Posted in Children Books

The One and Only Ivan


Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Through the ENTIRE review. I don’t usually do that, however, I cannot explain my rating without telling why.

The One and Only Ivan is such a sweet book. It is a fast read told from the perspective of Ivan, a Silverback that was captured in the wild when he was a young gorilla. He was ultimately brought to a roadside Big Top circus by Mack, the man who bought him when he was captured.

Ivan thinks his life is perfect the way it is, he does the same thing everyday and never really thinks anything about it. One day, a baby elephant named Ruby is brought to the show in order to bring more people in. The older elephant, Stella, immediately takes to Ruby and helps her get adjusted. But one night, Stella dies, leaving Ruby all alone. Ivan made a promise to Stella that Ruby would know better in the world, and not be left in that Big Top like the rest of them.

After Stella’s death, Ivan thinks and thinks of ways that he can get Ruby to a Zoo where she could be taken care of by good people and run with other elephants. Finally, Ivan gets an idea. This idea is sparked through his love of art, and a little girl named Julia (her father cleans the Big Top every night after it closes) provides Ivan with finger paints and teaches him to use it. Ivan sees a commercial for the local zoo and paints a picture on MANY pages of paper. Once it is complete he tries giving it to Julia so she can see it. Julia doesn’t understand, but eventually sees letters that spell out the word HOME. Julia and her father set to figuring out the puzzle and eventually see that Ivan painted a picture of Ruby at the local zoo (logo included) with the word HOME at the bottom. Julia begs her father to put the sign up over the current billboard logo, and he finally relents. The next day lots of people show up at the Big Top to see Ivan and Ruby. There are also protesters outside of the Big Top. Eventually a news crew comes by to take photos of Mack and Ruby, and of Ivan. During an interview with Mack, the cameraman goes around the Big Top and spots the claw-poke that Mack uses to get Ruby to do tricks. You know the one, that circus trainers poke the back of elephants with? The really MEAN device….and this claw-poke gets aired on TV! The next day, an inspector comes to inspect the Big Top. After that, someone comes with a Ruby sized crate, and will click a clicker whenever Ruby touches it and gives Ruby a treat. After that, an Ivan sized crate comes and the same process is repeated. Finally, both boxes arrive. Ivan goes into his box so that Ruby will not be scared. After Ivan goes into his crate, he is sedated. When he comes too he is in an enclosed room with a bunch of people who are taking care of him. Soon, the lady who brought the Ivan sized box comes in and puts a show on TV for him. It is of gorillas. Two females and a juvenile male. He notices there is no silverback to protect them. He watches them. Everyday. Until one day, the woman opens the windows. Ivan looks outside and sees the gorillas he has been watching on tv. The zoo slowly introduces him with the other gorillas. One day while out in his zoo jungle, he goes to the highest peak. Where he can see Ruby playing with the other elephants. Ivan is very happy. Ivan is finally home.

This book made me cry happy tears. The change in Ivan when he accepted that Ruby deserves better than what he has grown up with. Ivan did not remember prior to be captured. He only remembered being at the Big Top. This book was very moving. I found myself entranced, even in the simplicity of the writing. Simplicity is not always a bad thing. There was no need for fluff in this story. Applegate did not need it.

If you want to be moved, I suggest it. Even with the spoilers I provided, I left out a lot. I have never read this particular writing style, but I enjoyed it. I have wanted to read this book for a long time, so I am glad I finally bought the copy to read.


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