Serving as a book and movie combination, we present nine film adaptations of beloved children’s stories. We all know of The Hobbit, Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz, so we won’t go there. Instead, we deliver magical worlds and amazing adventures full of courage and friendship. While some are whimsical tales, others are challenging stories for children to immerse themselves in. Then, once the last page has been turned, see how the filmmaker’s interpretation has matched your child’s imagination.
The Secret World of Arrietty
Based on children’s fantasy novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty is an exceptional picture book by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The story centers around the Clock family who are tiny people living beneath the kitchen floor of an old manor. Everything in their house is ‘borrowed’ from the humans who move about above them. The eponymous character, Arrietty, strikes a friendship with a human boy, which leads her on a magical adventure.
Studio Ghibli, the superb talents behind Ponyo and Spirited Away bring The Secret World of Arrietty to life. This vivid hand-drawn animated film is another masterpiece from this Japanese production studio and delivers a whimsical tale with a friendship and courage at its core.
Bridge to Terabithia
This classic Newbery Medal-winning novel by bestselling author Katherine Paterson is about two lonely sixth grade children, Jess and Leslie, who create a magical kingdom in the woods called Terabithia. As a deep friendship develops, they use their wild imaginations to reign over the world as King and Queen. A tragedy crumbles Jess’s world making this a bittersweet story about courage, grief and understanding the impact childhood friendships can have on our loves; a must read for all children.
Enter the secret world of Terabithia, where giants, ogres and magical creatures abound. This film will tug on everyone’s heartstrings, and you will fall in love with the characters and thoroughly enjoy the journey.
First published in 1952, Charlotte’s Web is considered a classic of children’s literature. E.B. White’s novel set on a farm tells the tale of an endearing friendship between the unlikeliest of animals. With Wilbur the pig’s slaughter set to end his days, Charlotte the spider hatches a plan to save his life by writing emotive messages in her web. Proving his worth, Wilbur survives, further developing his bond with Charlotte. This is a perfect story for all children about love, loss and tolerance.
While many have their preference between the original Charlotte’s Web animation from 1973 or the live action 2006 movie starring Dakota Fanning and Julia Roberts, both are a pure joy to watch.
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-book fantasy series by British author C.S. Lewis. When children are magically transported from the real world to the enchanted land of Narnia, an adventure begins. With mythical beasts, talking animals and a mission to protect the world around them, the series takes readers through Narnia’s history and is a captivating tale of good versus evil.
The movie adaptation of the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was released in 2005, and 14 years later, continues to sweep children into a delightful mythical adventure.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The most world’s beloved storyteller, Roald Dahl, has delivered many classics over the years. While the quirky James and the Giant Peach or the endearing The BFG are universal favorites, Fantastic Mr. Fox tells a rapid-fire, quick-witted tale. After outsmarting three dim-witted farmers to ‘take’ supplies and feed his family, Mr. Fox finds himself on the run from their plan to put an end to his stealing. The action-packed story engages children young and old, as everyone can sympathize with Mr. Fox and his elaborate scheme to dig his way to safety.
Delivered via stop-motion animation through visionary director Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox with its all-star cast of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Owen Wilson is pure entertainment. The razor shape dialogue will engage parents and kids – and have everyone trying to figure out the rules to a game of ‘whack-bat.’
At its core, The Lorax is about caring for the environment and how we must work together to save our planet; an even more prescient message today than when it was written in 1971. Fun and colorful illustrations with whimsical rhymes deliver a story where The Lorax speaks for the trees. Lines such as “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not,” will have children thinking of how we can all live responsibly.
The movie adaption is a bright and quirky delivery around the same environmental message. In the film, we watch one boy’s mission to win the affection of a girl who wants to see a real tree. This sends him on a quest to find the Lorax, who has the unmistakable voice of Danny de Vito.
Once again from the storytelling charm of Roald Dahl comes the quirky tale of Matilda, a gifted four-year-old girl who is seen as nothing but a nuisance and is treated poorly by her parents. Matilda falls in love with the local library and teaches herself to read, further infuriating her folks. The film’s protagonist soon realizes she possesses the power of telekinesis, and proceeds to use her intellect and skills to devise elaborate practical jokes, gaining much satisfaction in righting the wrongs around her.
The 1996 film adaptation is slightly slapstick and thoroughly entertaining. Kids will giggle as they witness Matilda’s pranks come to life, and will celebrate her perseverance as she battles her way to happiness.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Written by author Daniel Handler under the pen name Lemony Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events is a little dark but extremely enjoyable. The 13-book series follows the adventures of three young siblings who are left orphaned by a fire in their mansion and sent to live with a scheming relative.
The 2004 film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events stars the consummate entertainer, Jim Carrey, with its eccentric and quirky storyline a perfect vehicle and visual treat that brings together the stories from books one to three. Look out also for a Netflix series starring Neil Patrick Harris for die-hard fans.
This beautifully written book by R.J. Palacio goes straight to the heart of every child who appreciates the insight that it takes to be compassionate and kind towards those with physical differences. August ‘Augie’ Pullman, the book’s protagonist, is beset with a facial deformity due to Treacher Collins syndrome. Throughout the book, various family and friends narrate his struggles to attend school and the impact of his condition on the lives of everyone around him. This story will leave an impression on all readers to better understand the role they play in anyone’s journey, and the meaning of genuine friendship.
Augie is superbly portrayed on screen by Jacob Tremblay, and the stellar cast including Julie Roberts and Owen Wilson has us captivated from the beginning. The raw emotions played out on film paint a heartwarming picture of what it means to live a life of dignified courage.
[Cover image via IMDb; Other images via Amazon]