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For this month’s discussion post we are going to the movies and discussing adaptations of books on the big screen, specifically children’s books and whether they are a good thing or not.
Now if there is one form of storytelling I love after books it is probably movies (though I would also place gaming in that category too) and growing up a lot of my reading habits were tied into the movies and TV shows I watched on screen which I loved watching so I read the books to spend more time in that world and I do feel movies are a good way of guiding some kids onto reading the books (I’ll explain why some later on).
My favorite adaptations
I think that the first one that I have to talk about being a child of the 1990’s is Harry Potter. Now I was too young to read the books before the films, with Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone the book coming out in 1997 when I was 2 and the movie in 2001 when I was six so my first introduction was the movies and I watched the first two or three before I got the books when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I also remember getting the last three books on the launch days.
I would also say Harry Potter wasn’t by any means the only movie or TV show of a book that I watched before reading the books. A popular CBBC TV show was The Story of Tracy Beaker, based on the children’s book of the same name by Jacqueline Wilson. Tracy Beaker was a feisty, naughty child who lived in a children’s home and I loved the series and the books (in fact much of the first series of the show did take inspiration from the book but after this one they told their own story – the first episode is down below).
Another example I can mention is the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. Of course Amazon have since made their own TV show but I’m talking about the 2006 movie adaptation of the first novel, Stormbreaker, which starred Alex Pettyfer when he was only 15 years old. For those who don’t know the series it is essentially like James Bond but with a teenage boy called Alex Rider. I’ve added the trailer below.
I would also say that it wasn’t just watching films which connected me to reading the original books, I also remember reading some novelizations and tie-in novels as well.
For example when Doctor Who first came back to TV in 2005 I loved the tie in novels which gave extra adventures for the Doctor and Rose (my personal favourites were Winner Takes All which was about a video game which abducted players to fight for real in an alien war, The Stealers of Dreams which had a brilliant dystopian atmosphere in a world where fiction is outlawed and The Feast Of The Drowned which expanded Rose’s character by introducing her friend Keisha and was very spooky).
In all I think I have established that I do enjoy reading books connected to the screen and I think there were some benefits. I think for me by knowing I enjoyed the film or TV show then I think the book it was based on should be one I enjoy as well and for the most part that is true. However there have been some which I haven’t enjoyed – one I can remember was The Roman Mysteries series which was a CBBC show based on the books of the same name and though I enjoyed the series the books didn’t hook me enough to actually keep reading.
I also do think the accessibility of TV and film did help guide me into and build my passion for reading and I think it is important to give children the opportunity to read and if a film inspires them to pick up a book then I think that is a really positive thing as it can help to grow into a lifelong habit as I from there have been able to pick up books which aren’t based off the screen and read them.
I will say there are a couple of drawbacks with watching a movie before reading the book however which makes a problem for adaptations. The most obvious one is spoilers and though movies do cut out and change plots in order to fit the runtime by and large the vast majority of movies at least follow the basic story line from beginning to end. For example, I can remember reading the first few Harry Potters knowing exactly what would happen but I still did enjoy reading the books and ultimately I read the last four books before their respective films came out so I did end up getting the book experience before the films.
Another problem I will say is a movie does make it harder to imagine the books characters as the author presents them in the book and instead I imagine the actors who played the parts in the film. Using Harry Potter as an example again, J.K. Rowling describes Harry as having green eyes and Hermione as having large front teeth, neither of which apply to Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson and in the books as I was reading them I imagined the characters as they are in the films. Whilst this isn’t a deal breaker I do think it is a shame as when the books did bring in new things in the later entries which I hadn’t seen in the film and I could imagine them was definitely more engaging.
My final other point is of course some kids just don’t go on to read the books. I remember a few school friends who when the last Harry Potter book came out in 2007 saying they weren’t going to read it as they wanted to wait for the film. This was frustrating on one level as I didn’t have many people to talk to about the ending of the series but also does show that for some kids adapting books to film does actually put them off reading the book which is understandable but does also make me quite sad as a book can be a great means of escapism for those that commit.
Of course from writing this I do feel adapting children’s books to film and TV is a double edged sword and whilst for some, like me, it does inspire me to go and read the original book it does have a cost of spoilers, less ability to imagine the world as the author intended and of course puts some kids off reading altogether. I would love to know your thoughts and if you have any favourite adaptions which inspired you to read the book.
Below I’ve put the Stormbreaker trailer and Tracy Beaker trailers.