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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

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 ThisMy 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 ThisHippu by Oili Tanninen


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 ThisThe 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 ThisDetective 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 ThisSo 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 ThisGoodbye, 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 ThisJurassic 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 ThisBizzy 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.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth 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.


  1. You’re on a streak. This is hilarious too! … But much harder to do than Newbery titles.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yeah, I’m not quite sure what got into me this week. I think it’s pre-moving jitters. When faced with the fact that I have not packed any boxes and I’m leaving 7/28 my reaction is apparently I MUST PROVIDE CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT!!! I’m not saying it’s a healthy reaction. But it is an interesting one.

      • LOL, it’s productive procrastination: “I have this unpleasant work to do… so I will do this other thing, which is also work, but less unpleasant–totally legit, right?”

        I am happy to enable you in this :-) (But good luck getting the move done)

  2. Meghan Daniels says:

    I love, love, love this! And good luck with the move. Exciting things for you!

  3. This isn’t quite the same topic (and requires less imagination on my part), but the great Appalachian author James Still wrote two novels, one for adults first (River of Earth) and one for children much later–Sporty Creek, and they are very similar. The narrators in both are children who are cousins and have similar experiences. I’ve been wondering whether any other author has done such a thing (not just written novels for both children and adults with some similar settings or themes, but with a lot of similar material).

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I know that Louise Erdrich has a great many adult novels where the characters are the same ones that show up in her Birchbark House sequence for kids. It’s a fairly novel idea, though.

  4. The Wizard of Oz is similar to The Odyssey by Homer. I used that example in teaching literature years before I began teaching children’s literature.

  5. Just brilliant. Please don’t wait until you’re moving house again to do more of these!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      As The Simpsons once said, I can’t promise to try, but I can promise to try to try.

      Actually I’ve some pretty good ideas for the next few weeks. That is, if I can space them out properly. I have a tendency to just mush them all together at the same time.