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