The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

How on earth have I managed to not write a review of the 2013 Newbery Medal recipient?! I started reading The One and Only Ivan over the summer, and finished it when I bought nearly two dozen new books for my classroom about a month ago. In fact, it was the very first book I read of the collection and, since I had already read most of it over the summer, I finished it in a very short period of time.

Although this blog is primarily a place for me to reflect on my day-to-day teaching, I am also using it to keep track of all the books I have read. So for those of you who happened to pop in today (or saw a link on Facebook or Twitter), you get a bonus-bonus post today!

Katherine Applegate’s story is a tender one about Ivan, the mighty silverback gorilla, Stella and Ruby, African elephants, and Bob, an old stray dog who hangs around the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, where Ivan has lived in solitary captivity for many, many years. It was inspired by real events, and although the story itself is fictitious, the lessons learned and taught are true and important. Through Ivan we learn lessons of honesty, integrity, friendship, compassion, perseverance, respect, love, and trust.

The story is written in the first-person perspective of Ivan with flashbacks to his childhood mixed in with the present-day challenges he faces. Some of the chapters are just a few words long, while others are several pages. From beginning to end, the reader is captivated by Ms. Applegate’s story, which is, in many ways, the story of all creatures, both human and animal, that are trapped by circumstances often outside their own control. Despite the many great odds Ivan faces, he is able to overcome as he reminds himself that a promise is a promise.

Many of my students have already read this book, so I doubt it will make it into my classroom read-aloud list this year, but I will certainly be encouraging students to read it on their own and plan on reading it to an entire class in the years to come.


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