Blockbuster Summer Movies, Take One!
With two new movies this summer based on children’s books, it seemed like the perfect time for a booklist! Try some of these famous children’s books that have been adapted to the silver screen. Read the book, watch the movie, and see if you think they worked. Which do you like better…the book, or the movie?
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The First Blockbuster:
Atwater, Richard. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
A decorator by day, Mr. Popper is an intrepid Antarctic explorer by night–at least in his imagination. Mr. Popper resigns himself to quiet evenings at home, until one day a mysterious package arrives. Pretty soon the Poppers have a house full of penguins, an ice rink in the basement, and an ever-increasing bill for raw fish and canned shrimp. Time to take this show on the road!
It doesn’t sound like the movie has carried over much of the story from the book, but the penguins sure look cute!
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Other Fun Animal Movies, based on famous books!
Burnford, Sheila. The Incredible Journey
A bull terrier, a Labrador retriever and a Siamese cat leave their temporary home and set out into the Canadian wilderness, determined to find their family.
Disney filmed two versions of this book, one in 1963 version and the second in 1993 version (re-titled Homeward Bound.) In the first one, the animal breeds are right, and the film is narrated, with the animals not speaking. The 1993 version has an American bulldog, a golden retriever and a Himalayan with the animals voiced by famous actors. Your preference may depend on if you like more realistic or more comedic movies!
DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn-Dixie
Opal moves to Florida, and describes the first year of her life there—complete because of the big, ugly dog she found at the supermarket and names Winn-Dixie.
The movie is fun, but the dog in it is more scruffy than ugly, and is too cute to be the Winn-Dixie Opal describes! Still, aside from that, this is a charming adaptation.
Duncan, Lois. Hotel for Dogs
Liz and her older brother Bruce have to stay with their aunt for a year and leave their beloved dog behind. Liz wants a pet so much, she “accidentally” adopts a stray and has to keep it secret. When she finds an abandoned hotel, she and Bruce gather more dogs and house them there.
The movie has almost nothing in common with the book except for dogs being rescued and kept secret. If you like dogs though, you’ll like both the book and the movie, and neither one will spoil the other!
Farley, Walter. The Black Stallion
Alec is on a tramp steamer traveling home to the United States when a storm hits. Alec finds himself stranded on a deserted island with the black stallion he freed just before the ship when down. With only each other to rely on, boy and horse become friends.
The book is a wonderful boy and his horse story, and the movie is stunningly filmed. A beautiful example of how a book should be adapted. You will enjoy both! There is a sequel, The Black Stallion Returns; the story is a little wobbly, but the filming is just as beautiful.
King-Smith, Dick. Babe: The Gallant Pig
When Babe arrives at Hogget Farm, Mrs. Hogget’s thoughts turn to sizzling bacon and juicy pork chops—until he reveals a surprising talent for sheepherding, that is. Before long, Babe is handling Farmer Hogget’s flock better than any sheepdog ever could. Babe is so good, in fact, that the farmer enters him into the Grand Challenge Sheepdog Trials. Will it take a miracle for Babe to win?
The movie is funny, touching and may just be the best version of a children’s book out there. You’ll love Babe, Fly and all the other inhabitants of the Hogget’s Farm. (Personally, the mice are my favorites.)
Lofting, Hugh. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
Young Tommy Stubbins records the voyages of Doctor Dolittle as he hits the high seas! Along with his faithful friends, Polynesia the parrot and Chee-Chee the monkey, Doctor Dolittle survives a perilous shipwreck and lands on the mysterious floating island. There he meets the wondrous Great Glass See Snail who holds the key to the greatest mystery of all.
The 1967 musical version is family fun, if a little clunky on the special effects front. The Eddie Murphy movies have little in common with the books—basically a name and talking to animals.
North, Sterling. Rascal
In this memoir, Sterling North recalls his year with Rascal–a very mischievous and resourceful raccoon. Young Sterling watches in amazement as this baby raccoon, barely the size of Sterling’s hand, instinctively washes everything before eating it. Every night, Rascal sneaks into the house by hooking his claws onto the back screen door and heads straight for Sterling’s bed! Virtually everywhere Sterling goes, Rascal is there, and life is filled with one adventure after another.
The 1969 Disney movie is a faithful retelling of the book. Most viewers will probably want their own raccoon after watching. Both the book and the movie are forgotten classics that are well worth revisiting!
Orr, Wendy. Nim’s Island
Meet Nim–she can chop down bananas with a machete, climb tall palm trees, and start a fire with a piece of glass. So she’s not afraid when her scientist dad sails off to study plankton for three days, leaving her alone on their island. Besides, it’s not as if no one’s looking after her–she’s got a sea lion to mother her and an iguana for comic relief. She also has an interesting new e-mail pal. But when her father’s cell-phone calls stop coming and disaster seems near, Nim has to be stronger and braver than she’s ever been before.
The movie is a pretty faithful to the book, and fun to watch. The animal actors are amazing, even when the human actors are a little over the top. A fun family adventure for a rainy day.
Van Allsburg, Chris. Jumanji
When Peter and Judy found the board game under a tree, they weren’t that interested. But they were bored and restless and, looking for something to do, so they gave Jumanji a try. Little did they know when they unfolded its ordinary-looking playing board that they were about to be plunged into the most exciting and bizare adventure of their lives.
The book is short and fun, the movie creates a whole new story and extends the action sequences for an exciting (and a little scary) experience. Younger viewers may find it a little scary, but older viewers may want to find their own mysterious board game in their attic.
White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web
A bashful pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. Wilbur is devastated when he learns of the destiny that befalls farm pigs; determined to save her friend, Charlotte spins a web that reads “Some Pig,” convincing the farmer and surrounding community that Wilbur is no ordinary animal and should be saved.
The 2006 live-action movie is a gentle adaptation, with plenty of talent in the cast and animal actors. The book’s themes of friendship, love and loss carry over quite well for viewers. Still, don’t skip the book!
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If you can think of any great adaptations of favorite animal books, let us know! And look for our Movies, Take Two sometime next week. Because there Judy Moody is also coming up…