“The book was better” is a common mantra proudly proclaimed by bookworms everywhere. While this may be true, the movie version often has its merits.
If your young reader is a purist and the movie does not follow the book exactly, watching the movie version will probably disappointment. However, if you have a hard time convincing your young reader to pick up a book, watching the movie might be the motivator they need to get reading.
While I usually try to read the book first, most of the movies on this list I watched, loved, discovered they were based on a book and then read the book. When I watch a movie after I’ve read the book I try to keep an open mind. I don’t mind if the movie departs from the book or adds new plot twists, as long as it keeps the feel of the book. Every once in a while the book has been the disappointment. (Mary Poppins is one example that comes to mind. I love the movie so much, and the book just didn’t come close.)
Reading the book and watching the movie (regardless of what order you do it in) can provide a shared experience and a springboard to conversations with your kids as you discuss the differences, similarities and which one you liked better. A good story is a good story whether it comes to you via printed words or a DVD. And, a story shared is even better.
With the Oscars coming up this weekend, I thought I’d list some of my favorite children’s book-based movie adaptations. I’m leaving out some of the obvious: Harry Potter (which my purist daughter does not care for because they leave too much out), The Lord of the Rings, and The Hunger Games. All of these were excellent adaptations; they also have PG-13 ratings making them better suited for teens or pre-teens you know can handle the intensity and violence portrayed.
All of the movies I am highlighting have done a great job at capturing the feel of the books they showcase. They are also appropriate for a wider viewing audience. In no particular order, my top ten are as follows:
Fantastic Mr. Fox
I loved this movie! It’s one of my very favorites. With a director like Wes Anderson and a cast including movie-greats like George Clooney and Meryl Streep it is really hard to go wrong. The artistry combined with the story make this a great movie for adults and their kids.
Let’s just say, there are a host of other Roald Dahl movie adaptations that should be on this list. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original movie with Gene Wilder), James and the Giant Peach and Matilda have all been the inspiration for movies worth watching. However, I am limiting myself to two from Mr. Dahl. I loved The BFG and my kids did too. The movie was magical and tender; the book makes my kids laugh. Both are a win in my book.
Anne of Green Gables
I don’t remember if I read the book first or watched the movie; both formats made me fall in love with our Anne-girl. If you haven’t watched the movie, it is absolutely essential that you watch the Kevin Sullivan production starring Megan Follows. I can’t imagine any other version even coming close! This movie and so many of L.M. Montgomery’s books hold a special place in my heart and are forever linked with my childhood. Even if they weren’t, the story is excellent no matter which form you consume it in.
The Wizard of Oz
Is there anyone who hasn’t seen The Wizard of Oz? The movie is beloved for good reason. If they haven’t read the book, encourage your kids to give this classic a try. Or, read it together as your next read aloud.
I loved the book and the movie captured the feel of it beautifully. This should come as no surprise as Louis Sachar was the one who authored the screenplay. Quirky and funny I love how Sachar weaves two stories together to tell this one.
I love Babe so much. It is one of my all-time favorite movies. In a strange reversal, I was a little scared to read the book because I didn’t know if it could live up to the movie. I was so happy when it did. “That’ll do pig, that’ll do.”
On the flip side, I was nervous when I heard they were making Wonder into a movie (even after I found out Owen Wilson would be playing Auggie’s dad). The book was so well-done, I didn’t want the movie to ruin it. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. This story is a must-read and the movie is a must-see.
How to Train Your Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon is one of those cases where the movie departs from the books in a lot of ways. However, both are so well done I didn’t care one bit. The series is fun to read and the movies are really fun to watch.
The Secret Garden
I haven’t seen every version of The Secret Garden (there are quite a few). However, I still feel very confident in proclaiming that the Hallmark Hall of Fame version is the best. It holds up over time and stays mostly true to the book. If you can find a copy of this version to watch, you need to give it a try.
The Night at the Museum
The Night at the Museum movies are some of my family’s very favorite. Did you know they were loosely based on a picture book? The illustrations and the story in the book version make a lovely picture book to share with your kids and the movies are hilarious. We love the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson combination. They always make us laugh.
How about you? What movies would you add to the list? If you were giving an Oscar to the best children’s book-to-movie adaptation who would you give it to?
All links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you like what you read here, using these links is a small way you can support the blog. Thank you!