The One and Only Ivan is the story of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in a shopping mall and who humans watch through the glass walls of his domain. When Ivan meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, he is determined to use his art to set her free. This deeply moving story celebrates the power of friendship, family, and kindness.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In Mahani Zubaidy Gunnell’s “A Cobra in the Garden,” Gunnell discusses her time living in Borneo and the cobra that lived in her garden there.
Read this text after the chapter “gone,” to have students discuss the importance of respecting animals. In this chapter, Ivan describes the lives of the animals in cages at the mall. Have students compare the way Gunnell treats the cobra and the way Ivan and the animals are treated at the mall. Ask, “How is the way Gunnell watches the cobra different from the way people watch the animals at the mall?” Students might discuss the importance of respecting the power and beauty of wild animals from a distance.
In “Hugo and the Seal,” a boy learns a lesson about friendship while caring for a seal.
Read this short story after the chapter “bob and julia,” to have students analyze character traits. In this chapter, Julia sits with Ivan and Bob each evening while her father cleans the mall. Have students think about Hugo and Julia’s interactions with the animals. Ask, “Why do Hugo and Julia spend time sitting near the animals? What does it reveal about their characters?” Students’ answers may draw on the themes of empathy and friendship in both texts.
In the informational text “Standing Out in the Herd,” Cecil Dzwowa explains how a giraffe came to be a part of a herd of cows.
Read this text after the chapter “training,” to have students think about the relationships among the animals. In this chapter, Ruby says she is scared to go to the zoo because Ivan, Bob, and Julia are her home. Have students consider Toro’s experience with his new family and Ruby and Ivan’s fears about leaving the mall to live at the zoo. Ask, “What happened when Toro joined his new family of cattle? What might happen when Ruby and Ivan join the other elephants and gorillas at the zoo?” Students’ answers may draw on the themes of family, friendship, and identity in the texts.
In “A Little Tiny Thing,” a young girl learns a big lesson from a small insect about how to treat others.
Read this story after the chapter “good-bye,” to have students discuss the importance of treating animals well. In this chapter, Julia says farewell to Ivan before he leaves for the zoo. Have students think about the lesson Mary learned in the story and the kindness Julia has shown to the animals all along. Say to students, “Julia says that Ruby and Ivan deserve ‘a different life’ than the one they’ve been living, caged by humans. Why is it important for humans to be kind to animals?” Students might think about the power dynamics and relationships between the humans and animals in both texts.
In the informational text “The Wild Horses of Assateague Island,” the author discusses how wild horses likely came to the Assateague Island and how they live today.
Read this text after the chapter “outside at last,” to have students discuss the importance of respect for animals. In this chapter, Ivan proclaims the sky, grass, dirt, and the rest of the nature around him “Mine. Mine. Mine.” Have students discuss the importance of the horses and Ivan living in their own big, open habitats. Ask, “Why do animals deserve to be free and wild, away from humans?” Students might consider the theme of animal rights in both texts when answering.
In “No Petting the Orangutans, Please!” Arlene Mark describes her experience working to rescue orangutans.
Read this text after finishing The One and Only Ivan to have students build on earlier conversations about animal rights. Have students compare and contrast the two texts. Ask, “How are Ivan and Biki’s experiences similar and different? Why was it important for the animals to live with their own kind?” Students should use evidence from both texts to support their answers.