Book Versus Movie, the Epic Smackdown

“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?” 

“Bad right?”

“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!

Disney Plus:

My One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Culfer

Netflix:

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.   

Episode 6: QUILTBAG+ Middle Grade Books

Gear up, middle grade writers! The mamas have invited YA novelist John Petrie to join the podcast for episode 6. Petrie breaks down his process for researching sports romances while sharing with our cis gender mamas some amazing insights into the history of queer books. Put on your mask, open your mind, and walk in someone else’s shoes as the Two Lit Mamas and One Lit Godfather chat about middle grade books full of LGBTQIAP+ characters and culture.  

Rick by Alex Gino

Rick knows middle school is new and intimidating. He knows he’s the last one at home now that his siblings are in college. He knows he’s not a jerk like his best friend Jeff. But sometimes Rick worries those are the only things he knows. With the help of some new friends and an amazing grandparent, Rick learns that not knowing is perfectly fine. 

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari

June Farrell’s pies are some of the very best in Vermont, even if she’s only 12 years old. June plans to showcase her skills in the upcoming Champlain County Fair until arguments over Vermont’s civil union laws put her family and their livelihood in danger. But it takes more than some bullies to deter June from her making pies and embracing her new family. 

Meet the Guest Star: John Petrie

John Petrie grew up in Boston and now lives in the Bronx, NY. He’s spent most of his life around books, from his days as a teenage library assistant to over twenty years as a bookseller and writer. His work has appeared in True Romance magazine as well as in his two most recent YA books for Harmony Ink Press:

The Quarterback’s Crush

Buried Secrets 

He can be reached at johnrpetriewrites@gmail.com and on twitter at johnpetriewrite 

Episode Reference Links:

John Petrie’s podcast: Don’t Sue Us Please Podcast

Trying Hard to Hear You by Sandra Scoppettone

Peter by Kate Walker

Some Day This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

Five Six Seven Nate and Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Best Middle Grade Series

Join the Two Lit Mamas as they disappear into their favorite Middle Grade series and forget about the dumpster fire that is 2020 for a while. The mamas talk Star Wars, supernatural powers and even exchange a recipe for Café de Olla, all while giving big props to genius authors who make parents cringe and kiddos cheer. So, go ahead, get lost in a neighborhood of make believe with the mamas. You might feel better – at least for 30 minutes. 

Margie’s Faves

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken,  So You Want to Be a Jedi by Adam Gidwitz and Return of the Jedi, Beware The Power of the Dark Side by Tom Angleberger are three very different retellings of the original Star Wars movies from the 1970s and 80s. Though completely different in style, the three books fit together to tell the story from Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia’s meet cute (ewww, they’re brother and sister) to the defeat of their faaather.

The Genius Files is a series of five books by Dan Gutman following the McDonald twins, Coke and Pepsi, on a pop culture filled cross-country road trip. While their parents are enjoying the sights, the twins find themselves being hunted by a team of bad guys because Coke and Pepsi are no ordinary kids. The twins have been chosen for a secret government organization known as The Genius Files.

Heather’s Faves

War usually brings death and devastation but, for Ada, it might save her from abuse and misery. Set in the English countryside during WWII, The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, complete a coming of age story about a 10-year-old girl who learns to love life at a time when bombings and German spies are a normal part of living. 

Watch out world, the Beatumont children are coming into their powers and they can’t control them. Will there be a new mountain range in Kansas or a great lake in the desert? Anything is possible in this three book fantasy adventure series by Ingrid Law which includes Savvy, Scumble and Switch. Each book follows a new family member on the wild ride of discovering his or her powers. 

Pick 6: Great Shows Based on Great Books

  1. Matilda
  2. The House with a Clock in the Walls
  3. Anne with an E
  4. Holes
  5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  6. Series of Unfortunate Events


Show Reference Links:

VIA Character Strengths Survey
Café de Olla
40th Anniversary Star Wars article with Adam Gidwitz
Origamiyoda.com
Jedi Academy
Common Sense Media

Episode 4: Diverse Summer Reads

You might want to pour a glass of wine for this one. Heather and Margie dive into diverse American stories and get on their soap boxes about the importance of representation, true patriotism, letting sassy children lead us, and the power of mamas’ boys. They aimed for light summer beach reads but happily landed on more important books about black girl magic and the kindness of Latinx boys – much more fitting for the summer of 2020.   

A Song Below Water
By Bethany C. Morrow

This modern fantasy about two friends, Tavia and Effie, is set in Portland, Oregon where sirens and other magical creatures live among humans. In addition to dealing with racism and sexism, the play sisters also have to hide their magical abilities out of fear of attack after a siren murder trial rocks the nation. As if that isn’t enough, the young women also struggle with normal teen troubles like boys and hair. In the end, their strong friendship gets them through it all.  

