Proud Teacher Moment with Newberry Winner: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Have you had time to read the 2013 Newbery Winner yet?

This book is FABULOUS!  It is a quick, easy, heart-wreching, funny, FAB-U-LOUS book!

I love to do projects with the librarian in our Middle School.  My smarties don't actually  have library as a special area class anymore, but I try as much as possible to schedule a little ELA time in the library, and then I co-teach with our librarian.  About 3 weeks ago she shared Ivan with me.  I had my daughter read it first because I was finishing a different novel.  My 7th grader read this book in about a day.  Once she got started, she couldn't put it down.  She would talk, and talk, and TALK about Ivan.  At dinner, on the way to school, after school, over the weekend... for DAYS after reading the book.
When I finally read it, about a week later. I did the same thing.  We talked about IVAN everywhere!

In a nutshell, Ivan is a gorilla who lives alone in a "domain" and is part of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  He spends his day watching TV, and the people on the other side of his glass enclosure.  Sometimes he paints, which Mack, the owner, sells in the gift shop.  Ivan is friends with Bob, the dog, and Stella, an older elephant.  Soon, Ruby, a new elephant, becomes part of the Big Top Mall, and because Ivan has made a promise to a friend, he begins to see his life differently.  It is classic character change at its very best!!!

Katherine Applegate does such a great job of making Ivan humanistic.  Ivan is funny, and poignant, and heartwarming.  The story is actually losely based on a real gorilla.    But Applegate, takes it to another level.  You feel for Ivan.  You work through his resistance to change right along with him.  You watch him become a different "person."  The web site:  The One and Only Ivan can give you information about the book, the real Ivan, and the author.. it has a fabulous video intro!

I am currently using The One and Only Ivan as a read aloud in my classroom.  My smarties, even as cool, hip, "you don't need to read to me anymore, I'm not a baby" middle schoolers are quiet and hanging on my words in this book.  When we finish we are going to continue some practice on expository and argumentative writing using some themes from Ivan.

What absolutely floored me late last week was a text to world connection that one of my Smarties made.  Ivan comments early in the book about being in his domain.  He describes the fact that he has really gotten used to the surroundings, and doesn't really think about the fact that he is no longer free.  After I finished the sentence, one of my smarties pipes up.." GEEZ.. I wonder if that is how the Jewish people felt in the concentration camps during World War II?  You know, like they just got used to it.  It wasn't a good situation, but they had to learn to adapt, and then they.. well.. just didn't remember."
HELLO! My mouth was about to hit the floor... HUGE... MAJOR... THINK BEYOND MYSELF MOMENT right there!  I was so Proud!  
It makes testing this week a little easier!

Drop me a line if you or your class has read this book and loved it!  When  we finish, I'll post about writing our essays!


  1. I am reading this book to my third graders and we LOVE it! I've had this book on my shelf for about a year. I picked it up at the bookfair last spring. My daughter needed a book so I gave it to her. She's in 4th and LOVED it too. She told me she was reading in class and had to go into the bathroom because she was about to cry! I get choked up reading this book! Did you know the real Ivan died last August? SAD! I love that this book can be used elementary to middle to probably high school. What a great connection your kids made! It is a MUST READ!!
    Beach Sand and Lesson Plans

  2. I'm not sure what grade you teac,h but that is an awesome text connection! You have taught them well and I agree, this is a fabulous book! :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  3. Thanks for the passionate read aloud recommendation :) I get the feeling our school librarian is tired of the fantasy suggestions I've made for my class this year; I'll suggest this book to her instead for a nice change. :)


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