Something Old, Something New: 7 Celebrated Youth Authors Compare Their New Books to Beloved Classics (4th to 6th Grade Edition)
Something Old, Something New



First, let me start by saying what a tremendous honor it is for these gifted authors to have contributed to this article.  For any book lover, authors are superstars.  Collaborating with these talented women has been a dream come true.

Some of the authors in this article have books set to be released in the coming months.  If you have the opportunity to see any of these writers during book tours, I would encourage you to go!  Also, many of these authors are able to make classroom or Skype visits.  If you’re a librarian, educator, member of a homeschool association, or interested parent, I’d highly recommend hosting an author event at your organization.  These events can inspire kids to read.  These visits are also powerful experiences for budding writers.

For more information about upcoming book tours, author visits, and more, please see the links to the authors' websites.

Also, I wanted to mention that the purpose of this article is not to suggest that the new books described here could somehow take the place of the cherished classics that they are paired with.  By discussing shared themes between new books and books that you know well, the hope is that you will discover books that you or your children might enjoy reading.

*Please note that the links below the book images will take you to Amazon.  If you scroll to the list of book summaries at the bottom of this post, and click on the book images or READ MORE, you'll find further information within this website, such as a publisher summary and links to find the books at your local library or independent book store.



Claire Legrand writes books for children and teens.  She lives in New Jersey, but grew up in Texas.  Her next book, Foxheart is also for 4th to 6th graders and will be released in October, 2016.

In Some Kind of Happiness, protagonist Finley Hart, eleven years old, suffers from undiagnosed depression and anxiety disorders. Worried about her parents’ marital problems, she chooses not to tell them about her feelings of loneliness, sadness, fear, and exhaustion. Instead, to cope, she writes stories in her notebook about a magical forest kingdom called the Everwood and otherwise suffers in silence. But all of that changes once she arrives at her estranged grandparents’ house for the summer. Behind her grandparents’ house, she discovers a forest that reminds her of the Everwood from her stories, and suddenly her summer doesn’t seem so hopeless. She introduces her cousins to the Everwood, casting herself as an orphan girl and her cousins as various characters in the story—a knight, a champion, squires, and pirates. Together, the kids spend the summer exploring the forest, uncovering the mystery of the burned out house hidden in the woods, and unraveling years of family secrets.

Some Kind of Happiness is a terrific reading companion to the classic novels The Bridge to Terabithia and The Secret Garden, the latter of which is a particular favorite of mine. In all of these novels, children find solace, happiness, and strength through the power of nature. In Terabithia, Jesse and Leslie create the magical forest kingdom of Terabithia to escape from the frustrations and bullying present in their lives, just as Finley and her cousins create the Everwood to escape from depression, loneliness, and the pressure of family expectations. In The Secret Garden, Mary and Colin recover from their past illnesses and trauma by tending to the garden at Misselthwaite Manor, just as Finley finds healing in exploring the Everwood and its secrets.

In Some Kind of Happiness, the courage and imagination of children, and their capacity to believe in magic, teaches the adults in their lives about forgiveness and helps heal old wounds. Likewise, in The Secret Garden, Mary and Colin help the grieving Mr. Craven heal and find joy once more.

Young readers who enjoy Bridge to Terabithia and The Secret Garden will find much to enjoy in Some Kind of Happiness, and vice-versa. Themes of forgiveness, family—families related by blood and found families brought together by choice and chance—the magic of nature, and the power of imagination and story resonate in all three books, and will provide many opportunities for teachers, librarians, and parents to discuss these topics with their young readers.

Happy reading!


Lois Sepabahn grew up in central California, where as a child, she climbed trees and led her brother and sister on hunts for buried treasure.  Sepabahn is a former teacher who now writes books for children.  She lives on a small farm with her husband and two children.

From the first time I read SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL by Patricia MacLachlan, I was drawn to Anna. Her grief at the loss of her mother. Her yearning for a new mother. Her silent observation of the world around her. She is a quiet child, much like I was, and she feels deeply. 

“I wished that Papa and Caleb and I were perfect for Sarah.” 

“I slept, dreaming a perfect dream…. Sarah was happy.”