Marcus Vega Does Not Speak Spanish
By Pablo Cartaya

Marcus Vega is a 6-foot, 180-pound middle schooler and while he might tower over most kids at his school, to his mom and brother, he’s just a big, overprotective softie. After a fight at school provides Marcus with some unexpected “time off,” Marcus’ mom decides it’s time for him to reconnect with his family in Puerto Rico. However, Marcus thinks this is the perfect time to search for the father who left them ten years ago. Through a series of adventures in Puerto Rico, Marcus learns that family is never quite the way you imagine it.

Pick Six: Read the Book, Skip the Movie!

1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

3. Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer

4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

6. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

5 Ways To Get Kids Out Of The Quarantine Quagmire

Like most people with small children, I feel like I’m on day 5,000,000 of pandemic parenting. In addition to protecting them from cooties, we’re also expected to keep our little bundles of joy from strangling one another and remain calm as they shred our last nerve. We have to entertain them with something other than screens and then nourish their minds and bodies while preparing them for school in goddess only knows what form coming this fall. Easy peasy right? Um no. Seriously, where do I tender my resignation?

Somewhere in the midst of our electronic-filled, junk food-fueled utopias, our kids growing brains missed out on proper tending. Last school year, we spent the last three months limping to the finish line like a chunky runner with a stubbed toe. Fifty percent of our energy went into maintaining academic skill levels and the other 50% went into keeping them sane and safe. And after what felt like a wholly unvacation-like summer vacation, we’re about to start the limp again in a matter of weeks, but this year we’re not just fighting the old summer slide, we’re fighting the quarantine quagmire. 

So how does a worn-out parent rally the troops and keep those little brains firing? Here are a few tips from one lit mama to help beat the slide and combat the quagmire.

  1. Keep them reading.  Set aside a time every day to read. Seeing their parents reading is a powerful motivator for kids but if they don’t want to read on their own, do it together. Even my middle school students love to be read to, so take this time to get back to the fun of reading to your kids. My kids are five years apart and we still manage to find lots of amazing books to read together.  
  1. Remember, blackjack is math. Math is a struggle with my youngest and flash cards are not his jam. While there are tons of great games and apps to help with math facts, nothing beats a good old card game. War is great for number sense and if you pull two cards per turn, you’ve got Math Facts War – add, subtract, multiply whatevs, you do you, but the highest wins. Best of all, what’s better than working on addition with a few hands of blackjack? Hit me.
  1. Blowing things up is the best kind of science. Science is everywhere, every day but if you’re tired of nature walks and identifying trees, try blowing things up. Baking soda and vinegar in a sandwich bag is good for a serious bang and altering the amounts alters the booms. Alka-Seltzer in film canisters turned upside down makes awesome booms. Mentos in soda are always a fan fave. When you’re done blowing up the neighborhood, have your kids look online to find out the science of why the explosions happened.
  1. Write on. Encourage your kids to write the wildest, most ridiculous, most fart-filled tales their little minds can muster. For once, boogers, farts and turd-brains are not off limits. See who can write the most insane tale or take turns writing the story one sentence at a time. You can build creativity, word work, vocabulary, spelling and handwriting without them even noticing. If your little one is too small for writing, create oral stories and ask them to draw pictures to go with them. 
  1. Chew on this – one of the easiest things you can do combat the quagmire is cook with your kids. Cooking requires reading skills, math work, processes and procedures and independent thinking. My kids are freakish foodies and we bake together on the reg. Recipes can be super simple or challenging. We make a range of goodies from boxed brownie mix to Turkish bread. We’ve had successes and we’ve had flops, but the payoff of homemade baked goods is always worth it.

So, before their gray matter turns to oatmeal, try some of these backhanded learning techniques. Learning without knowing you’re learning is the kid equivalent of exercising without realizing it. Hang in there, parents. We’ve made it over four months so far, we can make it a few more.

Episode 3: Multicultural Middle Grade

In Episode 3 of Two Lit Mamas, Margie and Heather chat about heavy metal t-shirts, flower pictures, and flying teenagers before diving into a discussion on first gen Americans, language misconceptions, unfounded fears of the other, and the right kind of rule breakers. Margie even gets misty about her Turkish immigrant husband – you don’t want to miss it! 

