Applegate-Katherine, Fiction, Social Commentary

#631 The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan lives in a domain in the shopping center. Along with Ivan there’s Bob the dog, but he doesn’t belong to anybody, and Stella the elephant. Stella is old and she is not well. She has a spot on her leg that keeps getting infected. Ivan has a stuffed gorilla that a little girl named Julia gave to him. He paints pictures. He has a small television that he watches. People come to see Ivan, but not as many as before. Stella and Ivan talk about many things.

Ivan occasionally remembers his old life. when he used to live in the wild and then when he used to live in a house with humans.

One day something new is brought to the shopping center. It’s a baby elephant. She doesn’t look well, but Stella takes to her right away. The problem is that Stella isn’t well herself. The owner of the shopping center works Ruby, the baby elephant, hard trying to get her to learn how to do tricks. Their enclosures are small and there isn’t enough room. Stella has told Ivan about zoos before. The animals can be outside. It’s a way humans make up for things like this.

Stella takes a turn for the worse and ultimately the worst does happen. She makes Ivan promise to take care of Ruby and get her out. At first, Ivan does not know how to do this, but he uses his painting skills to help Ruby. With the help of Julia and Bob Ivan gets a message out. People come and check on Ivan and Ruby. Soon Ivan and Ruby are both living a life they never could have imagined.

What I liked

This is a sweet little story. It’s based on true events actually, loosely though. Ivan was a real gorilla. He lived out the remainder of his days at Zoo Atlanta. He actually lived to be fifty years old, which is saying something. I thought, at first, that this story might be about Willie B since Willie B had a similar background story to Ivan, but it turns out both Willie B and Ivan were kept in similar conditions before going to Zoo Atlanta. Zoo Atlanta isn’t the nicest zoo I’ve been to, but it’s more than adequate enough for an animal that’s been kept in the type of captivity that Ivan and Willie B were.

Ruby, as far as I can tell, is made up. Elephants have been mistreated, just as gorillas have been mistreated, in captivity. It’s sad that someone takes this animals away from their homes only to mistreat them. I think stories like this, although fictional, are important so that we remember that animals aren’t here to be mistreated.

What I didn’t like

Who lets a gorilla live in a shopping center? This was apparently a real thing, that happened more than to just Ivan. Gorillas are just too big to live in such a small environment. I don’t understand how anyone could have thought this was ok.


Ivan seems like a great gorilla.

Weigh In

To you, are zoos happy places or sad places?

Do you think the real Ivan was anything like this fictional Ivan?


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