Making 'The Outsiders' Immersive: Books, Movies, and Other Media to Enliven the Hinton Classic | Refreshing the Canon

It's just not summer if teenagers aren't pocketing S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, with its iconic gang members, dusty American landscape, and exquisitely crafted life lessons; this year, SLJ and NCTE reveal the 2023 round of “Refreshing the Canon” selections, where multimedia suggestions enrich The Outsiders and so much more.


Last month, SLJ asked librarians and educators to weigh in on which classics should remain on summer reading lists. Inspired by the most popular titles that emerged, SLJ editors and members of NCTE’s Build Your Stack® Committee have curated this year’s round of “Refreshing the Canon” selections. 

Additionally, we’ve put together multimodal lists of recommendations—including nonfiction, graphic novels, documentaries, and more—that educators can feature in classrooms and libraries alongside the exemplar texts. Our aim is to inspire educators to breathe fresh life into lessons around these works by giving students context to understand why these classics are still relevant today.

Be sure to check out the 2022 “Refreshing the Canon” lists for more read-alikes of longtime summer reading picks.

The Outsiders (1967) by S.E. Hinton is a coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s that follows the story of a teenage boy named Ponyboy Curtis and his gang of "greasers" from the wrong side of town. Throughout the novel, Ponyboy struggles to find his place in the world and understand the harsh realities of life. He learns that the world isn't fair, and that people can surprise you in both good and bad ways. The novel is a powerful commentary on the social and economic divisions that exist in our society, and the struggles that young people face as they try to navigate their way through life.


In the news

Why It’s Hard to Be a Poor Boy With Richer Neighbors from The Marshall Project
This article shares the results of in-depth research into the role of social statuses in and around the neighborhoods of poor youth in American cities.


This Newsweek collection of articles (needs an account for access) tackles multiple real world facets of education, bullying, violence, and class that affect students today. 


Nothing Gold Can Stay
 by Robert Frost 
This poem is referenced in the book with the line “Stay gold, Ponyboy.” Reading the original creates a tie in for students.


We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

Brooks’s poem succinctly expresses the same kind of rebellion and consequences of the lives of teens as described in The Outsiders.



Picture Books

The Island by Armin Greder. Allen & Unwin. 2008. ISBN 9781741752663.

An allegory about an astonishing, powerful, and timely story of refugees, xenophobia, racism, multiculturalism, social politics, and human rights.


Mediterranean by Armin Greder. Allen & Unwin. 2008 ISBN 9781760634018.

A text that speaks texts to the ‘othering’ concept, new arrivals into new lands, and issues of fitting into a certain societal category. 


Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt. illus. by Vin Vogel. Flashlight Press. ISBN 9781947277762.

This picture book explores friendship between two friends who are in different social classes. It could be used as an introduction for discussion about the impact of socioeconomic class in The Outsiders. 


Graphic Novel

The Arrival by Shaun Tan. illus. by author. Arthur A. Levine. 2007. ISBN 9780439895293.

Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family's life, to a new country.


Video or Streaming

The Outsiders. dir. by Francis Ford Coppola. 1983.
With an cast of newcomers that included Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, and Patrick Swayze, and featured cameos by Nicolas Cage and Johnny Depp, this film version of the book was praised for its adherence to Hinton's vision and tone.


Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies. Paramount.

A prequel-spinoff of the original 1978 movie musical Grease, this TV series focuses on the female band of greasers, The Pink Ladies. A good contrast to the stories of the male greasers and male rebellion in The Outsiders



Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing