The Extraordinary Books of Katherine Applegate


The One and Only Ivan

One of my all-time favorite authors is Katherine Applegate.  I love each and every one of her books.  My favorite, though, is the poignantly written The One and Only Ivan.  The story is told in first person narrative using the thoughts of Ivan, a  gorilla who was captured as an infant in the Congo, and spent most of his life as side-show attraction in a local mall.  That is, until someone noticed he could paint! This text was inspired by the real life story of a lowland gorilla named Ivan.  You can learn so much from reading this book, and in doing so teach about issues related to social justice and equity, empathy for the mistreatment of animals, and the goodness of people who work worldwide to save and protect endangered species.   You can find links online to view Ivan’s story (

The Wishtree

Red, a wise, old, northern red,  has a story to tell, even though she claims most trees are “introverts at heart.”  The tale is all about the wishes.  Every year on the first day of May, people in the town tie slips of paper to the oak’s  branches with “secret” and even “silly” (“chocolate spaghetti”) wishes written upon them.  They call the oak the “wishtree.”  Like The One and Only Ivan, the story is told  in first person from the tree’s perspective.  It is both male and female, which lends to interesting characterization. I don’t want to spoil the read for you, so, I’ll just say the wish Red receives from a tearful child “for a friend” in conjunction with the word “LEAVE” carved into her trunk by a lanky young boy, set the stage for the conflict, action, and resolution of this story.  It’s a great read aloud for third and fourth graders, with implications for discussions about diversity and friendship.

My summer reading list includes Katherine Applegate’s latest book, Endling the Last and an earlier book entitled CrenshawI will be posting my impressions soon.  What a great mentor author for upper and middle school student writers!



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