Read the Book, See the Movie

Friday, August 3rd is a big day: the release of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.  I’ve got the afternoon off and am taking my 9-year-old son and one of his friends to see the movie.  We loved the first two (seriously – Greg Heffley’s “lovely soprano” version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” had me rolling, although it may seem less amusing to viewers who were not alive during the 80s) and have been waiting somewhat impatiently for the third.

We have a rule at our house – you can’t see the movie unless you’ve read the book.  No worries with the Wimpy Kid series; the only thing that’s more exciting than the release date of the movies is the release date of the latest Wimpy Kid book.   Since Jude discovered them, we’ve pre-ordered each new book and he typically plows through them before his head hits the pillow that night.

November 2010

Our rule (read the book before seeing the movie) doesn’t work for everyone.  If a kid loves a movie, encourage him or her to read the book.  This could very well be the gateway to a lifetime of reading for reluctant readers.  Here’s a list of some of our family’s favorite movie versions of well-loved books:
  • Harry Potter.  Of course.  I was late to the Harry Potter party; for some reason the books did not appeal to me and I felt it was acceptable to wait until I had a child old enough to read them together.  I was so, so wrong.  Those seven books are some of the most compelling, well-written, timeless stories ever told.  J.K. Rowling and her editor are phenomenal.  I could go on and on in this gushing fashion, but I will spare you and suggest that, if you haven’t already, you (and your children, of course) should read the Harry Potter books.
    • A note about the series: I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Jude the summer after his first grade year and we completed the final book in January of his third grade year.  Some might argue that it’s a bit young.  In the first book, Harry turns 11; keep in mind that kids like to “read up” – they are interested in stories about kids slightly older than themselves.  When the books were first released, there was sufficient time between them for kids to grow up along with Harry.  That is no longer the case, so younger kids may need to pace themselves.  The books – and definitely the films – get darker as Harry gets older.  Whether or not a child is ready for Harry Potter is something that parents should give serious consideration, in regard to both reading level and subject matter.  If you have questions about whether or not your child is ready to read certain books, please talk to a librarian or the media specialist at your child’s school.
  • Ramona and Beezus.  This is a cute movie.  I’m not crazy about the fact that the names are switched around in the title or that the movie makes a jumbled mess out of the ages/time period/storylines of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, but I love this movie.  The Ramona books were some of my favorites as a child (and I love Ms. Cleary’s teen fiction, too) and the movie does a great job of capturing what it means to be part of a family, through thick and thin, through the eyes of a 9-year-old.   It’s funny and sweet and brings some of the most treasured moments of the books to life.  And it’s got a great soundtrack.

I know I’ve only just scratched the surface.  What did I miss?  What are some of your favorite movies based on children's books?

(Also published at the Patch)


  1. I love the Percy Jackson books and I resisted seeing the movie for a long time because the trailer looked so different. I finally broke down and watched it and I love it. Yes, it's very different, but both the movie and the books are done well for their mediums.

    I was disappointed by The Series of Unfortunate Events movie. Why it put the books out of order, I'll never know.

  2. Matilda is a really delightful movie. To be honest, it's been so long since I read the book that I don't remember how true it is to the original story. If you haven't seen this, you really must.

  3. Book before movie is a rule in my house too, which is why my son is the only one who watched The Hunger Games because he read the series. My teen girls didn't. I had my younger one (9) read HP until book 4 (I think, or 5), but the series and movies became too dark, so they're taking a break. My family loved Matilda, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Percy Jackson. My youngest 2 (ages 7 and 9) have been reading Dork Diaries (it's Diaries of a Wimpy kids but for girls) and they wish they could be made into movies.
    They've also Magic School Bus series and watched some of the movies...not bad.

  4. This is a great policy to have with your kids. I think I might have to steal it when we have kidlets of our own. :D

  5. It's wonderful that you're encouraging your kids to read. I loved reading as a kid, but with all the distractions nowadays, I know kids aren't as attracted to books as they once were. Whatever you're doing, keep it up! :-)

  6. I love that you are encouraging your kids to read the book if they see the movie or before they see it. I try to do this too! :) I also try to watch every movie version ever - ex. when Pride and Prejudice (2005) came out I read the book 2 times and saw EVERY movie/TV version before seeing the 2005 one... LOL! I'm of the Harry Potter generation I grew up right along with Harry and the gang.

  7. Hiya!
    I'm olde school but it's still worth mentioning that I loved watching Swiss Family Robinson with my eight year old daughter. There's a scary pirate scene, but it's awesome. Mary Poppins is actually better as a movie than a book- the book is weird! We read the book to our six year old and were surprised at the differences from the classic movie.
    We're still in a G rated phase which is limited.
    Thanks for your suggestions! Some I'll watch on my own :)

  8. I really liked 'The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe', but I thought 'Prince Caspian' was a terrible adaptation.

    I think my favorite movie adaptation of a book is 'The Princess Bride'. The movie is way better than the book, imo.


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