Adult Counterparts for Your Favorite Children’s Books


For most of us, the books we read as children stick with us long after they’ve been boxed up or handed down. Even if they’re not all deeply profound (hey, I did learn a few fashion do’s and dont’s from those Baby-Sitter’s Club covers), there is plenty of overlap between our most beloved children’s books and our new adult favorites. 

Have you ever wondered what those childhood favorites would become when they grew up? How their themes or tones might morph into the world of adult fiction? I grabbed six of the books I couldn’t part with as a child and imagined them as grown ups…with some interesting results.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh and The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly

  • Though the crime Riddle James Camperdown witnesses in Elizabeth Kelly’s novel is far more serious than anything Harriet jots down in her notebooks, The Last Summer of the Camperdowns has much of the humor of Harriet the Spy and a protagonist with a similar feel.

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss and The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

  • While both books tell a similar tale, the moral questions raised in Belfoure’s story take the memoir of survival from The Upstairs Room to a much more thought-provoking level.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

  • Survival, planes…it seems like an obvious pair. Maybe it is. But The Dog Stars takes the stranded survival story of Hatchet and adds adult complexity with the handful of relationships it gives its protagonist to navigate.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan and Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

  • Clearly, Mamah Borthwick Cheney was not a mail order bride when she began her lifelong affair with architect Frank Lloyd wright, but both books deal with the structure of families and how they can be impacted by romance or the lack thereof. 

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

  • They share the obvious art and museum connection, but beyond that, …The Mixed-Up Files and The Goldfinch both touch on themes of self-discovery and the search for a sense of belonging or feeling of home.

Tunes for Bears to Dance To by Robert Cormier and No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel

  • On the surface, the only similarity between these two novels is the shared connection to World War II Europe. But each story is rooted in fable and storytelling, and Robert Cormier’s book could almost act as an introduction to the world of magical realism adults will see in No One is Here Except All of Us
Can you figure out how any of your favorite childhood books would have grown up?
  • Vasilly

    Oh I like this post! Now I’m going to look around my bookshelves and see if I can find the grown-up versions of my childhood favorites. What a wonderful idea!

  • Great idea for a post. I just finished reading Harriet the Spy with my daughter, so maybe now i need to read your adult recommend!

    • Oh, I hope it was a fun read for both of you! Harriet was one of my absolute favorites as a kid – I think I wore out that paperback.

  • Interesting idea for a post! There’s at least one of these recommendations I would pick up. Thanks!

  • Brilliant idea for a post, love it!

  • What a cool post! I love this idea, and I love the match-ups you’ve made!

  • Aha! I see what you were doing with Harriet the Spy now. I think this is an interesting post and it’s something that I haven’t thought or wandered about until now. I’m definitely going to read some of the books that you’ve recommended and think about the childhood favorites that I loved with their adult counterparts.

  • Wesley

    I love this! What a fun post. Now I’m going to be trying to think of more pairs. Are there any grown up books about people living in an abandoned boxcar in the woods? Maybe something dystopian, haha.

  • I’ve loved The Hatchet ever since that fateful day in 7th grade. I recently got to meet Peter Heller at the Texas Book festival and have a signed copy of The Dog Stars! All that to say, this makes me super pumped to finally read it! It also reminds me of Keanu Reeves and a band he was once in called Dog Star, but that’s a whole other topic. :)

  • This is a brilliant idea. I love the pairing of Hatchet and The Dog Stars. I remember loving Sarah Plain and Tall when I was younger. And The Witch of Blackbird Pond. And Lyddie. And Ramona. This list could go on and on…

    • Oh, I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond! There were several other childhood favorites I started to think of after I made the post…maybe there will have to be a part 2!

  • Words for Worms

    I LOOOOVE this concept! I obviously need to read The Last Summer of the Camperdowns because Harriet the Spy is one of my favorite books!

    • I’m a huge Harriet the Spy fan, too. Riddle (great name, right?) isn’t a spy on purpose, but she witnesses some things that have serious ramifications. It sounds like it would be a super serious book, but it has a great balance of humor, too. I loved it. Oh, and paperback in April :)

  • Kelly Massry

    How about Little Women and The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown? I love your pairings, esp. Goldfinch and Basil E.

  • What a wonderful post! I pinned it, added it to Pocket, AND bookmarked it. :D

  • This is a great post! I love it so much and it totally reminds me of the post that a bunch of people did a while back where they compared a fiction and nonfiction read! Like if someone liked this fiction, they’d like this nonfiction. Remember that?

    • Yep! That was from Non-fiction November :) I feel like I’m constantly comparing or matching up books in my head, sometimes I have to get them out!

  • The Book Wheel

    What an AWESOME concept! I have to admit, I havent’ read ANY of the books on this list but I love it anyway :)

  • This is an awesome post!!! I see some I want to pursue.

  • What a brilliant idea! I’m always nervous to revisit childhood favorites, in case I don’t enjoy them as much any more. Reading a similar adult book seems like a great alternative :)

  • lulu_bella

    This is such a cool idea! I have randomly been talking about Hatchet a lot lately? I don’t know why, but it has come up all over the place. This makes me want to pick up The Dog Stars right away!

  • This is such a necessary list for me. With The Girl as I read what I thought were my old favorites they are being decimated as completely unenjoyable as an adult (So far it’s just ‘Little House in the Big Woods’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web’ but I’m terrified what might happen when she gets old enough for Roald Dahl).

    Thanks for the post and thanks for linking up with Spread the Love! :)

  • guiltlessreading

    What a cool post. I would never have thought to make the connection, but it always happens when I’m reading a “grown-up” book that it reminds me vaguely of something I’ve already read! I guess I should pay better attention. (I really need to get Goldfinch higher up on my TBR :))

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