The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Book Info

Grade Level
Elementary School, Middle School
STEM Concepts
Biology, Creatures and Their Habitats, Ecology, Primatology

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.

Source: The One and Only Ivan


Elephants in the Malls?!

In The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, an elephant and a gorilla are forced to live inside a mall. Cindy Khatri, director of the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore, IL, talks about why that’s a bad idea.

Five Fun Facts About Elephants!

Cindy Khatri, director of the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore, IL, gives us five fun facts about elephants, like the one featured in The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

Keeping Animals Happy: Tortoise Edition

Meet Hercules the resident tortoise at the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore, IL. Cindy Khatri, director of the museum, talks about Herc, and why animals should be treated well.

Helping Animals at Cosley Zoo

Ashley Hicks is a zookeeper at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton, IL. Here, she talks about all the things a zoo does to keep animals happy and healthy, unlike the ways the animals were treated in TheOne and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

Enriching Animals' Lives

Ashley Hicks is a zookeeper at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton, IL. Here, she talks about enrichment, which is important to keeping animals engaged and happy.


Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons

These questions, prompts, and short activities provide quick ways to inspire interest and explore the STEAM concepts related to the book. Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons can also be used for differentiation and to foster new ideas of your own.

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Body Systems by Your Students

The body systems of a gorilla, elephant, and dog work in a very similar manner to that of the human body. Students will draw relationships between scenes in the story and the way our bodies work. Students will create a book that illustrates the concept.

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The Elephant Dance

Stella and Ruby can’t stand their elephant dance. Have your students come up with a fun, exciting alternative!

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Arts like Ivan’s

In One and Only Ivan, Ivan gets a chance to experiment with all sorts of creative mediums. Have your students explore different art materials in this exciting fine arts lesson plan.

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Students will use math to find the area, perimeter, and volume of Ivan’s new home!

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Habitat Home

Using geometry concepts, have your students create habitats for multiple kinds of animals in this interdisciplinary lesson.

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Ivan has to go through a number of emotional and distressful situations. Here, students will evaluate these moments in the book.

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Keep the Beat

Using unconventional materials, have your students create a rhythmic beat. Then, have them apply meaning to the music.

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How Do You Move an Elephant?

It is not easy to move an elephant.  The people helping Ruby worked for many days to get it right.   In this PBL lesson, the students will use the engineering design process to create a means of transporting a “baby elephant”.

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Scrambled Communication

Ivan creates a variety of paintings and drawings to communicate his idea of taking Ruby to the zoo.  In this PBL lesson, students will create a set of cards that will successfully communicate a message.

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Video Discussion Guide

Watch the videos and then use these questions to facilitate classroom discussions about the topics presented.

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About the Author

Katherine Applegate

Katherine was inspired to write The One and Only Ivan after reading about the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla. The real Ivan lived alone in a tiny cage for twenty-seven years at a shopping mall before being moved to Zoo Atlanta after a public outcry. He was a beloved celebrity at the zoo, which houses the nation’s largest collection of western lowland gorillas. Ivan was well known for his paintings, which he “signed” with a thumbprint. Katherine lives in California with her husband and two children. Other books by Katharine include Wishtree and Crenshaw.

Learn more at

Source: HarperCollins