Ivan the gorilla’s smart-mouthed sidekick gets his own sequel

Katherine Applegate’s books for children are just as engaging for grown-ups.

I recently asked my 11-year-old grandson, Nicholas, who is a serious reader, what his favorite book is. Without hesitation, he said The One and Only Ivan. Ivan, who is a gorilla, has “real emotions,” he explained. When I pressed for more, he paused a moment, then added, “Ivan knows how it feels when a friend dies.” Katherine Apple­gate may not be America’s greatest living writer, but countless children and parents would say that she is one of them. She has authored or coauthored more than 150 best-selling children’s books. Ivan alone sold more than half a million copies within a year of its publication. The following year it won the Newbery Medal, and since then it has chalked up another half million sales. This summer, Disney+ released a full-length movie version.

Now Applegate has published a sequel, The One and Only Bob, which has already started to win the kind of acclaim be­stowed on Ivan.

Ivan is told through the eyes of a fictional gorilla whose life parallels that of an actual gorilla. The real Ivan, born in Africa, “spent the first 27 years of his life in a shopping mall in Washington State,” Applegate notes. In 1994, Ivan was moved to a wildlife preserve, where he enjoyed good care and relative freedom until his death in 2012.