I’ve been rereading The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett, published serially in 1910 and as a book in 1911) and Laddie (Gene Stratton Porter, 1913) and it’s sort of like a literary version of Iron Chef – the two authors use so many of the same ingredients to make such different dishes. Or maybe Stratton Porter read Burnett and was inspired to invent her own recipe. It was the lyrical descriptions of spring that first started me thinking about the books’ similarities – the two girls heroines both glory in springtime coming to a Yorkshire garden in the one case and an Indiana farm in the other, though one has seen similar springs all her life and the other is seeing it for the first time. Then there are the families: the Sowerby family in The Secret Garden is a bit offstage while the Stantons in Laddie are the center of the story, but both have twelve children, an unusually sensible and most beloved mother who is deeply respected by everyone in her community, and one special son (Dickon and Laddie) who is loved by everyone who knows him, has a special personality that can be seen at first glance (though Dickon isn’t handsome and Laddie is), has a magical way with animals, an unfailing calmness and cheerfulness and is unusually big and strong. (Dickon may seem large only because he’s two years older than Mary and Colin, but he is referred to several times as being very strong.) There’s a lot of Dickon in Little Sister too, in the way both live out of doors as much as humanly possible, and learn about the natural world from what they see around them much more than from books. Mary is as unwanted as Little Sister at first thinks she it. Colin is the same sort of autocratic misfit in The Secret Garden that Mr. Pryor is in Laddie, though boat are eventually coaxed to join the community. Both have a lot of focus on birds, though there’s no one bird in Laddie, not even Bobby the pet bantam, who has as much personality as the robin in The Secret Garden.
But other than that, the books are completely different in every detail.