That Book Sounds Familiar

charlotte's web    one and only ivan

I teach fourth grade and have elementary school aged children, so I have a legitimate reason for reading children’s books. The truth is– I just like them. They are (usually) fabulous stories; they are fast reads, and it is an activity I can share with my children.

Many of the stories my children and I have been reading lately have a familiar ring to them. Authors are recycling the same plot details and character types from the best books I read growing up. I was so struck by the similarities between Phantom Tollbooth and Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes that I wrote the Peter Nimble author to ask about it. He responded! The Just Deserts section of the book is a small tribute to Jester and his play on words. Jody Feldman credits Dahl as a source of inspiration for her book, The Gollywhopper Games (See the Author Letters post about contacting authors).

Below is a list of some new and old favorites. Is there something on the list that brings back memories of your favorite childhood book? Is there a recent version that is almost as good?

The Classic

The Re-Make

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The One and Only Ivan by Applegate
  •  Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice by Flanagan
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by Konigsburg
  • Wonderstruck by Selznick
  •  Wrinkle in Time by L’Engle
  • When You Reach Me by Stead
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Dahl
  • The Gollywhopper Games by Feldman
  • Floors by Carmen
  • Remarkable by Foley
  •  The Phantom Tollbooth by Jester
  • Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Auxier
  •  The Boxcar Children Mysteries by Warner
  • The Sherlock Files series by Barrett
  •  Peter Pan by Barrie
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Barry
  •  Hatchet by Paulsen
  • Far North by Hobbs
  •  Nancy Drew Mysteries by Keene
  • Red Blazer Girls by Beil
  • The Borrowers by Norton
  • Indian in the Cupboard by Banks
  • The Doll People by Martin and Godwin

11 thoughts on “That Book Sounds Familiar

  1. What a great post! Your chart made some really fabulous connections. I just wrote a post about similar connections between two of my favorites, so I was really struck by the connected books you chose. The Phantom Tollbooth is one of my favorite books, but I’ve never read Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes – I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

    • I would be interested to know if you get the Tollbooth vibe from Peter Nimble. Not all of my matches are an exact re-do of the plot. Sometimes there is a feeling from the characters that makes me think the author is re-using a classic. The Sherlock Files books have a brother/sister team who are really considerate of each other and rely on the others’ strengths. That is the part that reminds me of the Boxcar children. I wrote the Sherlock Files author too, and she agreed!

  2. The Clementine series remind me a lot do the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. A curious little girl who means well, but always finds herself in trouble. The parents have that Quimby sensibility when dealing with her crazy antics. There’s even a Henry Huggins-type. One of my favorite new(ish) series for middle grades.

  3. Loved “Charlotte’s Web” as a child. It was read to my class when I was in the third grade. I read it to my children and they are reading it to their children. My grandsons and I have read “The One and Only Ivan”. Like Charlotte and Wilber, I won’t soon forget Ivan, Stella and Ruby. Thanks for this list. The boys and I will have fun checking out some of the pairings. I too will be reposting this on my grade school reading blog.

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