The One and Only Katherine Applegate

Amazing, fabulous, wonderful, spectacular, superb! Those are only a few of the ways we could describe our visit with Katherine Applegate this week!

Katherine came with her daughter Julia, and HarperCollins editor, Anne Hoppe and gave us a presentation on her book The One and Only Ivan. Ivan is dedicated to Julia, and her name is also used for one of the main human characters in the book.

Katherine is the author, and co-author with NYT bestseller Michael Grant of over 150 books for children and young adults, including Animorphs, which has sold over 35 millions copies. In the library world, she is a ROCKSTAR, yet, a nicer, more humble author you could not meet.

In a fabulous presentation created by her 15 year old son Jake,Katherine led us through the story of Ivan, the “shopping mall gorilla,” who spent 27 years in the B & I shopping Mall in Tacoma, and the inspiration of her novel. After reading a newspaper article many years ago when Ivan’s future was being debated, Katherine learned about this silverback gorilla stuck inside a 14 x 14 cement cage.  She later saw a National Geographic documentary on urban gorillas that included Ivan’s history. “I couldn’t get this story out of my head,” she told us.

She told us she remembered Toni Morrison’s quote,

She did research through the years and even went to Tacoma to get more information. Yet, she knew his story would also have to be fictionalized. Stella, the older elephant and Bob, the dog didn’t really live with Ivan in real-life, and neither did Ruby, the baby elephant. These were the touches she added to his story to give it depth, poignancy and heroism.

Students also had a chance to ask Katherine questions where she let us know that her best advice for student writers is summed up in two words:

 what if ….

Put yourself in any situation, and ask yourself “what if” and you have the basis for a new story! It’s as simple as that! She also urged student writers to be proud of what they write. She spent many years as a ghost writer for some well known series like Sweet Valley High, or used pseudonyms before she took the plunge to write under her own name.


The culmination of the morning was lunch for eight lucky students, who spent an hour with Katherine, Anne and Julia talking about books, Ivan and her life as a writer.

We even had a special cake made for the occasion! I got the idea for this cake from Mr. Schu. You can visit his blog here.

Following lunch, Anne signed a book for each of the “Applegate Lunch Bunch” and had their picture taken with her.

Sadly, the morning came to an end and we waved Katherine, Julie and Anne goodbye! They we off to enjoy the day in Seattle and then return to Parkplace Books in Kirkland for another visit the following day with students at two other local schools.

If you live in the Seattle area, she will be at Elliott Bay books this afternoon, Wednesday, April 18th at 3pm doing another book signing!

We can’t thank you enough for visiting our school!  It was truly an honor and a day I will personally treasure close to my heart.

 Here is the special bulletin board we prepared especially for her visit.

 Anne Hoppe, editor for The One and Only Ivan visits with Katherine and Julia.

 Katherine with Mrs. Hembree and her husband. Mr. Hembree remembered visiting Ivan in Tacoma when he was a child.


Have you ever met an author in person before?

What is your “what if” story idea?

Do you have a special animal story?


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14 thoughts on “The One and Only Katherine Applegate

  1. Dear Mrs.Hembree,
    That was a great day I wish I could find my paper to enter. I have seen the author of Baby mouse before. I wish Jeff Kinney visited our school I would be surprised that he would be here at our school.
    From Alex.

  2. Dear Mrs Hembree,

    Wow Wow what an amazing day you and the winners had with the rock star author Katherine Applegate.
    I really loved reading all about her wonderful visit to your school and meeting up with the winners. Yours photos tell a thousand words for the smiles on every ones faces was priceless.

    Katherine Applegate words were so inspiring. Katherine is so right in saying that “be proud of what you write”.

    I loved the cake it was just perfect and I also loved the photo of you and Mr Hembree and Katherine Applegate holding a baby Ivan. 🙂

    My what if story would be about me as a child living in the big city then one day my family sales our family home and decides to move to the country where only a hand full of, people live in this township. This is where is would get interesting how would I cope as a child making me friends,
    will they think I am different because I come from the big city. How would I cope with out my friends that I have know from a very young age?

    Mrs Hembree I might just write my story about “what if ”

    Awesome Post Mrs Hembree and thanks for sharing it with us all.

    From your pal down under,
    AA 🙂

    • Dear AA,
      Thanks for your amazing comment! I told my husband that you enjoyed seeing the photo of the three of us. He took the day off work to come because he knew what this particular day meant to me and he wanted to be part of it.
      I loved your “what if” story! I have been participating in a Newbery Reading Challenge, started by some other librarians. The goal is to read all the Newbery medal winners. I have set a goal of reading them within 2 years. I have been listening to many of them on audio CD in my car. Right now I am listening to A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. This story is similar to your story idea! So, what I’m saying is, you have a great idea! Go for it! If you write it, I will read it!
      One ” what if” story I have thought of is “what if” there was a substantial earthquake while I was at work? How would I survive? Get home? Who would I find there? It would be an action adventure story.
      Your Seattle friend,
      Mrs. Hembree

  3. @ Mrs Hembree,

    I love reading your comment back to me. I feel you have a wonderful hubby which is another name for husband down under to be with you on this truly awesome day.

