The One and Only Family by Katherine Applegate

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Still riding the success of The One and Only Ivan, winner of the Newbery Medal in 2013, Katherine Applegate has added a fourth tale to the “Ivan and friends” series with The One and Only Family (Harper Collins, 2024). This book details Ivan’s experience in becoming a silverback and a father in the wildlife sanctuary. As a gorilla raised in captivity, away from parental training, Ivan relies on his instincts and all that he does remember to consider how he can be a leader to his troop and now a father to young twins.

As with the other books, the main animal (in this case the creative Ivan) narrated the text, and the chapters are brief and written in verse. Thus the book is a quick read, with a lower reading level to welcome the young and the older children interested in animals. The book was separated into sections, including when Ivan found out his partner was “expecting,” when the babies were born, and two years later. I did not like the jump in time and wanted a bit more continuity. Nevertheless, it was an intriguing concept to consider how animals learn their roles as parents while in captivity, as well as how Ivan found satisfaction in being a leader for his fellow gorillas, even when such leadership is not as crucial as in the wild. A dramatic event in the end of the book gives Ivan this moment of successful leadership that provides that sense of satisfaction for him.

Although I adored The One and Only Ivan (reviewed in 2014), and enjoyed The One and Only Bob (not reviewed), I only found that I liked The One and Only Ruby (reviewed last year) and this one, The One and Only Family. I’m glad it’s been announced that this is last in the series, since it honestly had seemed to me that the first book (based on a true story) told all that we needed to know. It has been fun to see the history and development of both Bob the dog and Ruby the elephant, but I’m ready to read different animal-focused middle grade tales now. It’s time Ivan and his friends be left alone.

Reviewed on July 8, 2024

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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