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The One and Only Ivan

by Katherine Applegate
AR Test

At A Glance
Interest Level

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Ivan once lived in a jungle, now he lives in a small domain at Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He spends his time watching the people who come by and television shows. Ivan doesn’t think about his life in the jungle, instead, he is content to talk to his friends Stella, an elephant, and Bob, a dog.

Ivan also likes to draw pictures. His favorite thing to draw is a banana. No one seems to understand his art, except for Julia, a little girl who sits outside of his domain in the evenings when her father works cleaning the mall.

Ivan thinks he is content with his life until he meets Ruby, a baby elephant who was taken from her family. Ruby makes Ivan remember what his life was like when he lived in the jungle and what it means to be a silverback—a protector. With the help of his artwork, Ivan hopes to help Ruby escape living in her domain at Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.

Ivan’s first-person narrative is a touching story about Ivan’s friendships and his love of art. Through his eyes, the reader is introduced to how captive animals are treated. Although the story is told with humor, the topic may be upsetting for more sensitive readers. In the end, Ivan and his friends finally have a happy home that will make the reader smile.

Sexual Content

  • Ivan likes to watch romance shows on the television. “In a romance there is much hugging and sometimes face licking.” Commercials also have people that have people that “face lick.”


  • A claw-stick is used to punish elephants when they do not listen to their trainer. “Once Stella saw a trainer hit a bull elephant with a claw-stick. . . when the claw-stick caught in the bull’s flesh, he tossed the trainer into the air with his tusk. The man flew, Stella said, like an ugly bird.”
  • When poked with a claw-stick, Ruby hits her trainer with her trunk. “. . . I know he must be uncomfortable, because Mack drops the claw-stick and falls down on the ground and curls into a ball and howls like a baby.”
  • Bob, a dog, “used to have three brothers and two sisters. Humans tossed them out of a truck onto the freeway when they were a few weeks old. Bob rolled into a ditch. The others did not.”
  • Ivan’s family is killed by humans. “They shot my father next. Then they chopped off their (his family’s) hands, their feet, their heads.” The hands were used to make ashtrays.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None


  • None


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None
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