Some of today’s most celebrated films were first words on a page. Books are the prequel to many outstanding movies, including those adapted from children’s classics and bestselling novels. This year, we’ve already witnessed several successful film adaptations come alive, including “The Jungle Book,” “The BFG,” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”
But here’s the thing about books being made into movies: You’re doing yourself (and your children) a disservice if you neglect to read the book first. The experience of bringing a book to life in your mind – creating the world, hearing the dialogue, feeling the feels – is something that can never be replicated on screen. Plus, the chances of reading the book after seeing the movie version are pretty slim. Even for kids.
So encourage your child to read these amazing books before they hit theaters. Or make it family reading time and experience the journey with them. Some are due to come out soon, while others are currently being optioned. And a few – let’s hope they stay immortalized in print forever. There are just some things too good to be recreated.
Children’s & Middle Grade Books
“Milton’s Secret“ by Eckhart Tolle
Starring the incredible Donald Sutherland and Michelle Rodriguez, the movie hits theaters on September 30. I highly recommend picking up the book first. “Milton’s Secret” is a beautifully illustrated and artfully expressed story about eight-year-old Milton, who is bullied on the playground by a boy named Carter. You’ll want the opportunity to talk with your child about this social reality and help them understand what to do and who to talk to should they ever encounter bullying firsthand.
“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life“ by James Patterson and Chris Tebbets
James Patterson and Chris Tebbets’ 2011 graphic novel will debut as a film on October 7, so your kids still have a little time to sneak this one in before it becomes a top-grossing film (oh, it will). The premise: Rafe Khatchadorian’s home life is already problematic, and now middle school has been thrown into the mix. With sixth grade destined to destroy his last glimmer of hope, Rafe’s imaginary friend, Leo, tells him to do something cool, something to make the year one to remember. So Rafe embarks on a mission to break every rule in the school’s Code of Conduct handbook. Will he successfully complete the challenge or will middle school crush his soul? Find out in the book version. First. Please.
“The Great Gilly Hopkins“ by Katherine Paterson
Also set for an October 7 release and first published in 1978, “The Great Gilly Hopkins” is a heartwarming story about foster kid Galadriel ‘Gilly’ Hopkins and her quest to find a real home. The book is intended for mature, older middle-grade children given Gilly’s foul-mouth (no f-bombs; this is a kid’s book) and bratty personality at the onset. There are heavy issues at play including emotional trauma, racism, and homelessness. This book will not disappoint, but be ready to dive into some serious conversations.
“Captain Underpants“ by Dav Pilkey
Can you imagine the world of “Captain Underpants” coming to life on the big screen? We nearly did cartwheels when we heard this one is being adapted into a film starring Kevin Hart and Ed Helms. If you’ve never had the pleasure of being outraged by the name of this bestselling series, grab the book now. Captain Underpants is every elementary school kid’s hero, and everything you’d never expect. The release date for this wildly anticipated film is listed as January 23, 2017. We’ve already reserved our spot in the ticket line!
“Pax“ by Sara Pennypacker
This endearing novel has been such a hit a bidding war for the movie rights was inevitable. Released in print earlier this year (February 2016), Pax is a story for the ages and one you’ll want your children to read well in advance of the movie – because they’ll have questions. And they’ll cry. And you’ll cry too.
This journey is told through the eyes of Pax, a pet fox, and his human, Peter. When Peter’s father enlists in the war, he forces Peter to release Pax back into the wild. Soon after, Peter realizes what a horrible mistake he has made and decides to set out and find his best buddy. Little does he know, Pax is trying to find him, too. This story tears at the heartstrings, and is one of the most remarkable books, let alone middle-grade books, I’ve read in a very long time.
“Magic Tree House“ (Series) by Mary Pope Osbourne
Lionsgate recently acquired the film rights to the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne, celebrated the world over by parents, librarians, and teachers. This 54-book series follows Pennsylvania siblings Jack and Annie on their trips through history and literature. The first movie installment, which is already in development, is based on “Christmas in Camelot,” the 29th book in the series. Your kiddos have plenty of time to start with the first book, “Dinosaurs Before Dark.” An ideal bedtime read for middle-grade students.
