Classic children's books we'd like to see receive the Hollywood treatment

Thicloudy-chance-meatballs_ls weekend saw the release, and box-office success, of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, an animated adaptation of the much-beloved children’s book about precipitation alla Bolognese. You may wonder how they managed an entire feature-length film out of this straightforward and pretty slender storybook. Well, in a way, they didn’t. The filmmakers have padded out the story to include an absent-minded inventor whose experiments lead to the titular weather patterns, his love interest, a perky weather girl, a maniacal machine bent on destruction, and Mr. T as a cop.

Next month we’ll get the arrival of Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak’s 1963 classic, in which Jonze and his co-screenwriter, McSweeney’s man Dave Eggers, have similarly fleshed out the original’s sparse plot in order to turn its less than 350 (by my count) words into a staggering work of adapted genius. (Eggers’ own novelized version, The Wild Things, will be released to accompany the film.) It also seems inevitable that there’ll be at least a few changes in Wes Anderson’s slightly-taxidermied take on Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, set for a November release.

Inspired by these substantial acts of adaptation, we’ve compiled some as-of-yet untouched classics of children’s lit that we think might be fun to see on the big screen, with a few necessary adjustments of course.

The Giving Tree: Shel Silverstein’s timeless tale of arboreal largesse relocated to Central Park and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as the eponymous tree and Abigail Breslin as a neglected Upper East Side child who takes its gifts for granted. It‘s a gut-wrenching, and Oscar-worthy, tale of unrequited love and betrayal, with the greatest performance as an immobile log since Keanu Reeves’ last film.
Sample Dialogue
: “All you ever do it take, take, take! What about my feelings? What about my needs?”

Goodnight, Moon: The source material consists nearly exclusively of scenes of a young boy saying goodnight to various things in and around his bedroom. Director Michael Bay hopes to maintain the original’s basic structure while replacing “saying goodnight to” with “exploding into an infernal fireball” and “a young boy” with “Will Smith.” Also, the Moon killed Smith’s family and he’s out for revenge.
Sample Dialogue:
“Say goodnight, Moon.” *EXPLOSION*

Green Eggs and Ham: The car of a notoriously irascible food critic (Bradley Cooper) breaks down in a small rural burg while he’s on his way to an awards ceremony in his honor. He soon finds that the only place in town to eat is the local diner, where a quirky fun-loving waitress Samantha Iams (Anna Faris) serves up her famous green eggs and ham along with a side of loveable antics. While he initially declines to try anything but coffee and toast, she refuses to take no for an answer and they both soon realize that the quickest way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach.
Sample Dialogue:
“I realized something, Sam. Eggs are a lot like people. They’re fragile and if you’re not careful with them, they can break so easily. I think that’s why I acted like I did. I was afraid of breaking. But not anymore”

Heather Has Two Mommies: Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet play a couple who hope to adopt a young girl named Heather, and who are unwittingly thrust into the limelight when the agency’s denial of their application hits the media. They battle against bigotry and bureaucracy in their fight for the right to start a family of their own.
Sample Dialogue:
“No, your Honor, I don’t think it matters one bit whether Heather has a mommy and a daddy or whether Heather has two mommies. Not when there’s love involved.”

What do you guys think? Have any other classics you’d like to see?

Comments (60 total) Add your comment
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  • Jennifer

    “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!” That’s one of my favorite books EVER! Also, get Peter Jackson to direct “The Giver!”

    • Felipe

      They’ve already made this into a movie . . . it wasn’t bad. sort of.

    • Cole9219

      Best. Idea. Ever. He is perfect for The Giver.

    • Lisa

      There are two movie versions of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
      One from the 70′s starring Ingrid Bergman called “The Hideaways” (a childhood favorite) and one from the 90′s starring Lauren Bacall with the same title as the book.

  • Liz P

    Love Jennifer’s suggestion! My son and I recently read the Ghosthunter series by Cornelia Funke — great for a movie or a TV series.

  • lem

    The View from Saturday

  • chattypatra

    The Giving Tree is definitely my first choice. It’s one of the most moving books ever written for children or adults. Other than that, I’d like to see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day come to life.

