Teacher-Librarian Chris Gray

I have been excited about this blog post ever since teacher-librarian Chris Gray agreed to chat with me about how his elementary school celebrated Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan. I wrote the words in red, and Chris wrote the words in black. Thank you, Chris! 

Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate visited Harvard Elementary School in October to read the final chapters of The One and Only Ivan with our students to finish up our One Book, One School event.  I will never forget looking out at our sea of students, all with their books in their laps, engaged in reading along with The One and Only Katherine Applegate.  It was a powerful and moving way to wrap up a fantastic event.  

The One and Only Ivan is a masterpiece.  It’s moved to the top of my list of favorite books displacing several books that have been there for decades.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet, go pick it up! 

Katherine Applegate told my students to make mistakes!  She told them you have to make lots of mistakes in order to be a great writer.  That’s good advice for all of us. 

My students will always have a special appreciation for gorillas and elephants and small dogs who provide comic relief.

I think a One Book, One School celebration is a great way to build excitement and enthusiasm about reading and build a sense of community at the same time.   

Reading is one of life’s greatest joys.  I’m so in awe of the many talented writers who can take us on exciting adventures and make us feel so many different emotions by putting their words on a page. 


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what Newbery Award winning author Katherine Applegate is really like.  She is warm, interesting, kind, funny, gracious, thoughtful – and she loves pizza.  If she were your next door neighbor you would want to hang out by the fence and chat with her all day long… except that would mean she wouldn’t have any time to write more amazing, new books.   

I am giving away one copy of The One and Only Ivan

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 12/13 to 11:59 p.m. on 12/14. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 


  1. John, I could NOT contain myself when I saw what this post was! You were the one who made me aware of this AMAZING VIDEO the school did to celebrate "Ivan" when you first posted it. I couldn't get enough of watching it, and choked up every time! Thank you, Chris (and all involved) for making this. It was such a gift!

    And I am a TOTAL advocate of "One Book, One School"!

  2. Love The One and Only Ivan. I am gifting it to my boxing trainer who views himself as a silver backeed gorilla protector of his clan. He has 3 young kids so I hope he will read it aloud to them.


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