    I really loved the challenge you have set for yourself, one that I know you will do. Must make it a point of taking BB to the library and borrow an audio CD I feel this is another wonderful way of reading.

    Your “what if ” story sounds like a wonderful read so do make it a point of writing it. I love the fact it is an action packed adventure story. 🙂


  4. Hi Mrs Hembree

    What a truly fabulous day in your library!! I imagine the excitement in your school must been at fever pitch with Katherine Applegate’s visit.

    I love the way Katherine brought along her daughter Julia and her son Jake created her presentation. It was interesting to read how Katherine researched her story and then included the fictional elements. I finished reading ‘The One and Only Ivan’ on the weekend and I really didn’t want the story to end!

    Katherine’s advice to think “what if” is very valuable and one I’ve heard quite a few authors say…so it definitely works! May I share a funny example of this? Andy Griffiths is a popular author here who writes very funny stories. One of his most popular series is “The day My Bum Went Psycho” (Hope it’s okay to write this). Andy came up with this idea because he thought what if bottoms were sick of their place on the body and wanted to swap places with heads? So he wrote a very funny trilogy about bottoms wanting to take over the world!

    I really enjoyed seeing all of the photos you have included and I love the smiles on the “Applegate Lunch Bunch”. ‘The One and Only Ivan’ cake is a work of art – almost too good to eat!

    I also love the photo of you and Mr Hembree with Katherine and Ivan. It’s great to see you both!

    I think this day will be one the students at your school will remember for a very long time…

    Miss Y 🙂

    • Dear Miss Y,
      Thank you for the detailed comment! Katherine did use a lot of research as background for the book. She and my husband had some conversation about her memories of seeing Ivan in the cage when he was young. It is a local Seattle/Tacoma story.

      Andy Griffiths is hilarious and yes, sometimes his titles are a bit crazy! I have most of his books and many students love them! What a great story to share about how he got the idea for the book! I certainly would never have thought of that!

      I hated cutting into the cake a destroying the top, but it was worth every bite! Yummy chocolate cream between the layers!

      I hope you will be able to see Jeff Kinney on his visit, if not in person, then perhaps on interview on the television.

      From your Seattle librarian friend,
      Mrs. Hembree

  5. Dear Mrs Hembree,
    I just loved reading your magnificent post Mrs Hembree.

    Those students were very lucky to have lunch with The One The Only Kathrine I sure would love to have lunch with an author.

    When I go to library I am going to ask my librarian if she can show me the book The One The Only Ivan.

    My favourite animal book would have to be Baby Animal Stories. It is about all these stories about Baby Animals.

    Do you have a book Mrs Hembree that you have treasured since you were little?

    From your pal,
    BB. 🙂

    PS I just love the photos

    • Dear Bianca,
      I’m pleased you liked the post. My goal was to try to describe our visit with words and pictures so people who weren’t here, could at least visualize it.

      When I was a little girl, I loved horse books. I was very horse crazy and read all the stories I could get my hands on. Then I liked dogs books like Sounder, Old Yeller, and Where the Red Fern Grows.

      The book I have treasured since I was little is one that is now banned. My original book was given away because we moved a few times. However, I bought a copy 10 years ago and paid $100 for it. It cost 10 cents when I was little! The name is Little Black Sambo. When I was young, I loved how the tiger could run around a tree and make butter. It was magical to me. I didn’t know until I was an adult that some people find the book offensive. That’s okay. I choose to remember it and enjoy it with my childhood imagination!

      Your friend,
      Mrs. Hembree

  6. Dear Mrs Hembree
    What an amazing opportunity you created for your students there – it must be very rewarding to organise something so special and memorable! Our school is so tiny and out of the way that I have never managed to entice an author to visit (despite asking!), but I did take a group of 7-11 yr old students to meet Anne Fine when she spoke at a book festival, and we did all our term’s work around her books, so the children were really thrilled when they got to meet her and she signed their books.

    I also had – and LOVED – Little Black Sambo when I was a child. My mother still has it carefully squirrelled away! I loved the tigers in it, and the picture with the pancakes piled up at the end – I always wanted to eat a pile of pancakes, but my mother would only let me have them one at a time!

    Watership Down by Richard Adams was my favourite animal story when I was young. I still remember sobbing on our sofa at the ending!

    A lovely post – I really enjoyed reading it.
    Mrs M

  7. Hi Aunt Julie ,
    I love the book I am on the 5 page and I already love it ! I will write more when I read more . Thank you so much for getting the author to sign the book. We miss you. Thanks again.

  8. Pingback: The One and Only Ivan | 4KM and 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School

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