How easy it is to love Anna.

PAPER WISHES, too, is historical fiction. Like Anna, ten-year-old Manami silently observes the world around her. In Manami’s case, this world is Manzanar, an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. Manami grieves the loss of her dog. She yearns for her dog. 

“Maybe this lantern will shine so bright that Yujiin will see it and know that I miss him. And maybe he will come.”

“I take this fluffy white dog—who is not Yujiin and will not replace Yujiin—inside the house….And I feel my  heart growing bigger.”

Manami and Anna would make good friends, I think.


Laura Resau is the award-winning author of The Lightning Queen (Scholastic) and seven other highly acclaimed young adult and children's novels. Set in Latin America and Europe, her books are inspired by her time abroad as a cultural anthropologist, ESL teacher, and student. She lives with her family in Fort Collins, Colorado. (Photo by Tina Wood Photography)

I have beautiful memories of my mom reading books aloud to me during my childhood, all the way into middle school.  It was such a great way to bond with her, and it also laid the foundation for my future career as a children's writer. One of the favorite books we read together was ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, written by Scott O'Dell in 1960, and winner of the Newbery Medal. Inspired by a real-life story, it's about a Nicoleno Native American girl who gets stranded on an island in the 19th century.  I remember feeling entranced by Karana's deeply moving story of adventure and survival, rooted in historical fact.

I think that this novel, and others by Scott O'Dell, influenced my life's path and future books.  After college, I lived in an indigenous Mixteco region of rural Oaxaca, Mexico, where I was fortunate to be welcomed into the everyday life of native communities as a teacher and anthropologist. In my journals, I wrote about the stories I heard, rituals I participated in, friendships I formed, and other life-changing experiences. Later, I incorporated this writing into my eight novels for teens and kids.  

Recently, I realized that my most recent book, THE LIGHTNING QUEEN, has some interesting things in common with ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. My book was inspired by real-life stories that my indigenous friends recounted.  There's a strong girl main character who faces tough challenges and needs to be resourceful to not only survive, but to realize her dreams.  I remember feeling moved by Karana's relationship with the animals on the island, especially the wolf/dog that she tamed.  My book also involves unique relationships between humans and animals (an abandoned duckling, a blind goat, and a 3-legged skunk.) 

I really enjoy hearing from readers about how they've bonded with their own parents (or kids) over one of my books, and I think that THE LIGHTNING QUEEN in particular lends itself well to being read aloud by families. I also love when readers tell me that my books have inspired them to explore their own cultural heritage or learn about other cultures. I remember how books like ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS sparked my own passion, and I feel honored that my books have become part of this chain.


If you loved James and the Giant Peach, try Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Kelly Jones is an author of children's books.  Her interests vary from sauerkraut to spies to sewing.  Her upcoming book, How to Sew a Glamour -- or Murder, Magic, and What We Wore will be released in June of 2017.

I've always loved the strange, magical, often a little frightening worlds of Roald Dahl -- and how much he made me laugh! I think James from James and the Giant Peach and Sophie from Unusual Chickens would have a lot to talk about: what it's like to try to be brave when your world turns out to be more complicated (and magical) than you thought, how to team up with giant bugs or chickens with superpowers, and how much they miss the people they've lost in their lives. Oh, and to trade their favorite jokes, too -- because the tougher life is, the more you need a great laugh! 


If you loved Anne of Green Gables, try When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad

Katrina Nannestad is an Australian author. She grew up in a neighborhood stuffed full of happy children. After studying arts and education at the University of New England in Armidale, Katrina worked as a primary school teacher. Her adult years have been spent raising boys, teaching, perfecting her recipe for chocolate-chip bickies and pursuing her love of stories.


Often, when adults tell me that they have enjoyed When Mischief Came to Town, they add that it reminded them of a great childhood favourite, Anne of Green Gables. What an honour to have my writing compared to this beloved classic!

While Anne Shirley was not in my thoughts while writing Inge-Maria Jensen’s tale, I can see what they mean. Both Inge-Maria and Anne are orphaned and alone when we first meet them. Inge-Maria arrives on the island of Bornholm (Denmark) to live with a grumpy grandmother she has never met. Similarly, Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables where she is taken in reluctantly by the ageing Matthew and his stern sister, Marilla. Sad beginnings, indeed, for two desperately lonely little girls.

