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The One and Only Ivan

Rating 8.8

  • Quality 9.9
  • Popularity 4.5

Top 10 › 12-17 years

Position 2 of ranking

Data obtained from Boolino Index


Shipping 48 hours


Paperback / softback Edition 2012

Other editions

A summary…

  • Inspired by a true story
  • A beautifully written tale of how a mighty gorilla wins his freedom
  • Told from Ivan's perspective this is a stand-out novel with a pertinent message

Review by Boolino

Ivan is a silverback gorilla who lives in a small circus set up in a shopping mall, located off the highway. Ivan has been living there for so long that he’s forgotten what life was like before, in Africa, when he would run around outside with his twin sister Tag. For almost thirty years he's been living in a cage with three glass walls, a swing made from a tire, a baseball, a tiny pool full of dirty water, an old television and a plush gorilla that was given to him by Julia, the daughter of the lady who cleans the mall at night. Ivan likes drawing with crayons and his drawings are sold to the visitors by Mack, the owner of the little circus. Also, at night, he talks with Stella, an elephant with a limp and Bob, a stray dog who likes watching bowling tournaments and adverts for cat food on the television. There are also bears and parrots and there used to be a seal which died after it stuffed its face with the coins that the visitors were tossing at it. When Ruby the baby elephant arrives, Stella makes Ivan promise something that will change his relationship with the world.

With an effective first-person narrative, from the perspective of Ivan himself, as a sort of fictional autobiography, this crossover for kids aged 12 to 100, is about loneliness, empathy and the need to live in a community, achieved from a detached and, indeed, anthropological perspective which not only increases sensitivity towards the animal world, but also everything we consider to be unusual and different. With dashes of humor, mocking what we consider to be natural with clever lines like, "Humans speak too much. They chatter like chimps, crowding the world with their noise even when they have nothing to say” and “I too find it hard to believe that there is a connection across time and space, linking me to a race of ill-mannered clowns”, this is a spellbinding story, told in short chapters, with minimalist precision that makes it quick to read. Its author, Katherine Applegate, based it on the real-life case of the gorilla called Ivan who spent 27 years without any other contact with its species, locked in a glass cage in a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington. Thanks to the complaints by several animal right organizations, he was transferred to a zoo in Seattle where he died in 2012. Applegate received the prestigious Newbery Medal award in 2013 (an award that has also been won by Jacqueline Kelly for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and Neil Gaiman for The Graveyard Book) for this story which is against cruelty in general and towards animals in particular.

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Commented on Boolino blog

  • Just Monkeying Around!

    We’ve talked about The One and Only Ivan in the following post Just Monkeying Around!:

    «This week I was inspired to search through the Boolino library for books about one of my favourites, primates! There’s not many people I know that don’t like monkeys and apes so I thought why ...»

    Read post

Synopsis by publisher

Winner of the Newbery Medal 2013 Inspired by a true story, this is the beautifully written tale of how a mighty gorilla wins his freedom. A winning blend of humour and poignancy that will appeal to fans of Michael Morpurgo. Ivan is an easy-going gorilla who has spent his life performing for the crowds at the Exit 8 shopping mall. He rarely misses life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly thinks about it at all. But everything changes when a baby elephant called Ruby arrives and Ivan realises he must find a new life for them both. Told from Ivan's perspective this is a stand-out novel with a pertinent message for readers of 9+.

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Book details

Katherine Applegate (8)
Patricia Castelao (1)
HarperCollins (+1000)
12 years
First edition
tales about animals, stories
crossover, stories about animals, real stories


Main edition

Paperback / softback

The One and Only Ivan
Paperback / softback
129 x 198 mm. 180 g.



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