So, your young reader loved The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and they want to know what to read next! It’s no wonder they want more books like The One and Only Ivan. Applegate’s Newbery award winning story about friendship teaches empathy and offers hope, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
The following books will appeal to Ivan fans looking for titles with a similar feel (though perhaps not as sad). Most have animal characters, and all of them will pull at your heartstrings. Best of all, read alike books can encourage kids to spend more time reading.
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Here at What Do We Do All Day, we strongly encourage you to support your public library and local bookstore. If you purchase books online, you can still support independent booksellers through Bookshop. You can find this list of books similar to The One and Only Ivan curated at Bookshop here.
Note: I haven’t read it yet, but there is now a sequel to Ivan, The One and Only Bob.
Books for Kids Who Loved The One and Only Ivan
by Sharon Creech
Young Louie misses his brother Gus, who is in the army. Nursing a small, sickly donkey he names Winslow helps to fill the gap of loneliness. Winslow also helps him to befriend Nora, a charming and quirky girl who lives close by and who is dealing with a loss of her own. Delightful and heartwarming. Ages 7 and up.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Books Narrated from the Animal’s Point of View
by Katherine Applegate
Red, the 200-plus year old tree, narrates this tale. From her perspective we learn about a celebration in May in which the town inhabitants come to tie their wishes to the tree. We learn about the animals who take shelter in Red, the past neighbors who have found solace in Red, and we see Samar, a lonely girl who comes to spend time at the tree. When a boy hangs messages of hate about Samar on the tree, Red begins to communicate with the animals to intervene and bring hope back to the community. Wonderful. Ages 8 and up.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Heartwarming Read Alouds the Whole Family Will Love
by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
Mass and Stead wrote this story about a small magical creature far from home in alternating voices. 11-year-old Livy returns to her grandmother’s farm in Australia and finds a small green sprite-like creature in the closet. Bob insists that he and Livy were friends when she was last there when she was five years old, but Livy doesn’t remember. Together they set out to figure out who Bob is and where he is from. Ages 8 and up.
The Journey of the Pale Bear
by Susan Fletcher
Arthur, a boy living in Norway, runs away from his abusive stepfather and stepbrothers. He has a letter from his Welsh cousins, which he assumes is asking him to return to Wales and claim his birthright. Unfortunately, he can’t actually read the letter. In the port town of Bergen he encounters a caged polar bear and two ruffians shove him in the cage. When Arthur soothes the bear, he is enlisted to accompany the bear on a ship to England, for the bear is a gift from King Haakon to King Henry. Hair-raising, heart-searching and page-turning adventure follows. The story was inspired by a 13th century “pale bear” who lived in the Tower of London menagerie, a gift from Norway. Ages 9 and up.
The Book of Boy
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Boy, as he is called, is an outcast in his medieval village. He is able to communicate with animals, is mocked for his misshapen back and treated cruelly by those he works for. One day a pilgrim named Secundus passes through and engages Boy as his servant on his journey to retrieve the relics of Saint Peter. Along the way, Boy meets fascinating characters, falls into dangerous and mysterious adventures and learns that things, including his own sense of self, are not always as they seem. This is a spellbinding tale which will have you and your kids discussing the nature of goodness and making choices. Ages 8 and up.
Me and Marvin Gardens
by April Sarig King
This was such an interesting read. Obe Devlin lives in a house that has sat on his family’s farmland for several generations. But his grandfather lost much of the land and it is now under development for tract housing. Obe spends his time down at the creek looking for animal tracks and one day he spies a strange new creature that eats plastic. Obe names the animal, Marvin Gardens because his dad loves Monopoly. Obe tries to keep Marvin a secret but then he discovers Marvin’s scat is toxic to the land. While I was reading this book I kept thinking Marvin must be a figment of Obe’s imagination, but he wasn’t and that makes the book so much better. It would be easy for King’s book to devolve into environmental preachiness but it is not at all didactic. Ages 8 and up.
Secrets of Selkie Bay
by Shelley Moore Thomas
Cordie and her three sisters live with their father on the coast of Ireland in a seaside town that profits off tales of the mythic selkies, seals who can shed their skin to become humans on land. Their father used to research the local pixie seals, who have now all mysteriously disappeared. Their mother has disappeared too. When Cordie spins a tale for her sister, Iona, the younger sister becomes convinced their mother is a selkie, returned to the sea. Be prepared for a surprise ending! Ages 8 and up.
by Mira Bartók
Bartók creates a marvelous world that draws upon the familiar and fantastical. The protagonist is a “groundling,” a fox-like creature who escapes with his bird-friend, Trinket, from a grim orphanage to head out on an adventure. Their adventure circles round and they plan to rescue the other orphans. There is something very Dickensian about the story, and unlike some books set in strange hybrid worlds, Bartók’s incredible descriptions and use of language, along with her illustrations build a fully-realized, fascinating universe. Fantastic as a read aloud. Ages 9 and up
Ragweed (Tales from Dimwood Forest series)
Ragweed is a mouse who craves adventure. He leaves his family, hops a train and lands in a town where he makes friends with other mice, learns a lot about life and helps foil the local cats. Avi’s ability to convey complex human emotions and discuss subject matter like fear, death, ambition, love and friendship in a way that kids can understand and relate to is rather remarkable, especially given that the characters are all animals. Here’s a warning, though: Ragweed dies in the first chapter of the next book, Poppy. However, Avi’s brilliant handling of Poppy’s subsequent journey as a result of Ragweed’s death prevented my kids from finding the event traumatic. Ages 8 and up.
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The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
by Kathi Appelt
Bingo and J’miah are two raccoons who descend from a long line of raccoons entrusted with the job of alerting the mythic Sugar Man in case of an emergency. They decide to do so when a band of feral hogs invade the swamp, their sights set on the sugarcane. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Chad is dismayed to learn that the slimy Sunny Boy Beaucoup wants to convert the swamp into Gator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park. Ages 9 and up.
by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Marianna Raskin
Becca and her three brothers are quadruplets. One day, Becca finds a tiny, mangy little pig and convinces her parents to let her bring it home. Once the family learns from the vet that the pig will eventually be 600 pounds, they agree to allow the pig to stay until it reaches 100, or “maybe 50-60,” as her mother warns. As Becca learns to take care of the pig, she also reflects upon some of the choices she has made in life, especially in regards to a friend she feels she has let down. This is a great family story. Ages 7 and up.
by Carlie Sorosiak
I really enjoyed this book. It is narrated by Cosmo, the elderly family golden retriever. Cosmo considers himself to be Max’s big brother and his life’s work is to keep Max safe. But the family is in turmoil. Max’s parents are fighting and Max and his sister are feeling anxious. Max gets the idea to enter a contest by teaching Cosmo a dance routine, which he hopes will make his parents take notice of him and stop fighting. He gets through tough times with the help of his uncle’s wisdom and his inner determination. Ages 8 and up.
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