Following recent adaptations such as “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Harry Potter,” “Bridge to Terabithia” is the latest literary kids’ adventure to make its way to the big screen. The film version of the story depicting a tragic friendship between a young boy and girl and the magical world they create beyond their limited experiences opens this Friday.
Which in Hollywood means it’s already ancient history.
But after trolls and wizards, hobbits and ice queens, what fantasies remain for children to explore?
It’s time to break out your library cards and pull up a comfy chair. These 10 books aren’t just a good read — they’re also the children’s books we think should be filmed next.
Book: “The Westing Game”
Author: Ellen Raskin
Lights: “The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east. Strange!”
Camera: Business magnate Sam Westing has died, and one of the residents of nearby Sunset Towers is responsible. The entire Westing fortune has been willed to the tenant able to discover the truth behind his untimely death in this Newbery Medal-winning story of money, murder and manipulation. (But be careful, it’s a mystery.)
Action: An adolescent whodunit of surprising intelligence, there are no coincidences in this “Usual Suspects” for pre-teens, where nothing (and no one) is as it seems.
Book: “The Cricket in Times Square”
Author: George Selden
Lights: “He liked to sit at the opening of the drain pipe and watch the world go by, at least as much of the world as passed through the Times Square Subway Station.”
Camera: Chester Cricket arrives on the New York subway, where he’s quickly captured by Mario, a young child responsible for running his parents’ struggling newsstand. With perfect musical memory, the cricket soon plays his way to citywide renown.
Action: A poignant story about following one’s bliss, “The Cricket in Times Square” would make the perfect Disney vehicle. A show-stopping climax that has Chester literally halt New York with his beautiful music would bring down the house.
Book: “Artemis Fowl”
Author: Eoin Colfer
Lights: “Fowl by name and foul by nature. A mud man unlike any other. He shall learn our secrets and use them against us.”
Camera: The son of a European crime lord, Artemis Fowl is a preternaturally brilliant criminal and eventual hero who is the central character of six books. In “Artemis Foul,” the enterprising 12-year-old discovers the existence of fairies and sets out to decode their bible, known as “The Book.”
Action: Colfer has described his series as ” ‘Die Hard’ with fairies.” Need we say more?
Book: “Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back”
Author: Shel Silverstein
Lights: “Lafcadio is pampered and admired wherever he goes. But is a famous, successful and admired lion a happy lion? Or is he a lion at all?”
Camera: Shel Silverstein’s first real children’s book follows a lion who learns to shoot guns, leaves the African savannah and becomes a circus trick-shot, garnering unprecedented fame and wealth. Ultimately, he returns to Africa on a hunting safari and unable to find acceptance with either men or lions, Lafcadio walks away, never to be heard from again.
Action: The story of a lion caught between two worlds, not truly welcomed in either, is the story of growing up. Think of it as “The Catcher in the Rye” without all the curse words (and with better pictures).
Book: “The City of Ember”
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Lights: “In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark.”
Camera: Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow are two 12-year-olds who live in the underground city of Ember, the “only light in a dark world.” When the light begins to die, the two children must race to escape Ember, as they may be the only ones capable of saving their civilization.
Action: How’s this for a tent-pole franchise? The lucky producer who picks up this modern science-fiction classic gets three films for the price of one. “Ember” has two sequels: “The People of Sparks” and “The Prophet of Yonwood.” According to DuPrau, a fourth is on the way.
Book: “The Lorax”
Author: Dr. Seuss
Lights: “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.”
Camera: The Lorax lives in an idyllic symbiosis with nature, until his forest Eden is disturbed by the Once-ler, a profiteer who cuts down the Truffula trees to make “Thneeds.”
Action: An animated version of Seuss’ tale was made for TV in 1972, but, unlike “The Grinch,” “The Cat in the Hat” and “Horton Hears a Who,” this classic has so far escaped cinematic treatment. In an age when Al Gore can become an international movie star, the story’s environmental message remains as relevant as ever.
Book: “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”
Author: Judy Blume
Lights: “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. I just told my mother I want a bra. Please help me grow, God. You know where. I want to be like everyone else.”
Camera: Margaret searches for a single religion while reconciling her parents’ differing beliefs. Her ongoing transition is made all the more difficult because of her continuing physical maturation.
Action: The seminal literary work for adolescent girls, “Margaret” has the potential to be the cinematic representation of what it’s like to be a female hitting puberty.
Book: “Flat Stanley”
Author: Jeff Brown
Lights: “Mr. and Mrs. Lambchop slid Stanley into his envelope, along with the egg-salad sandwich and the toothbrush case full of milk, and mailed him from the box on the corner.”
Camera: Flattened by a falling bulletin board, Stanley learns to take advantage of his new “perspective,” mailing himself to friends, sliding under doors, flying as a kite and “hanging out” in an art gallery.
Action: The real story, though, is the Flat Stanley Project started by teacher Dale Hubert in 1995. Participating children are encouraged to draw Flat Stanley and mail them to friends, who then take him around and write about their adventures. Clint Eastwood took his daughter’s Flat Stanley to the Academy Awards. We envision a film that follows a Flat Stanley as he gets passed from person to person, witness to their remarkable stories.
Book: “The Little Lame Prince and His Traveling Cloak”
Author: Miss Mulock a.k.a Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
Lights: “One cannot make one’s self, but one can sometimes help a little in the making of somebody else.”
Camera: Prince Dolor is crippled as a child when an accident leaves him invalid. Banished from the country by his ruthless uncle, the titular prince is given magical items that whisk him away from his prison tower to see the world.
Action: When the prince flees his tower and watches little boys playing and running, he begins to grow sorry for himself. The story of his ascension is an inverted fairy tale, with the little prince learning to empathize with others because of his limitations, not in spite of them.
Book: “The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray”
Author: Chris Wooding
Lights: “We take all our sordid guilt, all our hate, all our shame … and we fashion ghosts to haunt us and monsters to plague us.”
Camera: Thaniel Fox is a “wych-hunter” in this alternate history set in Victorian times where demons known as “wych-kind” roam the streets. After discovering Alaizabel Cray, a woman possessed by wych magic, Fox tracks her ailment to the Fraternity, a group seeking to release the Dark Gods.
Action: Wooding is a smart writer who employs a fast-paced, energetic style. We could do worse than getting our post-”Harry Potter” magic fix from “Alaizabel Cray.”
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