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The One and Only Ivan

Last updated Thursday, January 30, 2014

Author: Katherine Applegate
Date of Publication: 2012
ISBN: 0061992259
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Feb. 2014

Synopsis: 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.

Note to readers:
•  Read through the first 30 pages and skip ahead to page 124 (20 pages) which explains Ivan's childhood in Africa and how he ended up in America. Ivan is a gorilla and this is his story of how he became circus animal. You may want to read the inside cover for a better idea of the story and explain it to the kids. This is based on a true story and Ivan is eventually moved to a nice, big zoo! FYI, he died at age 50 in 2012 from complications during a medical procedure.

•  Canopies - the highest layer of branches in a forest or on a tree
•  threadbare - very thin and in bad condition from too much use
•  Shackles - one of two rings or bands that are placed around a person's wrists or ankles and that are connected by a chain
•  bristly - Having a set of bristles (like on a toothbrush). It can also mean to show anger.
•  domain - Having ownership over one's space or land.
•  unadorned - Plain and without any decoration.
•  undaunted- Showing braveness in the face of danger.
•  untamed - Wild and free.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Who do you think Ivan is?
•  Have you ever been to a zoo or circus?
•  Do you know where elephants and gorillas come from? (Elephants come from Africa and Asia and Gorillas are found only in Africa)

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How would you feel if you were on exhibit in a zoo?
•  Do you think that Gorillas can really draw? (Yes, there are many drawings by Gorillas from the Jane Goodall Institute which are sold for a lot of money and there are drawings by the real Ivan which have also been sold)
•  Do you think animals can talk to each other? •Do you think this is a true story? (It is based on the true story of Ivan the Gorilla. National Geographic filmed a documentary on Ivan in 1991)

Craft ideas:
•  Make a circus/zoo/animal themed Valentine card. See sample.
•  Make an Elephant or Gorilla Mask.

Special activities:
•  Have the kids walk on their knuckles and see who can last the longest. Have them pound their chests and make AGHHHH noises!

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!