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Fantastic Learning Ideas for The One and Only Ivan

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Meet Ivan.  The One and Only Ivan.  The Mighty Silverback of Exit 8.  Whose tiny domain existed in a mall for 27 years.

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His story is told in Katherine Applegate’s engaging book, The One and Only Ivan.

Of course, Ivan isn’t just a character in her book.  He actually existed and lived in a small cage in a mall in Tacoma, Washington until he was taken to the Atlanta Zoo.

This book has captured our hearts.  The day I began reading it to my 12, 9 and 7-year-old, my 12-year old immediately took it to her room so that she could finish reading it. And then she continued to listen the next few days as I read it out loud to her brothers.

The One and Only Ivan Learning Resources

Ivan.  Lovable.  Artistic.  Thinking.  Sharing.  Ivan.

Katherine Applegate brings Ivan to life through her book which is told from his point of view.

Our family has watched a few helpful videos and listened to an interview with the author to enhance our understanding of this book.  I wanted to share a few of those with you today.

The One and Only Ivan: Videos

NPR’s Backseat Bookclub for Kids interviewed the author about this title in June of 2013.  You can read parts of the interview and listen to the full interview on their site.

The Atlanta Zoo has a page with information about Ivan and a two-minute video with clips of Ivan.

This short documentary details the earlier parts of Ivan’s life. The owners of Ivan tell his story from the time he was a baby gorilla until he was put in the mall display:

This film, from 1992, reveals the dilemma facing the owners of Ivan while he was at the shopping mall. This one shows the sad reality of Ivan’s life, but yet it also shows Ivan being introduced to painting:

The One and Only Ivan: Additional Books

Ivan: The Remarkable Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas.
Disney The One and Only Ivan: Draw Me a Story by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Gonzalo Kenny

The One and Only Ivan: Treats and Fun

Celebrate the movie or the book by enjoying some cotton candy as you watch! This cotton candy machine is perfect to create the “pink clouds that humans eat” and it comes with enough sugar to last a lifetime!  What a fun treat for under $30!

Bake cake pops with your kids and call them “me-balls,” which Ivan loves to throw.

Play Pictionary when the book (or movie) is finished. I hope you guess the items in one another’s drawing better than the humans guess what Ivan is drawing.

These elephant crafts offer a ton of options to celebrate Ivan’s friendship with Stella and Ruby, the elephants.

Love reading and celebrating books with kids?

Our Celebrate a Book Guides will give you all you need to celebrate books with your kids. You’ll find discussion questions as well as ideas for decorations, food, games, crafts, and more.

Grab your Celebrate a Book Guide to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate:

Have you read the One and Only Ivan or seen the movie yet?  What did your family think?

Check out these Book Club Ideas:

Poppy by Avi: Book Club Ideas

Book Clubs for Kids: The Green Ember

Book Clubs for Kids: Anne of Green Gables

Book Clubs for Kids: Mysterious Benedict Society

Book Clubs for Kids: Love That Dog


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  1. Oh my stars! I’m so excited to find this:) My older boys & I are using the Arrow for this book now…going to pin for some learning fun!

  2. My daughter picked this book up last year but didn’t finish it. I didn’t realize it was based on a true story. With all this additional information I think we’ll read it together. 🙂

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