Want to keep reading?

You've reached the end of your complimentary access. Subscribe for as little as $4/month.

Aready a Subscriber ? Sign In

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” - Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan

Ivan is a gorilla, and, as he lets us know pretty early on in the story, it's not as easy as it looks. He has been living in a metal, glass, and concrete cage for 9,861 days. He has not seen another gorilla in decades. And, he has a past he would rather forget.

Ivan’s only friends are Stella, a wise old elephant with a passion for stories and a love of the moon; Bob, a stray mutt, with a love of anything edible and a deep distrust of humans; and Julia, the janitor’s daughter, with a passion for art, just like Ivan. Ivan tries to ignore the way Mack, the owner of the mall and the man who raised Ivan in his own home, treats them all. Especially when a new baby elephant arrives to bring more crowds to the shopping mall and its small circus. When tragedy strikes and Ivan is left with a promise that will be impossible to keep, he begins to remember everything, and with his memories comes hope that maybe, there is a safer place beyond the bars of his cage, beyond Mack, beyond the billboard that brings people to the mall... beyond his wildest dreams. He made a promise, and a silverback never breaks their promises. But it will take all his friends to get there. It will take perseverance, passion, and... paint. Lots and lots of paints.

This story is so well crafted, and every word seems to matter. It is such a reflection of the longing for freedom, with beautiful descriptions and clever lines that will instantly become your new favorite quotes. The novel is written entirely in verse, which only heightens the experience. This is a truly life-changing book. It is entrancing, magical. It is a must-read for everyone, young and old.

So, as Ivan says, “Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.” So, without further ado, and without wasting any more words, I give you the verdict. (You probably already knew where this was heading, but....)

Take It ... Or Toss It?


This book, winner of the John Newbery award in 2013, is a must-read for kids of all ages, young and old, children and adults alike. Take Ivan’s advice: Don’t waste words. Or, in this case, time! Put The One and Only Ivan at the top of your reading list and find your next favorite book! And, if you love this, be sure to check out Katherine Applegate’s other books!


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. HarperCollins, 2012. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process! 

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.