Children’s books have proven to be a rather lucrative source of media for film adaptations. Despite their short length, these stories have adapted well into 90 to 120 minute films, sometimes even spawning sequels.
Many beloved children’s books like Harriet the Spy, The Lorax, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, and many others have already been adapted and worked very well. Let’s take a look at ten highly regarded children’s book would make excellent family-oriented blockbusters.
10. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (1955)
Harold is a 4-year old with a rather peculiar purple crayon. With said crayon, Harold can draw virtually anything he wants into being. He could draw anything from boats to hot air balloons and they would become real. Harold could even draw living things like dragons.
To make this work as a film you would have to make a few changes, as is always the case with children’s books due their short length. It probably wouldn’t hurt to add a few years to Harold’s age, give Harold a few friends, possibly more crayons, and a world of adults suddenly confronted by attacks from strange monsters drawn by Harold.
9. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (1989)
It’s the classic tale of The Three Little Pigs told from the wolf’s perspective. Most don’t realize that the big bad wolf (whose real name is Alexander according to this take on the tale) was just going door to door looking to borrow a cup of sugar to bake a cake for his grandma. The pigs wouldn’t let him. Due to a bad cold, the wolf then blew their houses down.
There isn’t much you’d have to add in terms of story. The book itself is full of humor and great sight gags. Everything needed would just be for time. The town the characters live in could be fleshed out into a type of storybook village, much in the same way films like Shrek and Hoodwinked used the concept.
8. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar (1978)
Wayside School is the strangest elementary school you’ll ever find. The school is thirty stories tall, with one classroom on each story. Miss Zarves teaches on the nineteenth story, but there is no nineteenth story. Each student is uniquely bizarre and one of them is secretly a dead rat.
This children’s chapter book has been adapted into plays and a short-lived animated series that veered way off course from the books. The best way to go about this would be to combine the first book that gives background on each kid in Mrs. Jewls’ classroom, and the second book that tells various strange stories about the day-to-day events in Wayside School.
7. The Wump World by Bill Peet (1970)
The Wumps live peacefully on their home planet of forests and grasslands. They spend their days grazing and care-free until a race of blue humanoids known as the Pollutians come to their planet and drive the Wumps underground. The Pollutians build cities, use up all the natural resources, and leave.
With its cautionary tale and ending of hope for the feature, this is another book that only requires more fleshed out characters such as a few unique Pollutian’s, Wumps, and a hero Wump character. The story and its moral are fine as is.
It would be interesting to see this one done with CGI Wumps, human actors as the Pollutians, and actual forests as the scenery of the Wump World.
6. The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff (1931)
After his mother is shot by a hunter, Babar flees to a city where he is raised by a kind old lady who gets him clothes and a tutor to raise him as a child. Babar’s cousins eventually find him in the city and ask him to come back. Once he returns, he brings Western Civilization to the elephants, where they wear clothes, build cities, and crown Babar as king.
Babar is a global phenomenon that could easily do well with a series of films. With so many Babar books out (the series was continued by others after the death of the author) and an animated series, there is no shortage of stories to adapt.
5. Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton (2007)
This book was originally a poem by Lenny Lipton from 1959, then a song by Peter Yarrow in recorded in 1962. The two since went on to adapt it as a children’s book that did exceptionally well. Puff is a Dragon that brings a human child to the magical land of Honah Lee. Eventually the child grows up, leaving Puff alone and depressed.
This story about the hardships of growing up would definitely need a lot added to it. One possibility could be a story line involving an evil in Honah Lee. Puff seeks out the human child to help save his magical home.
4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943)
This is the story of a pilot that crashed in a desert. As he repairs his plane he is approached by a little boy from another planet (asteroid B-612) who tells him tales about his travels on Earth and across the universe.
This book was very philosophical and idealistic in its nature, but that’s never been a problem when adapting children’s literature before. It’s very possible that a more adult approach would need to be taken for a film version, similar to the big-screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
3. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brian (1971)
Mrs. Frisby, a field mouse, discovers that her home is about to be plowed over by a farmer. Normally she would move her family to a different home for summer but her sick son Timothy would not survive the trip. She seeks out a group of hyper-intelligent laboratory rats that escaped their lab and developed a modern underground society.
This chapter book wouldn’t need many changes for length. In fact, it was already adapted as an animated feature in 1982. That being said, a live action interpretation is long overdue now that the technology is available.
2. A Sick Day For Amos Mcgee by Phillip C. Stead (2010)
Amos Mcgee is an employee at a local zoo who follows the same routine every day. During his routine he makes sure to spend time with very specific animal friends at the same time of the clock. One day, Amos doesn’t show up and the animals must travel across the city to see why their friend hasn’t made it.
The film adaptation would need to deviate from the source for a little bit, probably with a little more focus on the animals traveling through the city to see Amos. The concept of animals in the big city is always fun for children, but the idea of helping others and returning favors should stay intact.
1. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1922)
A stuffed rabbit learns that he can become real if he is loved by his owner above all other toys. This isn’t good news for the rabbits because the boy typically casts the stuffed rabbit aside for flashier toys. As soon as the boy takes his stuffed rabbit, the child contracts and illness and the rabbit must be thrown out as it may carry the same bacteria.
With Toy Story more than likely done, this could be a nice adaptation to fill the gap. Much of the film could take place after the rabbit is thrown out and focus on his adventures trying to escape a garbage barge as he strives to become a real rabbit to avoid his fate.