'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Children's Week: Review: The One and Only Ivan

We're celebrating Children's Week with a series of reviews, articles and interviews by or with kids! To see all our Children's Week posts, click here.

The One and Only Ivan is a book suitable for children from ages 8 to 12 years old. The story is about a Gorilla named Ivan who lives in the Exit 8 Big Top Circus Mall with a stray dog called Bob and an elephant called Stella. There is a girl called Julia who comes to complete her homework at the mall while her father George does the cleaning. Mack is the owner of the Big Top Circus Mall who bought Ivan as a baby and now Ivan has lived at the mall for 9855 days.

A gorilla’s job is to protect his family but in the mall Ivan has no family until the day that Mack buys another elephant called Ruby. A couple of days after Ruby arrives, Stella dies. Ivan decides to protect Ruby from Mack who is hurting her with his training weapon when he is trying to teach her tricks so she can perform for tourists at the mall.

Ivan thinks he is an artist when he uses pieces of paper Julia gives him to draw on with crayons he gets from Mack. Mack steals the drawings that Ivan creates and sells them for money. Ivan is worried about Ruby staying there for the rest of her life so he comes up with a plan. He is going to make a picture. The picture is of Ruby at a zoo with the word HOME above it. He rips it up and hides it so Mack can’t sell it for money.

I really like the storyline of this book because it was about friendship and kindness. The book taught me that if you make promises and try your very hardest to achieve them they can come true. I liked the way Ivan kept his promise and was able to achieve this in an unusual way by drawing the picture that George and Julia found and later realised that he wanted Ruby to go to the zoo.

I also liked this book because you get to experience many emotions while you are reading. It had some sad parts as you know Ivan doesn’t want to live there and also Stella dying. There are funny and weird situations like the “me balls” where Ivan roles up his poo and throws it at tourists. I found it really easy to read and it was not that difficult to get a picture in my mind of the life Ivan was living.

I think there were areas where the book could be improved and the author could have put in more descriptive words for the characters and the setting.

Overall I loved the book.

The rating I am giving this book is…

A Huge 5 out of 5!

- This review by Mitchell Dowling, a member of the St Mary's Catholic Primary School Kalgoorlie Book Club.

KBR Note: The character of Ivan is based on a real-life gorilla. You can read more about the real Ivan here.

Title: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate
Illustrator: Patricia Castelao
Publisher: HarperCollins US, $US7.99 RRP
Publication Date: 17 January 2012
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780061992254
For ages: 8-12
Type: Middle Fiction


  1. Love this review, Mitchell. To me, the best books are the ones that pull your emotions around on a string. I want to read this!

  2. Thank you for your wonderful and very thoughtful review, Mitchell. I think this book sounds really interesting and I'm going to try to find a copy for my own children.


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