Top Ten Tuesday: 7 Books to Read If You Like The One and Only Ivan


Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

one and only ivan

One of the biggest book matchmaking challenges I face in my Children’s Literature class is what to give next to the student who loves The One and Only Ivan. For many of the students in this class, The One and Only Ivan is the first book they’ve fallen in love with in years. It’s a gateway book—the kind of book that ushers them into the world of reading. That’s a tender and fragile and exciting place for a reader to be, and I want to be sure I make the right match for their next read.

With so many books that my students love, I know exactly what book to give them next. Love Wonder? Here’s Absolutely Almost. Here’s Fish in a Tree. Here’s Out of My Mind. But Ivan is tricky, and I’m not quite sure why. Somehow its individual elements add up to far more than the sum of its parts. It’s not just the story or the themes or the characters. It’s also the prose style, the illustrations, the book design.

Not a single one of these seven books (I don’t have 10 recommendations) is exactly right, but this is the best I’ve been able to do.

I’d love to hear what book you push next on readers who love Ivan.

ivan remarkable true story

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla. This nonfiction picture book about Ivan, also written by Applegate, is the only surefire hit on this list. Readers clamor to get their hands on it after they finish One and Only Ivan, and so far, it’s worked for every reader I’ve given it to.

home of the brave

Home of the Brave. Applegate’s earlier novel about a Sudanese refugee in Minnesota is quite different but also a heartprint kind of book. I haven’t read Crenshaw yet but will certainly be recommending it just as soon as I have.

flora and ulysses

Flora & Ulysses. Kate DiCamillo’s other novels are probably better readalikes for Ivan, but Flora & Ulysses happens to be my favorite and the one I’ve had most success getting my students to read.


Wonder. A book that has very little in common with Ivan on the surface, but it’s probably my most successful bookmatching readalike. Readers who like Ivan really do tend to like Wonder.

true blue scouts

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Maybe the closest true readalike to Ivan on this list, but not one I’ve had huge success inspiring others to read. I clearly need to book talk it better. I haven’t read Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath (I know, I know), but it sounds like another good readalike.

love that dog

Love That Dog. Such a terrific book for reluctant readers who just aren’t sure reading is for them. Sucks you in and before you know it, you’ve finished it and you’re ready to read Hate That Cat. This verse novel is, stylistically, a good fit for readers of Ivan.

charlottes web

Charlotte’s Web. An obvious choice as a readalike—animal friendships, descriptive prose, and of course the need for a box of Kleenex.


8 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: 7 Books to Read If You Like The One and Only Ivan”

  1. LHauser27 Avatar

    Hi! I love Love That Dog. And Hate That Cat, too! Great list 🙂
    My TTT

  2. Jane Whittingham Avatar

    What a beautiful list. I know what you mean – when you get the kids sucked into an awesome book, you really want to keep that momentum going by having lots of other great titles available for them to explore. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Carrie Avatar

    such a delightfully beautiful list! 🙂 My TTT

  4. Wyoming Jen Avatar
    Wyoming Jen

    Thanks for the new suggestions. I’ve added “Love That Dog” to my TBR list.
    I’ve actually independently chosen to read “Wonder” now! Excellent so far.

  5. Erica Avatar

    Thanks for five new books for my TBR list! 🙂

  6. […] failed Top 10 list came in second. I could only come up with 7 kinda-sorta-not-really read-alikes for The One and Only Ivan, but I’m still pleased with that list. Revisiting the list tonight, I wondered if I […]

  7. […] that. The One and Only Ivan is a really difficult book for finding just the right readalike. I made a stab at it a few years ago, but I didn’t get it […]

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