Multicultural Middle Grade Book Discussion:

We’re Not From Here

by Jeff Rodkey

After the human race obliterates Earth, middle schoolers Lan and Ila are living on Mars with their parents. Unfortunately, Mars’ resources are nearly exhausted, but the far-off planet Choom has agreed to take on human refugees. Unfortunately, during the 20-year journey to Choom, the government changed and no longer has any interest in taking a ship full of violent human refugees. With little food and fuel left and the remainder of the human race counting on them, Lan and family have been given a chance to prove to all of Choom that humans are not as bad as they seem. No pressure.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

by Jessica Kim

Eleven-year-old Yumi Chung is a shy Korean American girl who struggles at her fancy L.A. private school where students call her names and she eats lunch by herself in the bathroom. Her one solace is her favorite comedians’ how-to videos and her notebook full of jokes. In a case of mistaken identity, Yumi joins a summer comedy camp without the permission of her over-protective parents. During that time to learns to fail forward and stick up for herself. Eventually she uses her comedy skills to save the day. 

Pick Six Multicultural Books:

  1. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  2. Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  4. Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  5. The First Rule of Punk by Celia Pérez
  6. The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Show Reference Links:

Teacher Guide for We’re Not From Here

#ownvoices

The Book Sommelier

11 Contemporary Diverse Novels for Middle Grade Readers on ReadBrightly.com

Welcome to the Two Lit Mamas Blog!

This is where you can find individual episodes, show notes, and transcripts, as well as recommended reading lists and other kid-lit related topics that support the Two Lit Mamas Podcast.

Please keep in mind that the book recommendations and commentary on the blog and podcast are solely the opinions of the hosts. Although Heather and Margie believe their opinions to be supreme, it’s perfectly fine to disagree. They’d love to hear from you as long as you’re not mean-spirited.

The mamas hope you enjoy reading and listening to kid-lit content as much as they love creating it! Thank you for visiting the Two Lit Mamas blog.

Episode 2: Fifth Grade Book Reports

Episode 2 Show Notes:

In Episode 2 of Two Lit Mamas, Margie and Heather surprise each other with book reports on Middle Grade novels the other one hasn’t read yet. Listen along as the mamas introduce each other to bog monsters, butter cows, wish granters, and Jan Brady books. What the heck is a Jan Brady book, you ask? Hit play and let Margie explain it to you.  

Margie’s “Surprise Me” Books:

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

Slider by Pete Hautman

Heather’s “Surprise Me” Books:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Granted by John David Anderson

Show Reference Links:

Artist Duffy and the history of Iowa State Fair butter cows

More Middle Grade farm books from The Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors

More about bog ecosystems from National Geographic

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day

Teacher Guides from Pete Hautman

Heather’s “Surprise Me” Books

In Episode 2 of Two Lit Mamas, Margie and Heather surprise each other with book reports on Middle Grade novels the other one hasn’t read yet. Below are the two novels Heather shared:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a 2017 Newbery Medal winner about a young girl named Luna who becomes magical after a witch, who saves her from abandonment in the forest, feeds her moonlight. The witch, Xan, then raises Luna as her own along with the help of a bog monster and a tiny dragon. On the other side of the mountain, in Luna’s hometown of the Protectorate, a young man vows to put an end to the evil witch who demands a sacrificial baby each year, but the real evil is waiting to be uncovered.    

Granted by John David Anderson

Granted is a middle grade novel about Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets, a Granter fairy who’s been given her first wish-granting assignment. To complete her mission, she must leave the safety of the Haven for the first time. Her mentors warn her that the human world is a dangerous place, but Ophelia isn’t afraid. She’s packed everything she could possibly need and is ready to make one girl’s wish for a new bike come true ­– or, so she thinks. 

To find out what the mamas thought of these books, listen to Episode 2.

Margie’s “Surprise Me” Books

In Episode 2 of Two Lit Mamas podcast, Margie and Heather surprise each other with book reports on middle grade novels the other one hasn’t read. Margie did her book reports on the following novels:

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

Eventown follows eleven-year-old twins, Elodee and Naomi as they move from their urban home to Eventown following a heartbreaking loss. Eventown promises to be a new start where nothing is good or bad but only even. Memories fade, both good and bad and everything is replaced with a perfect state of calm. The problem is, what makes things better for one sister, doesn’t always work for both. *Note* Contains references to teen suicide.

Slider by Pete Hautman

David Miller is a fourteen-year-old who is stuck in the middle. He’s the middle child living in the middle of Iowa and the only thing he seems to be good at is competitive eating. When a mess-up on an online auction site threatens to get him grounded for life, David has to break out of the middle and find a way to shine, even if it’s by eating two dozen pizzas.

Find out what the mamas thought of these books by listening to Episode 2.