The Kidlit Swap Method: Children’s Literary Equivalents of Popular Adult Titles
Look, I know how hard you work. You’re busy. And when it comes to your pleasure reading you don’t always have time to dip into the latest 450 page history or novel. Who does these days?
Now there’s a timesaver that will solve all your woes. Introducing the Kidlit Swap Method. All you need to do is to take a work for adults and then locate its children’s literary equivalent. You’ll get all the meaning, with none of the hassle. Some examples!
Instead of This – My Struggle: Books 1-6 by Karl Ove Knausgård
As an adult selector I work with put it, these books are deeply moving, but not a whole heckuva lot happens. Each one is autobiographical and, as The Times put it, “the books combine a micro-focus on the granular detail of daily life (child care, groceries, quarrels with friends) with earnest meditations on art, death, music and ambition.” The first book alone, however, is 448 pages long.
Try This – Hippu by
Granted, it’s Finnish and not Norwegian but if Knausgård wants to peer unblinkingly at the minutia of daily life, he’s got nothing on this book of a mouse that invites a dog into its life. As the publisher says, “Hippu and Heppu—and some friendly mice—shop, eat, go for a walk, take baths, and go for a ride in the car!” Take away that exclamation point and we might as well be talking about The Struggle directly. What’s more, it originally came out in 1967, so for all we know it was an influence on Knausgård at some point. The man does have four children, after all. Even the covers bear some small similarity to one another.
Instead of This – The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
Nordic noir is all the rage these days, and you can thank a certain girl with her dragon tattoo (based, as it turns out, on a grown-up Pippi Longstocking) for the rise. Scandinavian thrillers are particularly hot and Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series is wildly popular. When he’s not writing middle grade novels about fart powder (no comment), Nesbo’s Inspector Harry Hole is tracking down Nazis and uncovering dire plots hatched in the trenches of WWII.
Try This – Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee
This Swedish import has it all. A single good detective working in a world where thieves pilfer acorns without a second thought. His partner, a very young and unskilled but wildly enthusiastic mouse, learns all too quickly that when it comes to solving crime, Detective Gordon is always there. No Nazis that I can tell, nor any trenches, but if you want Nordic noir done young, this book’s your best bet.
Instead of This – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
In an era where witchhunts are practically becoming the norm, Ronson’s book is a bracing alternative to a society gone hate bait crazy.
Try This – Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead
The out-of-control nature of a sexy selfie forwarded to an entire school is one of the many momentous elements to this novel. No other middle grade, or middle school, book for kids has really considered the depths to which slut shaming can go.
Instead of This – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Like a lot of library systems, we saw a huge upsurge in hold requests on this book when the Jurassic World movie came out. And why not? I remember reading it in middle school and just loving it. Which is why the logical companion novel is . . .
Try This – Bizzy Bear: Dinosaur Safari by Benji Davies
I’m a big time Bizzy Bear fan. As the mother of two small children, I have followed Bizzy’s adventures from the start. I would not be surprised to learn that this is the last Bizzy Bear book, though. In it, as in Jurassic Park, Bizzy and an unnamed Rabbit companion (we’ll call him “Lunch”) drive through a little Jurassic Park of their own. All the while they are stalked by a rather conspicuous T-Rex and the final shot of the dino, just moments before it has itself a Bear sandwich, is terrifying. A thrill ride of a board book.
Other suggestions, as per usual, are welcome too.
Many thanks to Wayne Roylance for the idea for this post.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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