Posted by: Bill Lord | October 6, 2009

Books into movies

With the release of Cloudy with a chance of meatballs in September and the great sense of excitement about the release of the film version of Where the Wild Things are on the 11th December I have been thinking about the translation of films into books.

The former is based upon the Ron and Judi Barrett book of the same name. It tells the story of Flint Lockwood an optimist who has never given up on his lifelong goal of inventing something which improves peoples’ lives. He finally invents a machine that makes awesome food rain from the sky. Flint is ecstatic, but there’s still a nagging suspicion that something, as always, will go wrong.

Where the Wild Things Are has been made into a film lasting an hour and a half featuring Forrest Whittaker and James Gandolfini. Wild Things appears to be causing the great excitement amongst adults. Whilst many remember Fantastic Mr Fox (soon to be released) as one of the pleasant reads of our childhood I am sure that there are many who hold the Maurice Sendak classic from 1963 in greater affection. It is simply one of those books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar that ‘everyone’ appears to have not only read but also owned a copy.
Fantastic Mr Fox
will be released on the 23rd October in the UK with a plethora of top notch actors including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jarvis Cocker, Willem Dafoe, Brian Cox and Michael Gambon
The film is, appropriately, released by 20th Century Fox and has been created using classic animation techniques over more than twenty four months. It has been set in the UK although the American actors have maintained their accents. Interestingly all of the accents for Mr Fox and his heroic friends are American whilst the evil farmers are all British!
There are two major adaptations coming in 2010. The first will be Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton featuring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter; it is due to be released on March 19th. The other film is Pinocchio directed by Guillermo Del Toro whilst there is no release date for this it has been revealed that the film will be much darker than earlier versions.

In terms of use in the classroom my personal recommendation would be two lower profile releases from this year both of which are linked to high quality picture books.
Helen Ward’s book ‘Varmints’
is a beautiful but dark story of a creature’s fight against a dull and industrial world. In this world all traces of greenery and wilderness are eradicated and we discover our main character (a cute animal) who strives to save the last relics of the beautiful area and plant the seeds of change before it’s too late. The book contains strong environmental messages without lecturing and is thought provoking for young children. It was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway award in 2009 with a judgement that it is a ‘A breathtaking and magical piece of work, that is wholly original and allows your imagination space to work.  Craste (the illustrator) makes outstanding use of light to haunting and often poignant effect.’ The book was brilliantly translated into film by Studio AKA earlier this year and is available for download from iTunes or from the Studio’s website. There are links which could be made in Key Stage One to the wonderful book The Flower by John Light and moving up into Key Stage 2 Shaun Tan’s fantasy The Arrival could enable pupils to study alternative worlds or settings. The theme of one individual fighting against environmental decay could be explored with the thought provoking Till Nowak short animation The Delivery which has already been used in Upper Key Stage 2 classes.
Lost and Found
is another wonderful book from new star of picture books – Oliver Jeffers. In this book the penguin arrives on the boy’s doorsteps and the story follows their attempt to take the penguin home. The book can be bought with an audio CD narrated by Paul McGann. The film version is a great adaptation with narration by Jim Broadbent. Perfect for Foundation Stage or year 1.


  1. Intresting, this was actually a very great read! thanks

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