Neither Inge-Maria nor Anne, however, are the type of children to be crushed. They are intelligent, exuberant and creative. Their high spirits and imagination get them into mischief wherever they go, but also deliver a sense of excitement and fun. Their antics bring joy to the hardest of hearts. Inge-Maria and Anne are forces to be reckoned with - unique and dazzling girls who overcome adversity and change the lives of those around them for the better.

Hooray for strong, smart girls!


Cylin Busby is a best-selling author of fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

When my son was in fourth grade, a list of classic adventure books led him to check out a copy of Stevenson’s Treasure Island, an edition with fantastic illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. He adored the adventure story of young Jim Hawkins, even when the advanced reading level kept him from being able to understand it entirely. I kept Treasure Island and other classic seafaring novels in mind as I set out to tell the story of a captain’s cat aboard a packet ship set in 1847. I wanted the tone of the book and language to have an ear for 19th century writing while still being accessible to young readers. I managed this by telling the story though the eyes our young narrator, Jacob Tibbs, first as a kitten and then as an adult cat, making the tale relatable for middle graders without compromising any authenticity. Perhaps The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs will serve as a gateway to those more complicated classic novels like Moby Dick, Swiss Family Robinson, and even the beloved Treasure Island.


If you loved Black Beauty, try A Bandit's Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket by Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is an award-winning author of more than 40 books for children.  She lives near Portland, Oregon.  Hopkinson's newest non-fiction book, Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific, will be released in September, 2016.

One of the most beloved children’s classics of all time is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, first published in 1877. Sewell was virtually an invalid in her later years, and died five months after the publication of her book, living long enough to see it become a bestseller. Sewell was inspired to write this “autobiography of a horse,” because of her own appreciation for horse transportation throughout her life, having injured her ankles as a child.

My most recent novel for young readers, A Bandit’s Tale, The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket, takes place in New York City a decade after Black Beauty was released, and has as its themes the related social movements of child and animal rights. Pioneering photojournalist Jacob Riis makes an appearance as a character, as does Henry Bergh, who founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children 150 years ago. For this reason, it seemed natural that Black Beauty would be one of my young protagonists’ favorite books. Mary Hallanan is a volunteer for Mr. Bergh’s ASPCA, and is the daughter of Michael Hallanan (there really was a Greenwich Village blacksmith by that name).

I have fond memories of reading Black Beauty as a child. I’m not sure if young people today still treasure this classic, but I hope A Bandit’s Tale will make readers curious to find out more about Beauty, Ginger, and, my favorite, the dappled grey pony Merrylegs.



 Seeing stars?  Professional book reviewers only award a star to exceptional books.  More than one star means experts from multiple organizations felt the book was outstanding. 

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer Book Cover
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
by Kelly Jones
illustrated by Katie Kath
published May 12, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Kirkus Reviews  

Fans of Polly Horvath or Roald Dahl will love this quirky story of a determined girl, and some extraordinary chickens.
Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm...READ MORE

The Lightning Queen Book Cover
The Lightning Queen
by Laura Resau
published October 27, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star Image Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books  

Nothing exciting happens on the Hill of Dust, in the remote mountains of Mexico in the 1950s. There's no electricity, no plumbing, no cars, just day after day of pasturing goats. And now, without his sister and mother, eleven-year-old Teo's life feels even more barren. And then one day, the...READ MORE

The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs Book Cover
The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs
by Cylin Busby
illustrated by Gerald Kelley
published February 2, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Booklist

For fans of Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan comes the swashbuckling story of a little cat's adventures on the high seas
Captain Natick does not want to take a kitten on board his ship when it sets sail in 1837, but his daughter convinces him that the...READ MORE

Paper Wishes Book Cover
Paper Wishes
by Lois Sepahban
published January 5, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Kirkus Reviews

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family's life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It's 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea...READ MORE

When Mischief Came to Town Book Cover
When Mischief Came to Town
by Katrina Nannestad
published January 5, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Booklist Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star Image Publishers Weekly

In the tradition of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and PIPPI LONGSTOCKING comes a heart-warming novel about love, family, grief, joy and the power of laughter and imagination.
When Inge Maria arrives on the tiny island of Bornholm in Denmark to live with her grandmother, she's not sure what to...READ MORE

A Bandit's Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket Book Cover
A Bandit's Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket
by Deborah Hopkinson
published April 5, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Publishers Weekly

From an award-winning author of historical fiction comes a story of survival, crime, adventure, and horses in the streets of 19th century New York City.

