Paired Texts: Inspired by Classics

Need a last-minute gift idea for a middle grade bookworm? Or maybe you’re a teacher, librarian, or homeschooling parent on the lookout for some fresh literature lists or features for the new year? Consider pairing together a retelling, sequel, or inspired tale with the title that preceded it.

  • Reading paired texts is a great workout for MG readers’ critical thinking skills, especially when they think critically about the context of the classic work (such as the time period in which it was written).
  • The comparing/contrasting of two stories is a lesson goal that can be tailored to a wide variety of learning styles and levels.
  • Reading two related texts fulfills important core standards in educational settings.

Or if someone on your gift list simply enjoys thinking about stories and writers in cool and comparative ways, reading a modern retelling, sequel, or companion novel alongside its classic predecessor might be a cozy way to spend some winter afternoons. Here are some ideas for paired titles you might consider for your classroom, library, or personal gift-giving.

Hena Khan’s More to the Story is inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. In More to the Story, a modern American Muslim family faces challenges that compare to the March family’s conflicts of a century-and-a-half ago in Alcott’s classic.

Rajani LaRocca’s Midsummer Mayhem is subtly inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Midsummer Mayhem features Indian American protagonist Mimi who uses both culinary skill and magic to solve the mysterious goings-on in her household and town. For the Elizabethan classic, consider an introductory adaptation like this comics-style version if your middle graders aren’t ready for Shakespearean verse. This author also wrote Much Ado About Baseball, a companion piece to Midsummer Mayhem which Kirkus calls an “homage” to the bard’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Lou Kuenzler’s Finding Black Beauty is a spin on the story of Anna Sewell’s classic Black Beauty, retold from the perspective of groom Josephine who masquerades as a boy in order to find the horse she loves when they become separated.

Sequels to children’s classics The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett include Holly Webb’s Return to the Secret Garden and The Princess and the Suffragette. Hilary McKay’s Wishing for Tomorrow is a sequel to A Little Princess as well.

A variety of writers compile new perspectives on Alice’s adventures in Return to Wonderland, a collection of retellings of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas sees a modern-day retelling and new perspective from young protagonist and time traveling teen Greg Rich in Stuart Gibbs’s The Last Musketeer.

Wishing everyone the best in your holiday seasons and new year!

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Jenn Brisendine
Along with her MUF posts, Jenn can be found at, where she offers free teaching printables for great MG novels along with profiles of excellent craft books for writers.