10 middle grade novel / picture book pairings

I’ve wanted to write a post like this for some time. I love picture books, we know that. I also love middle grade novels, that sweet spot of literature for the 8-12 year old set. Here’s why I’m putting them together, beyond that I read and like both. I keep thinking there might be a child who can read a picture book on her own, but wants a middle grade book read to her. Or there’s a family with kids at different ages, but what fun it would be to read related books together or separately and then talk about them. Or there’s a classroom studying one book and the other would complement it perfectly.

My hope is these intersecting pairs (and trios) of kids’ books will be useful to someone in some way. Here goes.


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.59.13 PMOne Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street & Peace is an Offering by Annette Le Box, picturees by Stephanie Graegin.

Both books have a large and varied cast of characters and are really about how they and we are all connected. The trees on the covers don’t hurt either!


gianna-zThe Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner & My Leaf Book by Monica Wellington & Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier, illustrated by Kaatje Vermeire.

Gianna Z is doing a leaf identification science project at school. At home, she’s dealing with the pain of her grandmother losing her memory. So, this book gets two companions, one for each important plot thread.


red-pencilThe Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane W. Evans & Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka.

These are both set in refugee camps in different parts of the world. They also explore what keeps the characters going despite such challenging circumstances, in one case creativity and in the other, friendship.


Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 5.09.18 PMLove That Dog by Sharon Creech & This is a Poem that Heals Fish & Daniel Finds a Poem.

Three books that explore poetry—what it is, where to find it, how to write it. Because everyone can. And these three boys do. Lovely, lovely, lovely.


Confessions of An Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas & Beekle: The Adventures of an Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.

Two charming and inventive books from the perspective of an imaginary friend. Yes!


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 4.00.00 PMRed Scarf Girl by Ji LI Jiang & The Red Piano.

Here, too, setting is what unites these stories of the cultural revolution in China.


breadcrumbs-snow-queenBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu and The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen and adapted by Allison Grace MacDonald, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

A masterful MG novel that I cannot recommend highly enough! It takes the classic fairy tale as its starting point and builds out from there, layer upon layer, shaping Hazel’s journey to find her best friend Jack.


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.58.51 PMThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate & Little Beauty by Anthony Browne & Ivan the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

The first two are both about animals in captivity who bond with each other. The last is a picture book non-fiction telling of the first. They are all heartbreakers. They are all beautiful.


100-dresses-each-kindnessThe Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin & Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

I’ve paired these two before (and I’m sure I’m not the only one!). Written over 50 years apart, they both explore bullying and, especially, regretting it.


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.58.40 PM

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry & The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sís.

One is the story and one is the story behind the story’s author. A well-suited set!


My hope is that you’ve got some pairs to add to this list of 10! I couldn’t come up with companions for many of my very favorite middle grade novels, so please share any ideas of your own in the comments. Anyone have one for Holes, or Bird in a Box, or A Tangle of Knots

Have you paired related books of different levels in some way? Do tell.


42 Responses to 10 middle grade novel / picture book pairings

  1. Great post! I love the choice of books.

  2. I actually still love reading children’s books. On this list I only know The Little Prince. So happy to learn of the others! 🙂

  3. I think this list would be uber-useful for homeschooling families who are designing a themed curriculum unit. Or a tiny one room schoolhouse with multiple grade levels like Matinicus Island or the Croydon Village School in New Hampshire. In any case – inspired!

  4. mariagianferrari says:

    So many great pairings!

    I love Holes, and of course, this does not quite work, but Sam & Dave Dig a Hole 😉

    I’ll have to keep thinking on it!

    Thanks for sharing, Danielle!

  5. mariagianferrari says:

    Just thought of another Sharon Creech one: Hate That Cat & Won Ton, by Lee Wardlaw 🙂

  6. Lauren says:

    This is a fantastic list! Thanks for sharing

  7. I am so honored you found a way to put my book “My Leaf Book” next to “Maia and What Matters”. Such a beautiful book – I bought it in Belgium – I love the illustrations and the story as it was summarized for me in the book store. (I can’t read Flemish!) How wonderful to see that it has been translated and is available in English. Thank you for this pairing!

  8. Dana Carey says:

    This is a great idea. My daughter loved having MG novels read to her. And you’ve got some of my favorites listed above.

  9. Lee Wardlaw says:

    Oops, just realized you were pairing novels and picture books. This is what happens when I read blogs without my glasses. Me-ouch!

  10. I love this! What a great set of pairings!

  11. Lauren says:

    How about Crossover by Kwame Alexander and Hoops by Robert Burleigh? Both books have basketball as a theme and are also very poetic in their style.

    • Great idea!! Now I have to check out HOOPS, which is new to me! 🙂

      • mariagianferrari says:

        I just thought of a perfect one for The Crossover–Christorpher Myers’s H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball & Imagination.

        And here’s another one: Geri Vistein’s MG I Am Coyote & Coyote Moon by yours truly 🙂

      • Yessss. Perfect! Thanks, Maria! (I couldn’t find I AM COYOTE at my library—boo!).

      • mariagianferrari says:

        Sorry if this posts two times, but The Crossover & H.O.R.S.E. by Christopher Myers would be a perfect match!

        Also, the MG I Am Coyote by Geri Vistein & my own NF PB, Coyote Moon 🙂

      • mariagianferrari says:

        Another: Because of Winn Dixie + Sad, The Dog, or A Dog Wearing Shoes, or Dogku

        Little Dog Lost by Marion Dane Bauer + Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi

        I think I better stop now… 😉

      • This is awesome. Thank you so much for adding these wonderful pairings! (Also, I received your F & G yesterday. Cant wait to read!)

  12. carriegelson says:

    Yes to Hundred Dresses and Each Kindness – I immediately saw the connections when I read these titles. What about Paper Things and Fly away Home. And by the way, skimming through your Pinterest board of favourite titles, I think we are reading kindred spirits.

  13. Mel says:

    There are some FANTASTIC choices in here! I think The Phantom Tollbooth and Beyond the Pond could also pair well together: both feature young, male protagonists with canine companions who begin their adventures through boredom and discover entire, engaging worlds on the other side of the booth/pond. This is a great post!!

    (I think I commented twice, but couldn’t get confirmation on the first)

  14. JEN says:

    What a great idea! I saw your comment in ReFoReMo group, and had to stop by to take a look. My library card will be bursting seams now!

  15. mariagianferrari says:

    OK–I’m becoming a bit obsessed now, but here’s an obvious one we all missed:

    Winnie the Pooh + Finding Winnie (Mattick) + Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie the Pooh (Walker)


  16. mariagianferrari says:

    Just thought of another great pairing, Danielle:

    Melanie Crowder’s Audactiy, a verse novel about Clara Lemlich, union activist and Brave Girl a PB by Michelle Markel–both are lovely and poignant

  17. mariagianferrari says:

    And I just thought of another: Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill and Etched in Clay by Andrea Cheng :). Will look forward to your next collection 🙂

  18. Lindsey Nelson says:

    I lead a book club for young readers with a wide range of reading ability, this list will be so helpful for planning. Thanks so much! I’d like to suggest Crossing Bok Chitto and Stone River Crossing (both by Tom Tingle) as well.

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