“Do I have to read it? Can’t I just watch the movie?”
If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that phrase in my 20 plus years as an educator, I’d be typing this from my luxurious, oceanside villa on Cape Cod rather than from my backyard deck adjacent to a pop-up pool in Plymouth. Most avid readers know that when it comes to adaptations, the book is always, always, always better than the movie. But when you’re 12 and you have the option between 2 hours on the sofa, munchin’ Jiffy Pop or actually engaging your brain for 300 pages, the choice is obvious. Unfortunately, the easy choice is seldom the best one.
The problem doesn’t only exist in the classroom. We’ve had the same issue in my house, but I recently flipped the script before the whining could start. When I realized my eldest’s 7th grade summer reading list included Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightening Thief, I cut a deal. “Read the book first and then we’ll watch the movie. If they’re more than 75% the same, then you can always watch the movie first from here out.” He had no idea it was a set up. The Lightening Thief is a page turning ride that can keep even the most reluctant readers engaged. The film adaptation…not so much. As a former student once said, “Mrs. O, the only thing about that movie that’s like the book is the title!” Agreed kid.
After a few weeks of cozying up with the book version of Percy and Grover and joining them on Grecian inspired adventures, my son tuned in to Disney Plus for the film version. A couple hours later he reappeared. “Mom? What was that?”
“It’s nothing like the book. The book is totally amazing and that was nothing like what I had in my head.”
“Well which was better, your head or the movie?”
“Duh, Mom, obviously my version.”
“So, I guess you’ll be reading the books from now on, huh?”
While I have some really strong opinions on film adaptations, I encourage you and your crew to test the theory for yourselves. 2020 has seen a slew of middle grade and YA adaptations with more to come. Challenge your family to read the book and then watch the movie. Afterall, there’s still a pandemic going on and everything is cancelled so you’ve got plenty of time on your hands. Afterwards, make a T-chart to list all the similarities and differences between both, then the experiment will not only count towards quality family time, but you might score bonus points for homeschooling or e-learning.
To help you get started, here’s a quick list of book-to-movie adaptions for 2020 and where to find them. Enjoy!
My One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Culfer
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier
The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
Emma by Jane Austen
PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han (sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before)
Theatrical Releases – Available for rental on Amazon Prime:
Call of the Wild by Jack London
Dolittle (Based on The Story of Doctor Dolittle) by Hugh Lofting
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Witches by Roald Dahl – 10/20/20
The Dragon Rider – Cornelia Funke (Wide release coming in the fall)
2020 Releases Moved to January Due to Covid 19
Peter Rabbit 2, (Based on Peter Rabbit) by Beatrix Potter
Chaos Walking, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Let us know in the comments what book/movie you chose and which you preferred. You can get the Two Lit Mamas opinions on their favorite adaptations by tuning in to Two Lit Mamas Podcast Episode 6. And, to hear to them chat about adaptation failures, check out podcast Episode 5.