Eleven-year-old Rocco is an Italian immigrant who finds himself alone in New York City after he's sold to a padrone by his poverty-stricken parents. While...READ MORE

Some Kind of Happiness Book Cover
Some Kind of Happiness
by Claire Legrand
published May 17, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Booklist Star Image Publishers Weekly

Reality and fantasy collide in this heartfelt and mysterious novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Bridge to Terabithia, about a girl who must save a magical make-believe world in order to save herself.

Things Finley Hart doesn’t want to talk about:
-Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend...READ MORE


Wow!! What an awesome post!! How exciting to be able to get so many awesome authors to collaborate on this. I, myself, particularly enjoyed "When Mischief Came to Town" and also thought of dear Anne Shirley. Loved it. Great list, Sarah!

Hi Emily! Thank you!! And I couldn't agree with you more... So amazing for all these outstanding authors to contribute to this piece. They're all so talented and so generously donated their time and thoughts. :D
I'm happy that you enjoyed When Mischief Came to Town, and that it brought to mind memories of Anne of Green Gables! Great stories.
Thank you so much for all your kind comments. I hope your summer reading program is going great for you!

Fantastic--thank you so much for putting this wonderful list together, a great resource for parents and librarians. And thank you for including Mr. Jacob Tibbs! :)

Thank you so much Ms. Busby! I'm so grateful for your contribution. It's been a true pleasure collaborating with you and with the other wonderful authors of this piece while assembling this post. I hope that this article does provide some ready ideas for parents and librarians. Thank you again for bringing Jacob Tibbs along on this little voyage! :D

What a great post...I love the "If you like...then ..." It is wonderful! The new suggestions and the authors give me new ideas for some of the children I tutor. Thank you, to you and to all of the authors!

Hi Linda! Thank you so much! I'm so glad you found some new ideas for the kids you tutor. As we've discovered with my (now teen) daughter, finding the right books for a particular young reader can make all the difference between dread and delight when it comes to reading. As a tutor, I bet you've seen that many times over. Thank you again! :D

So honored to be part of this wonderful list! And now I've got a nice TBR pile of new readalouds for my son and me! :-)

Hello Ms. Resau! The honor is all ours! Thank you again for your amazing discussion of the shared themes between The Lightning Queen and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Also, thank you for the audio CD contribution. One lucky person is going to get a wonderful surprise when we announce the winners in a couple of days!
I'm also happy that you found some great books to share with your son. Ahh, makes my heart glad. :)

Thanks for introducing us to all these new books and categorizing them along with some of our old favorites. Thank you for linking up at #LMMLinkup!

Hi Gayl! Thank you so much for the opportunity to link this post to Literacy Musing Mondays. Introducing the books was a great pleasure. These talented authors have shown great generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness as we collaborated on this piece. I absolutely recommend attending the authors' book tour events or hosting an author event at your organization. I know it would be a wonderful learning opportunity. :)

Roald Dahl is my son's favorite author, so he will definitely want to read the Exceptional Poultry book. Thanks for sharing these at the #LMMLinkup. I plan to feature you this week!

Hi Leslie! Roald Dahl was my favorite author as a kid too! I loved his sense of humor. I bet he's going to love Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. And there's definitely time for one more book before summer's over, right? :) I would be so honored for this post to be featured next week on the Literacy Musing Mondays! Thank you. All the best, Sarah

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Hi!  I'm Sarah.  I'm a former librarian and mother of three -- a teen daughter, a preschool-aged son, and a newborn boy.  We love to play outdoors... and read.  :)

This site is all about discovering great books to share with kids and teens. ...Read more

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