These days many children would rather watch a movie than read a book. Many of them might enjoy doing both! Unfortunately, as many of us know, the movie is rarely as good as the book. Here are some examples where the motion picture fell a bit short of the book on which it’s based.
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Ten Children’s Books That Are Better Than the Movie
Bridge to Terabithia
A classic young adult novel, Bridge to Terabithia was published in 1977 and won the Newbery Medal in 1979. The movie is a pretty good adaptation but doesn’t measure up to the book itself. For example, the creation of the land of Terabithia is handled beautifully in the book – the language and imagery are so evocative. In the movie, Terabithia must be more obvious and pointed.
Published in 1952, this iconic children’s book has been made into both animated and live-action movies, as well as a stage play. Generally speaking, the characters depicted in the book seem to have more dimensions than the same ones shown in the movies. The movie adaptations are by no means bad, but the book is more descriptive and nuanced.
Munro Leaf wrote this beautiful picture book in 1936. The illustrator, Robert Lawson, creates a vulnerable character in Ferdinand. He just wants to smell the flowers, for crying out loud! Translated into a film, there are too many crazy additions to this simple story. It should be loved for what it is: a picture book, and nothing more. I don’t care how great John Cena is – Ferdinand doesn’t belong on the big screen.
This is a much-loved tale of a boy forced to go youth detention camp for a crime he didn’t commit. There, he meets a cast of characters, both good and bad, all of whom enrich the story. Only minor criticism can be mentioned for the casting of Stanley Yelnats and Mr. Sir. Yelnats in the film doesn’t portray the same body image in the book. Further, Mr. Sir is rather cartoonish in his words and actions.
James and the Giant Peach
Anything written by Roald Dahl is better in book form than on film. The primary reason for this is Dahl’s use of language – his imagery and splendid language play make imagining a scene effortless for the reader.
Despite the rousing performance of Robin Williams in the movie, the book is better, hands down. Why? Van Allsburg’s illustrations make the story come alive. When coupled with the words, the illustrations help create a world where virtually anything is possible. The reader feels the vulnerability and fear of the characters from the first page.
The Lightning Thief
Part of the Percy Jackson series, The Lightning Thief is an excellent book. The movie is not quite as good. The casting could easily destroy the entire plot if the viewer lets it. Percy is rather humorless, Grover is the not-that-funny comic relief, and Annabeth loses many IQ points as she goes from page to film.
Do I need to mention Roald Dahl again? The man. Is. A. Genius. His dialogue and character development in the book are flawless. And the wordplay. Yes, please! In addition to the script being sub-par compared to the book, Matilda’s powers are regarded differently in both versions. In the movie, Matilda is regarded as somewhat of a superhero, while in the book her powers are viewed as a miracle – nothing more, nothing less.
The Polar Express
Again. The illustrations. Welcome back, Mr. Van Allsburg! The simplicity of this gorgeous picture book is wondrous. In movie form, it’s too busy. Everything is expanded and elaborate. Similar to Ferdinand, there isn’t enough plot for a movie.
The Secret Garden
The oldest book of the ten listed here, The Secret Garden was published in 1911. Much of the complaints about the movie center on the modernization of the tale. The book, for example, shows everyone dying of Cholera, while the movie points to a massive earthquake as the cause. The imagery brought forth by the original writing is not rivaled in the movie.
Published in 1975, this fantasy book is a magical telling of a girl and her interactions with a very special family. The book depicts a crush between the main female character and the boy of the mysterious family. In the movie, though, it’s shown as more of a romantic relationship. Once again, the scenes brought forth in the reader’s mind cannot be matched by those shown in the movie.
Overall, not one of these movies is a terrible choice for an evening’s entertainment. But you know what would be better? Reading the book!