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Five Reasons to Read The One and Only Ivan in Your Classroom

January 23, 2014

ivan book coverWinner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself.

Harper Collins Children’s Books

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate

Top Five Reasons to Read in Your Classroom!

  1. The book is beautifully written by Ivan, the silverback gorilla. Students will connect with Ivan’s voice and point of view. He is funny, honest, and literal in his observations of both humans and animals. It won the 2013 Newbery Medal!
  2. It is inspired by a true story. Students want to connect reading and learning to their everyday lives. (Read about the real Ivan.) Ivan’s story will come to life for your children.
  3. It is about animals and addresses a very real issue. How do we treat animals in our society?
  4. It gives us hope that we can all change our world. From a small cage in a mall, Ivan is able to make a difference in not only his life, but that of his young responsibility.
  5. It teaches empathy, empathy for humans and animals. It is a kind book, though it tells an unkind story.

Resources for Teaching Ivan

Post updated 9/30/2017.

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