The One and Only Katherine Applegate

The Author of “The One and Only Ivan” comes to Fairhope and takes an interview with some of her youngest Gulf Coast fans.

Cover for “The One and Only Family” by Katherine Applegate

It’s easy to remember the first books that truly made an impression on you as a youth. When you find a story that doesn’t just check an assignment box in class but also captures your imagination, it is life-changing. The first time discovering a book so enthralling that you are compelled to stay up late under the covers just to read one more chapter is a rite of passage. For the youngest readers, that first time you realize you have the ability, all on your own, to read chapter after chapter brings an incredible sense of accomplishment. You have arrived at the wonderful world of chapter books.

Ms. Buttarazzi’s second-grade class at Christ the King Catholic School in Daphne felt that same sense of accomplishment this school year when they read together the #1 New York Times bestseller by Katherine Applegate, “The One and Only Ivan.” Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal, this stirring and unforgettable novel celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendship. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point of view of Ivan himself and was later turned into a major motion picture by Disney with an all-star cast and an Oscar nomination to boot.

But the kids didn’t care about any of that. They just wanted to turn the pages and find out what would happen next to their friend Ivan. “They loved it! They were always like, ‘Can we read more!’” says Buttarazzi of her budding literary enthusiasts. “It’s a fun story, but it also has sad parts, funny parts — it kind of has all the emotions,” says Buttarazzi. She, along with countless other teachers across the country, found the book to be the perfect choice to instill a love of reading while teaching the virtues of empathy, finding your voice and standing up for what is right.

Applegate has just penned the final installment in her One and Only series, and she is taking the book on tour across the US, including a stop in Fairhope. So, who better to ask Applegate questions about her series of books than some of her youngest fans? Here, the students of Ms. Buttarazzi’s second grade do the journalistic work, with the hope it inspires not only lifelong readers but perhaps future writers as well. Now let’s hand it over.

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Christ the King students’ artwork inspired by “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate

Which character in The One and Only Ivan was the most challenging to write about?

– Steele Smith

Interesting writing question! Every character poses challenges, of course, especially when you want to be sure each voice remains distinct. Bob was the easiest because he provided lots of comic relief. But Stella and Ivan were the most difficult. They’d both endured so much in their lives and yet they somehow retained their dignity and their hopeful perspectives.

What part of The One and Only Ivan was most special to you?

– Ann Page Lee

The moment when Ivan steps outside for the first time and sees grass and trees and flowers…and other gorillas.

What inspired you to write The One and Only Ivan?

– Andrew Kerbl

Sometimes I find that I’m most motivated to write about things that make me angry — and I was definitely angry when I read about the 27 years that Ivan had spent caged in a mall. I wanted to examine both the dark moments of human behavior and the moments of light and compassion.

What was your most challenging book to write?

– Garner Crowley

Honestly, every single book is challenging!

Is The One and Only Family the last book for that series?

– D.J. Friedel

Yes. It’s hard to say goodbye to these good friends, but it’s time.

Who is your favorite character in The One and Only Ivan?

– Aliah Challenger

Bob, because he makes me laugh.

Which book in The One and Only series is your favorite?

– Marian Lacey

When readers ask me about a favorite book, I usually respond, “Would you ask your parents to choose their favorite kid?”

I suppose “The One and Only Family” has a special place in my heart because we get to see Ivan with a family he loves so deeply.

Do you feel like The One and Only Ivan movie and characters accurately portrayed your vision of the book? Was there a part in the movie that surprised you?

– Alex Vipperman

I was lucky enough to visit the set while they were filming in London, so I had a good sense of how they were approaching the story. A film is a very different medium from a book. I always expect changes when I see a movie based on a novel. 

My favorite part of the film was the remarkable use of CGI to make the animals seem so lifelike.

How did you come up with the idea to create the characters Bob and Mack?

– Sawyer Pronesti

Bob actually started out as a roach! I needed someone tiny to be able to sneak into Ivan’s cage. Eventually, I decided to enlarge the hole in the cage so that Bob could be a dog. (I’m a serious dog-lover.)

With Mack, I wanted to show the complicated relationship humans had with Ivan during those years of captivity. I truly believe that many of those people cared about Ivan. They just didn’t understand the needs of a captive wild animal.

Did you get a chance to meet Ivan at the zoo when he was alive?

– Thomas Herndon

I visited Zoo Atlanta with my daughter shortly after I’d finished the manuscript for the first book. It was raining that day, and I knew from my research how much Ivan hated wet weather. (He didn’t like to get his feet wet!) We waited and waited under our umbrellas, but Ivan never appeared. I was disappointed at first. But then I realized that Ivan finally had some control over his life, and that made me incredibly happy.

If you want more of the One and Only series, you can catch Applegate at Page & Palette in Fairhope!

Katherine Applegate

Author Event: Katherine Applegate

May 10, 5 p.m.
Page & Palette

The beloved author of “The One and Only Ivan”  will sign and discuss “The One and Only Family,” a delightful, unforgettable final foray into the world of Ivan, the world’s favorite silverback.

This is a ticketed event — one purchase of “The One and Only Family” per family is required for admittance. To purchase, call 251-928-5295, stop by P&P or visit the following link.

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