“Anyone But Ivy Pocket“ by Caleb Krisp
For anyone who loved Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” comes “Anyone But Ivy Pocket” – zany, whimsical, wickedly funny tale of a 12-year-old maid with an inflated perspective of life, and herself. It’s a delightfully quirky, hilarious read that will leave your children smiling. Film rights have been acquired by Paramount Pictures. No release date has been set.
Teen & Young Adult
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children“ by Ransom Riggs
The film version of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” adapted from Ransom Riggs’ hit 2011 novel, will be released on September 30 worldwide. The story takes place at an orphanage where children with strange powers are looked after by the magical Miss Peregrine. While I anticipate an extraordinary film, the hair-raising epic adventure, illustrated with haunting vintage photography, cannot be captured anywhere but on the pages of a book.
“A Monster Calls“ by Patrick Ness
Set for release on October 21 and based on Patrick Ness’ 2011 book, “A Monster Calls” tells the story of Conor O’Malley, a young boy whose mother is dying from a terminal illness. One night as Conor looks out his bedroom window, he sees a tree monster who promises him three tales. All that’s required of Conor? A tale in return, and one that contains “the truth.” Packed with symbolism that will be lost on screen, this is a must-read before the movie is released. Just have the Kleenex nearby.
“The Giant Under the Snow“ by John Gordon
Before there was Harry Potter, there was “The Giant Under the Snow.” John Gordon’s tale of three children who awaken a giant after discovering an ancient belt buckle is due to be released on the big screen in October 2017. Since it’s considered one of the very first urban fantasy books ever written, long before the term had been coined, it rightly holds “classic” status and is absolutely one to add to your children’s suggested reading list.
“The Chronicles of Prydain“ by Lloyd Alexander
If your child loves “The Lord of the Rings” series, it’s time to get them hooked on Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy series “The Chronicles of Prydain.” This epic five-novel adventure, published between 1964 and 1968 and based on Welsh mythology, follows the protagonist Taran from youth into adulthood. His big dreams beyond being an assistant pig keeper land him in the magical land of Prydain, where this unlikely hero has a chance to save the day. And the world.
“A Wrinkle in Time“ by Madeleine L’Engle
It’s been a long time coming, but Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit will soon be making their big screen debut. Published in 1962, Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, “A Wrinkle in Time,” tells the iconic story of a dark and stormy night and the midnight arrival of a stranger at Meg Murry’s house. The book is filled with intricate physics terms and deep musings on good versus evil; concepts that are better suited for words than images. Yet, despite its complexity, “A Wrinkle in Time” is a hallucinatory read and one your children will never forget.
“The Sky Is Everywhere“ by Jandy Nelson
“The Sky is Everywhere” details the story of 17-year-old Lennie Walker, a bookworm and band geek, who is confronted with the sudden loss of her sister. While dealing with her unimaginable grief, Lennie finds herself strangely drawn to two men: her sister’s boyfriend and a new student. One shares her loss, the other offers hope – both are destined to change her. The novel was optioned by Warner Bros. and is currently being filmed.
“All the Bright Places“ by Jennifer Niven
One of the best young-adult romances of our time, “All the Bright Places” will soon be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning (>>fist pump<<). When Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of a bell tower, it’s unclear who will save whom. Theodore is obsessed with death, while Violet is just trying to survive. We highly recommend having a frank talk with your teen before they pick up this book, as it tackles a variety of intense topics including depression and suicide.
Now that you know what’s coming, here are a few books you’ll be surprised to learn have never been made into movies: The “Artemis Fowl” series by Eoin Colfer, “Corduroy” by Don Freeman, “Amelia Bedelia“ by Peggy Parish, “Sideways Stories From Wayside School” by Louis Sachar, and “The Giving Tree” AND “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein. How has Hollywood gone this long without turning any of these incredible books into feature films? Let’s hope this question is never answered.
Your turn! Which books are you reading with your children or encouraging them to read before seeing the movie? Let us know in the comments section below.