walk two moons, best classic books for kids

Top 10: Best Old Fashioned Children’s Books and Their Modern Day Equivalents

Best Old Fashioned Books for Kids

I had some old posts on old fashioned conflict free children’s books and Top 10 Classic Children’s Books Not Popular Now. During some past blog meltdowns, I just discovered that a popular post on Beloved Old Fashioned Children’s Books just disappeared from my blog. That kind of stuff happens to me all the time!

Rather than recreate it because I don’t think I can recall the list, I thought I’d pair up some of my very favorite classic children’s book from my childhood with a new book that eerily resembles it. The heir to the classic, if you will. What do you think of my pairings? Can you please suggest some of your own? Thank you!

10. Ramona series by Beverly Cleary and Clementine series by Sarah Pennypacker

Clementine is the new Ramona for me because they both have that spunkiness mixed with vulnerability. What is so magical is that both Beverly Cleary and Sarah Pennypacker really get into the head of their characters. My middle daughter, PickyKidPix, continues to request every new Clementine book though she is a tad old for them.

9. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and The Stray Dog by Marc Simont

I’m not sure how Harry the Dirty Dog didn’t pick up more children’s literature awards, but this series continues to delight my kids which makes me really happy. The stray dog is a story that features the humans more than the dog, but each picture book sings with dog love, and doggy independence gone astray. I am hopeful that The Stray Dog will make us all into future rescue dog owners. Both picture books touch my heart.

8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Being the heir to Madeleine L’Engle means very big shoes to fill, but Rebecca Stead is up to the task with her own Newbery winning chapter book. Both authors combine science concepts to frame up their books, but the real story turns around the relationships with their characters who struggle with issues of fitting in, making friends, and figuring out who they are. It’s the kind of story every tween can relate to, but they write on such as level that you actually think this book was expressly written for YOU!

7. Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel and Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems

I just love the old-fashioned yin/yang friendships of each of these two friends. Frog is like Piggie in that they both are pretty upbeat and cheerful. They see the glass as half full. Toad and Elephant are the worriers. They both need to be dragged out of themselves to have fun. And so, a perfect friendship is born: Frog and Toad, and now Elephant and Piggie. I think both series will stand the test of time. I’ll report back on that happy day when I have grandchildren to test these books out on (which is several decades away!)

6. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long

I struggled with this pairing, waffling back and forth with No David! by David Shannon. I love how these (three) picture books are about boys who can take a negative into a positive. In the classic Where the Wild Things Are,  punishment for being a naughty boy means a timeout that turns into a wondrous adventure, even if it’s just a pretend one. How I Became a Pirate has all the elements of the same fantasy adventure minus the punishment. I guess we just live in more PC times!

5. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech and Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

I cried like a baby in both chapter books. Both are Newbery winners set in a small town. The beauty of each book is the onion unpeeling layer by layer until the BIG REVELATION at the end that suddenly thrusts the story into a whole different light. And, in both, the revelation makes perfect sense because each author set up small clues and signposts along the way. Moon over Manifest is Clare Vanderpool’s first novel!

4. Little Bear series by Elsa Minarek, illustrated by Maurice Sendak and Ting and Ling: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin

Finding great easy readers is truly not easy. Limited to very short sentences with simple words often means a boring, bland story. It’s hard to coax personality into the characters too, which is my biggest pet peeve about this genre. Finally, getting all the short little chapters to tie together into a greater whole is a feat few authors can pull off. The first Little Bear easy reader does this beautifully. Ting and Ling has this same quality in which the sum of the book is greater than the little chapters that make it up. Both are award-winning too!

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and Cosmic by Frank Boyce Cottrell

I also struggled with Cosmic versus The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. All three chapter books have that Roald Dahl Charlie and the Chocolate Factory quality of quirky characters pitted in a weird contest that would never really happen in real life but we all wish it did and that we’d be chosen.

2. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes and How to Rock Glasses and Braces by Meg Haston

This pairing highlights girl bullying issues and both chapter books delve into the cause of girl bullying — truly seek to understand what the players of the crime are thinking and feeling while they do something that is not so nice. I think both books are important for all girls to read. The Hundred Dresses is an easy chapter book perfect for 3rd grade that prompts questions about being a bystander to a bullying incident. Do you stand up and risk being ostracized? Do you mutely witness? How to Rock Glasses and Braces takes a Queen Bee bully and throws her under the bus. The tormentor is now the victim but we get an empathetic view from the backside about the pressures of trying to fit in and be popular.

1. All of a Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor and The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall

A collision of our two favorite conflict free old-fashioned chapter books. In both worlds — turn of the century Lower East Side New York or Western Massachusetts suburbs — we, the reader, revel in the warm of a loving family whose small daily adventures make us feel all warm and fuzzy. Their families somehow become part of ours because both authors make you feel like you are part of the family. Both are (or will be) five book chapter book series.

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Artchoo

    These are so fun! And I absolutely love when my daughter holds onto things from her past for a little too long, just because she’s so attached.
    Artchoo recently posted…Do a Conference the Right WayMy Profile

  2. This is a great list!!!!
    I’m saving and sharing this post!
    What a great way to help parents and teachers find some new popular good books. Pairing them with classics helps us get a feel for what the book might be like, since we’ve all read most of the classics ourselves.
    Michelle Breum recently posted…Teach An Early Reader with the Free Printable Book – A GardenMy Profile

    • To Michelle,
      Thanks so much for your kind comment. I love to take a newly published book and give it some context so that my readers can gauge what it’s all about relative to what they already know and love. There are so many books published each month that this is the only way to find that special book!

  3. Josh

    I can’t decide what to read. I’ve found so many interesting books on this site! E ni me ni mi ni mo. LOL.

    • To Josh,
      I am glad you are finding more books you want to read. You have great taste in books and everyone LOVES your lists! I can’t wait for your next set of recommendations!

  4. Thank you for sharing this fun list! I pinned it on my “Child Reads” board. : )
    Jill recently posted…Book Review: My Hands Sing the BluesMy Profile

  5. Ann

    Great picks and super cool concept for pairing them! Some of my all time favs are here like Wrinkle in Time, Little Bear, and 100 Dresses so I am definitely going to check out the updated titles.

    BTW, we are starting All of a Kind Family tonight! Thanks!!!
    Ann recently posted…Ultimate Baby Nursery Wishlist (accessories)!My Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      Thanks so much. This list was a lot of fun to create! The 100 Dresses paired with How to Rock Glasses and Braces was mostly thematic. How to Rock skews a tad older. I’d say 100 Dresses is perfect for girls ages 9 and up (3rd grade-ish). And How to Rock is slightly older … maybe around 10-11ish, so 5th grade might be perfect.

  6. What a great list and fun concept! My son and I have been thinking of pairings to add and it’s one of those things that is hard to stop thinking about once you start. They should add a section like this to the SATs. Much more fun :-).

    The Penderwicks brought to mind a few other classics for us: elements of The Boxcar Children, The Secret Garden, and even Anne of Green Gables.

    Just a few we came up with early on:

    Charlotte’s Web & The One and Only Ivan

    Alice in Wonderland & Gregor the Overlander (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was an oh-so-close second choice here–we could have gone either way, really. Choosing just one is sooo hard).
    Steven Stickler recently posted…Why Star Wars MattersMy Profile

  7. I love the parallels here! These are some old…and new…favorites! I loved the Ramona/Clementine pair and the A Wrinkle In Time/When You Reach Me pair! All favorites of mine! Thanks for sharing on the Way Back Wednesday Link Up! I hope you will join us again today!

    Rosemond @ http://www.bighairandbooks.blogspot.com

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