Reading Recs for Classics

I have a pet peeve. You know those articles that list great children’s books or quotes from children’s books? They are all over the place. And you know what they all have in common? The books they quote and feature are super old! Like decades old. It sort of feels like children’s publishing began and ended with Winnie the Pooh. Oh, and then E.B. White and Roald Dahl showed up and that was nice, but that’s basically it.

It’s a real shame because children’s publishing is putting out AMAZING books. Every year. Kids books today are more diverse and move relevant. They come in all sorts of formats and deal with big themes and ideas. They are works of art. Children’s books don’t play it safe all the time. The open up the world to their readers and more and more are addressing timely topics. Why are people still sitting here only talking about Judy Blume and Anne of Green Gables?

When I took my gripe to Facebook, I had several people ask for more recent books to replace the old books they’d been using. And thus began a group research effort. I crowdsourced on Twitter some of the most commonly read classics in the classroom and then asked for recommendations of books that could stand in for them, whether that be the same subject matter, or tone, or style.

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It was really fun and the list we came up with is below. While there is something to be said with having students read books that they will be expected to know, we also need to continue to expand that list of books and bring it into the 21st century with relevant topics and diverse authors and characters. You don’t have to replace every single “classic” with something new and modern, but it would be great if you could exchange out at least a few. Hopefully this list gives you a good place to start.

*Note* I have not read all these books myself. They were crowdsourced. You may disagree with some of them. That’s okay. Some might not match up age wise with what they are being recommended to replace. Use your judgement. But please try something new!

 

Instead of Johnny Tremaine, try some of these historical fictions:

SEEDS OF AMERICA and FEVER 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee

THE BLOODY JACK series (1700’s) by L.A. Meyer

THE CURE FOR DREAMING (1900’s women’s suffrage) by Cat Winters

STELLA BY STARLIGHT (1939 Segregated South) by Sharon Draper

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON (1950’s Mississippi) by Linda W Jackson

Instead of Roald Dahl:

FLORA AND ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo

THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M Valente

THE LAND OF YESTERDAY by Kristin Reynolds (releases July 2018)

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE by Jennifer Maschari

THE AMULET series by Kazu Kibuishi

anything by Neil Gaiman

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket

ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein

THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart

THE UNICORN IN THE BARN by Jacqueline Ogburn and Rebecca Green

A DASH OF DRAGON by Heidi Lang and Kate Bartkowski

THE INQUISITOR’S TALE by Adam Gidwitz

THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL by Megan Shepherd

THE BOOK OF ELSEWHERE by Jacqueline West

THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand

THE STRANGE AND DEADLY PORTRAITS OF BRYONY GRAY by Erin Latimer (releases in 2018).

Instead of Island of the Blue Dolphins:

anything by Joseph Bruchac

BIRCHBARK HOUSE series by Louise Erdrich

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME and JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich-Smith

ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie

Instead of Charlotte’s Web:

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN and WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate

THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY by Jodi Kendall

ZINNIA AND THE BEES by Danielle Davis

THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown

Instead of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS and OLD YELLER:

LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech

BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo

MY DOG SKIP by Willie Morris

Terry Lynn Johnson’s Sled Dog books,

PARCHED by Melanie Crowder,

WISH by Barbara O’Connor

RACING IN THE RAIN: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein

WHIPPOORWILL by Joseph Moninger

THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness

CHASING AUGUSTUS by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Instead of Catcher in the Rye:

GIRL MANS UP by M-E Girard

Anything by John Green and Rainbow Rowell.

Instead of some Steinbeck:

OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse

ESPERANZA RISING by Pam Munoz Ryan

AMERICAN STREET by Ibi Zoboi,

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LISTOF WORST NIGHTMARES by Krystal Sutherland

I’LL MEET YOU THERE by Heather Demetrios

JUNIPER LEMON’S HAPPINESS INDEX by Julie Israel

Instead of THE SCARLETT LETTER or TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES:

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Mindy McGinnis

HOW TO HANG A WITCH by Adriana Mather

EXIT PURSUED BY A BEAR by E.K. Johnston

MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

Instead of the same ol’ American Lit Masterpieces by dead white guys:

BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Really, anything by Jason Reynolds

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Saenz

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN by Jeff Garvin

AUDACITY by Melanie Crowder

INFANDOUS and WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF by Elana K Arnold

Instead of Dystopian like A Brave New World, 1984, or The Giver:

FEED by M.T. Anderson

THE CITY OF EMBER series by Jeanne Duprau

FIRST LIGHT by Rebecca Stead

LEGEND by Marie Lu,

THE SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson

YORK by Laura Ruby

UNWIND by Neal Shusterman

Instead of Lord of the Flies:

THE CASTAWAYS by Jessica Fleck

THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS by Charlotte Wood

What contemporary title would you suggest swapping for a classic? 

_____________________________

Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. She now resides in central California where she is a gardener, chemist, homeschool mom, Yosemite explorer, and Disneyland enthusiast. She writes middle-grade fiction and is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown LTD.

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