Children’s Books That Transitioned to the Big Screen

By Tracey Dowdy

I love the line from The Princess Bride, “When I was your age, television was called books.” Aside from being a classic “old guy” line, it’s also the way many readers feel when their beloved books end up on the big screen. Movie adaptations are a great way to help kids who aren’t book lovers connect with a character and pique their curiosity. After all, everyone loves a good story.

One of my daughters insisted on reading the book before she saw the movie, so she could compare. Another loved seeing the movie first, then going back to the book to dig deeper and see what was missed.

Whether it’s the details omitted in order to keep a Harry Potter book from lasting longer than a Hollywood marriage, or going back and falling in love with your favorite characters in whole new ways, exploring books that became movies is a lot of fun.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle’s science fiction classic is the story of Meg Murray, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin O’Keefe, who set of on a grand adventure through time itself to rescue her father. It’s a powerful story of love and friendship with a strong female protagonist. (Book/Movie – Coming March, 2018)

Jumanji – Jumanji holds the record as being the first movie my daughter Ceilidh ever sat still for – it’s that good. The movie – and the book it’s based on – tells the story of kids drawn into a magical game with real world consequences that can only be undone if the game is completed. The movies based on the original book stray from the original plotlines and characters, but they’re all a lot of fun. (Book/1995 Movie/2017 Movie – In theatres)

Wonder – Because of a facial deformity, August Pullman has always been homeschooled. Wanting to be treated like a “regular kid,” Auggie talks his parents into let him start 5th grade at public school and the book allows us to see his struggle to fit in with peers and the rest of his community. Wonder is the inspiration for the anti-bullying movement Choose Kind. (Book/Movie)

Night at the Museum – The entire Night at the Museum movie franchise sprung from a simple children’s picture book. Larry is a new security guard for the dinosaur exhibit at New York’s Museum of Natural History. But, when he accidentally falls asleep at work, he awakens to find only one bone and has to enlist the help of the other guards to help him find the rest of the dinosaur bones. Just like the movie, all the exhibits come alive at night. (Book/Movie)

Mrs. Doubtfire – Since their parent’s divorce, Lydia, Christopher and Natalie bounce between their mom, Miranda, and father, Daniel. When Miranda advertises for a cleaning lady who will also look after the children until she gets home from work, Daniel gets the job, but he’s disguised as Madame Doubtfire. The book is darker than the movie, so beware that Robin William’s hilarious antics in the movie are overshadowed by the bitterness between Daniel and Miranda in the book. I’d recommend it for older children, as its more realistic portrayal of divorce isn’t necessarily appropriate for younger children. (Book/Movie)

Princess Bride – Everyone’s favorite “bent” fairy tale, The Princess Bride tells the story of farmhand Westley who, accompanied by his companions Fezzik, Vizzini, and Inigo Montoya, must try to rescue his true love, Princess Buttercup, from nasty Prince Humperdinck. (Book/Movie)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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