bits and pieces of information about his life. When he begins to paint and has a plan to get Ruby out of there, I was cheering for him. My fingers were crossed when Julia was looking at the painting, trying to decipher. Even though I knew it was fictional and only written from the perspective of a gorilla, it seemed so real. I could definitely see myself using this as a classroom read aloud. I think my students would really enjoy because of some of the humor, the feeling it evokes, and the fact that it was based on a true story of a gorilla in captivity.

As I was reading, it took a couple of pages to realize the titles. I was so eager to jump in and start reading; I skimmed the headings for each “chapter” and kept reading. After about three headings, I slowed down and took a closer look.  Each heading gives a word or phrase that gives insight to what is happening or what the section is about. It was almost like I was reading Ivan’s personal journal. These headings could be used in the classroom to help with theme or foreshadowing.

So many things come to mind when thinking how I might use this in my classroom and I’m eager to do so. Animal cruelty is a major theme and could be explored using this novel. Journal writing, sentence structure, dialogue, point of view, and mood are all things that could be discussed. The use of simple, even one word sentences are extremely powerful in this novel. I honestly don’t think that this novel needs any introduction because Ivan does the introducing himself. I would just start by saying the title and author and jump right in. Actually, I think I’ll say that I’d like them to meet a good friend of mine.


Applegate, K. (2012). The one and only Ivan. Array New York: Harper.


One website I’d definitely use would be www.theoneandonlyivan.com. It’s the website for the actual book and with a simple web design and easy navigation it would be the perfect website to start exploring. After we’ve read a few chapter/sections of the book, I’d reserve a day in the computer lab to explore the website as a class.  Students could find out some background information about the author as well as Ivan. I considered keeping the information that it was based on a real gorilla until after the novel was finished because I was intrigued to learn at the end. I also thought about my students and how they may benefit from knowing Ivan was a real gorilla.

This website from the Endangered Species International has specific information on gorillas including maps and diagrams. It would be a great website to share and show the various visuals that could be included to find information. It is written at a higher reading level, but the information is still relevant. http://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/gorillas.html?gclid=CKS6l4LjwrACFWEQNAodKEbyYA

This website from National Geographic Kids is a great semi-interactive site with information on gorillas. It includes video and a sound clip for students.  http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/mountain-gorilla/

This website from BBC Nature Wildlife has a video of Steve Backshall searching for gorillas titled: A Rare Sight. The video has sound and footage of gorillas that students might enjoy and can give them an idea of what noises Ivan might make.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Eastern_Gorilla#p00mk75w

This website includes links to different zoos that have live webcams of gorillas. Although there isn’t sound, this would be something they could watch to get a glimpse of gorillas in captivity. http://www.animalcameras.com/gorillas/live-gorilla-webcams/

This website, Gorillas World, discusses gorillas in captivity. Students could use this to compare to what they’ve read in the book. http://www.gorillas-world.com/gorillas-in-captivity.html

This article from Animal Planet could allow students to read an opinion about whether zoos are good or bad. http://animals.howstuffworks.com/animal-facts/zoos-good-or-bad.htm

Another, more recent, article from Global Animal with information for students about zoos. http://www.globalanimal.org/2012/04/21/are-zoos-good-or-bad/71442/

Although I wasn’t able to get any results from Scholastic’s Book Wizard for The One and Only Ivan, I can see how this site would be beneficial to use in the classroom. If a student enjoyed a book, but was a reluctant reader, I could use this site in hopes that I would be able to find a book of similar interest to the student. It could also be used for a book study to find many books on a particular subject.

I was able to find these books that I think would be similar to The One and Only Ivan:

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Call of the Wild by Jack London

Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ginger Landers
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 14:23:58

    I also felt this story was compelling because it is told from Ivan’s perspective. I think it is very interesting to hear his thoughts through Applegate’s lens.

    I agree that the uniqueness of this book is attributed to the fact that Ivan is a real gorilla and kids would be intrigued to know that.

    I also like how you included a website on endangered species – I think that is a great addition to this book!

    P.S. I just noticed that Ivan has a facebook page! 🙂


    • lenasprinkle
      Jun 11, 2012 @ 17:52:09

      That’s neat that Ivan has a facebook page! Too bad facebook is blocked at school. :/ I suppose a screenshot might be neat to use to get the students interested!


      • debrahadleyteacherblog
        Jun 11, 2012 @ 20:20:28

        O,K. it’s a good thing your school won’t see this. Netflix is blocked at my school — but only with Internet Explorer.
        They added Google Chrome to our desktops and it goes right to Netflix. If you have access to Chrome give it a try. It just might work.

        And I’m sure you’ll only use it for educational purposes.

      • lenasprinkle
        Jun 11, 2012 @ 21:24:08

        I’ll have to try that. We only have internet explorer so it may work with Chrome. Thanks!

  2. debrahadleyteacherblog
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 20:18:20

    I can tell you spent a lot of time looking and thinking carefully about the websites you chose to offer us to go with “Ivan.” Thank you for that. Those are some really good websites.

    Where did you find an evaluation of “Ivan” at a a third grade level? I couldn’t find anything better than “for from grades 3 to 6,” which I think is useless. I pasted some text into Word and got a Flesch-Kincaid level of 6.4.

    Do you teach third-graders? I only have regular exposure to 10 or so. My daughter was in third grade this year, and I see her little friends. I wonder what an experienced third-grade teacher would think of “Ivan” as a text to teach in some fashion?


    • lenasprinkle
      Jun 11, 2012 @ 21:21:30

      Thanks, Debra! I appreciated your insight to think of other subject areas! I found it on amazon. It suggested 3rd grade and up, but yes 3rd to 6th is an extremely wide range. I teach middle school, so ranging 6 to 8, and think it would go over well with my 6th graders. But with this novel, I feel it could be used across a range of grade levels (if used as a read aloud).


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