The One and Only Ivan


The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate

Text ©2012 Katherine Applegate

Illustrations ©2012 Patricia Castelao


Lexile Measurement: 570L

Ivan the Gorilla has been watched and studied by humans for years, as he lives in the Big Top Mall Video Arcade with his friends Stella the elephant and Bob the dog.  When Ruby the baby elephant joins, Ivan is challenged in new ways which he never has been before.  Ivan must find a way to make a big change, and keep an important promise- but how?


Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

Suggested Delivery: Independent, Small group, or Read-aloud: 4th Grade


The video found here would be a great way to support the text while reading by showing students a video of the real Ivan which this text is based on.

Katherine Applegate has created a wonderful website found here which is all about The One and Only Ivan. 

Click here to see Katherine Applegate’s teaching guide for The One and Only Ivan.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Vocabulary is an essential part to reading.  One activity which could help students grow their vocabulary alongside of this would be to have them complete the worksheet found here.  This gives them the opportunity to thoroughly synthesize the meaning of the word being learned.  The following vocabulary words would work well in this pre-teaching activity:
    • Migrate- To move and settle from one country to another
    • Crevice– A crack forming an opening
    • Sulking– Sad, pouting, typically quiet and reserved
    • Contemplate- to consider thoroughly
    • Monstrosity– Very large in a negative/ugly way, Frightful
    • Coincidence- Events that are connected which happen at the same time, not on purpose
  • Comprehension is the goal in reading.  It is important to focus on comprehension before, during, and after reading a story.  The following activities can be done throughout the journey a student takes reading this book in order to support the level of comprehension reached:
    • Before reading the story, a great activity for students to develop schema related to the story would be to read “The Real Ivan” section located on Katherine Applegate’s website.  This would allow the students to develop an idea for what the book would be about, and to keep the real Ivan in mind as they begin the text.
    • During reading, an activity which will support the comprehension of the students would be to have them watch the video seen in the Resources section above which shows the real, live Ivan.  This would excite students to continue reading.  Having the students discuss how viewing the video altered their opinion on what they have read so far would be a nice activity to check student comprehension.
    • After reading, having students extend their knowledge beyond the book and study real life gorillas and make comparisons to what they read and what they researched would be a great way to have students conclude their comprehension of the story.
      • See here the activity suggested in Katherine Applegate’s teaching guide: Divide students into small groups and have each group research people who have helped the world learn more about our relatives in nature—people like Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, Biruté Galdikas, and Dian Fossey. What did each of these people contribute to our knowledge? How did they get interested in the natural world and the animals they helped us to learn about? CCSS 4–6.RIT.3
  • A conclusive writing activity is a great way to wrap up a novel with students.  Question 14, per Katherine Applegate’s reading guide, would be a great prompt for a writing piece to have students conclude the text with. The question is:
    • “Discuss the theme of belonging in this story, from the point of view of each of the characters. What is the meaning of belonging for each of them? What does the idea of belonging mean to you?” CCSS 4–6.RL.2

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