What are You Reading? The One and Only Ivan!


This book was one of my favorite books that I have read this far, I loved it! It made me feel so many different emotions; mad, happy, sad, worried. When I started getting more into the book, I realized it was not for tiny children to read but rather higher elementary kids and middle schoolers. It wasn’t your average children’s book.

In what ways do you see Applegate effectively using plot, setting, and theme in ONE AND ONLY IVAN?


Applegate does a fantastic job of introducing the characters and telling about their background. Right away we learn about Ivan who is the main character. He is a Silverback Gorilla who was taken away from his family when he was younger. Mack, who is the owner of The Big Top Mall, buys Ivan and raises him as his own kid. He takes him for ice cream and lets him watch t.v like a normal human would. Ivan starts doing shows at a young age and draws publicity and attention to the Big Top Mall. There are other animals at The Big Top Mall as well. Stella, an elephant, is another main character in this story. She is an older elephant but one of Ivan’s very best friends.  She plays a typical mother like character and cares for anyone and everyone who comes to The Big Top Mall. Another animal we learn about is Bob the Dog. He considers himself a stray who doesn’t have a home but basically lives at The Big Top Mall with all of the other animals. He seems all tough and mighty but by the end of the book, we learn that he is a softy! George and Julia come every night to the Big Top Mall. While George cleans, Julia works on her homework, a.k.a her art and drawings, and visits with the animals. Julia seems to understand the animals the most and knows what they are feeling. Stella, who is supposed to be the “savior” of the Big Top Mall, joins the crew about half way through the book. She is just a baby elephant and is unsure of what to think of everything at first. We learn about her horrible past but also learn that she is a fighter.I love the relationship Ivan and Stella create during this book. It’s such a great story of hope and determination!


The setting of this story plays a very important part. The story is set in The Big Top Mall  is a hot spot for people to come and watch the shows that are put on on a daily basis. This place may be a happy place for small children who love animals, but it is not a happy place for the animals themselves. They are kept in small domains or also known as “cages” and never get time to run around and play. They stay in their area 24/7 except for when they are needed for a show. They receive very little food and water or anything else to entertain them. The setting gives an eery feeling to the story and makes the reader sad for the animals that have to live in that kind of condition.


The One and Only Ivan has so many different themes in it. One theme that really stood out to me was friendship. Bob the Dog and Ivan had an awesome friendship. Ivan let Bob the Dog sleep on his tummy every night because that’s the only way he could sleep. If that’s not true friendship, I don’t know what is! Another one is Ivan and Stella. Ivan promises Stella that he will take care of Ruby and find her a better home because he didn’t want to disappoint Stella and let her down. Another theme that I found was hope. Ivan didn’t know how he was going to get Ruby out of The Big Top Mall but he had hope that it would work out.

I absolutely loved this book! Applegate did a great job with the setting, plot and theme. I would suggest this book to anyone and even plan on reading it again myself! It was such a great book about friendship, loyalty and hope.


7 thoughts on “What are You Reading? The One and Only Ivan!

  1. She did do a very good job developing the characters, and having Ivan telling the story made it seem more personal. It is too bad Mack became so neglectful as the years went on or at least that was my impression. The kids I read it too really related to Julia and Ivan those two were the favorite characters, I think we all shed a tear when Stella died. Very good review of the book.


  2. I loved this book as well! I agree that Applegate did a great job with all of the elements. It amazed me how she did set up the mall with an eery feeling while the zoo and Ivan’s memory of his childhood felt so comfortable and happy. I think it takes a great author to get that just right. There are also so many important themes in this book as you mention. I would take an upper elementary student to fully understood this book, although younger children might enjoy the story even without a full understanding of all the themes. It is such a great book!


  3. I really loved this book as well. I really liked how easy it was to read. She did a wonderful job setting the mall up as a bad place where the animals did not want to be. I also thought friendship was the main theme in this book because of Ivan and Stella and Bob and Ruby and Julia.


  4. Ivan did call his cage a domain that way he thought he did not have to view it for what it really was, a prison. They would all die there if he did not do something about it if only he could remember to be a protector like his father AND BEAT HIS CHEST! When he did just once to see if he could he started to remember who he was. This story was based on a real silver back who spent 27 years in a cage in a shopping mall in Washington State what a tragedy.


  5. I like how you broke down the multiple themes with the different characters in the book! I also really enjoyed the book and plan to read it some other time as well if not with my own class some day.


  6. I agree, this one was on my favorite book so far that we have had to read! I agree that the theme of the book could of course be friendship! What a great friendship they all shared in different ways! And the setting was soooooo important to this book, the setting set the conflict for the entire story! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Many of the students in my children’s lit class last semester went on to read another book by Katherine Applegate called Home of the Brave. I haven’t read that one yet, but it’s about a boy who comes to the U.S. as a refugee from Sudan. Everyone who read it loved it, so I’m hoping to get to it soon. Glad you enjoyed this book so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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