    • Amie

      Oh! I agree! Alexander needs a movie!

  • Katja

    HA! This article tickled me to pieces, especially the dialogue from “Goodnight, Moon” and “Green Eggs and Ham”. Good idea for “The Giver”, Jennifer. Even though I hate this trend of movie-fying books designed for small children with less than 500 words in them, I actually would want to see a movie based on “The Giver”, which I still love to read. I guess that one’s more of a YA book anyway, so they wouldn’t actually have to BS so much of the story.

  • Sue

    Also like Jennifer’s suggestion -”From the Mixed Up Files…” would make a wonderful movie. Would also love to see “Tom’s Midnight Garden” on film. I understand there was a previous, little-known version (haven’t seen it) but this great story could support a new one. Also, what about taking some Robert Munsch stories, making them into shorts, and grouping them into a feature-length film? A storybook come to life. I would love to see what Pixar could do with this.

    • Siddhi

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  • Don

    Tim Burton doing the book true justice by adapting “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” That book has been screaming for a true-to-the-original-story treatment for years, but no one seems to want to undertake it because the 1939 film is SO iconic in our culture. But given the recent publication of two stellar graphic-novel treatments (one a translation of an original French masterpiece adaptation), I think the time has finally come. And who better than Burton, especially given the visuals from his forthcoming “Alice in Wonderland”?

    • Liza

      oooooooohhhh!! Now that would be awesome!! I would love to see his take on the Wicked Witch and the flying monkeys!!

    • Allie

      i agree!! i think that tim burton would do an amazing job with the wizard of oz if it was ever remade. can’t wait to see alice in wonderland!

    • Dee

      Why stop there? I’d love to see some of the others Oz books in the series made into films, since I think some of them are even better stories than The Wizard of Oz. Ozma of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Glinda of Oz, etc.

  • Lynn

    I Love You Forever and any of Judy Blume’s books for children or young adults, Superfudge, Are you there God, It’s Me, Margaret.

    • mscisluv

      “I Love You Forever” was my first thought! That book makes me cry. However, I just don’t think you could get enough of a story or an audience for it.

  • robinepowell

    Something by Judy Blue on the big screen would be great! Who hasn’t read one of her books. Some of them have even more the one book in the series too.

    Another great author? Enid Blyton (British). I live in Canada, but my grandmother was from England and always used to bring me back her Famous Five series. Anything this late, great author, turned into a film, I would definately go see. ;)

  • Verity

    “Wayside School is Falling Down” by Louis Sachar and Adam Mccauley. Quirky characters, a school built sideways (thirty floors with only one classroom per floor) and lots of zany antics to flesh out into a 90 minute film. Emma Thompson could star as Mrs. Jewl and Jason Reitman could direct.

    • Allie

      yes!! love the wayside series! and what’s the one about the teacher all the kids hate? also would love to see the velveteen rabbit!

      • Allie

        miss nelson is missing is the one i was thinking of! that would be great too.

  • David M

    Norman Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth.” That book is the rare combination of allegory, extreme cleverness, and fantastical settings and characters. It was my favorite book as a kid, and still ranks pretty highly all these years later… Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam could do brilliant jobs with it, I think–or, hey–give the rights to the Pixar crew!

  • Liza

    “Green Eggs and Ham” would be awesome (as long as they skip Jim Carey this time!)

  • Gab

    Meatballs took the main conceit from the book, but also wildly departed; (there’s no ‘inventor’ in the book)…. So it’s nice to have the loose connection, but once Hollywood takes over, it ain’t the same! Still, I think I’d enjoy a “Flat Stanley” film adaptation. Check out my son’s Meatballs review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7z_FoOJgyk

  • Allie

    would love to see green eggs and ham! and i agree, i hope they skip jim carrey lol. not a fan of him. the bereinstein(sp?) bears books were great! they’ve already made a tv show from them, but a movie would be interesting. has the tale of peter rabbit been done? would love to see that!!

  • Stacie

    I once read a story called “The Weaving of A Dream” that I’ve always thought would be made into a movie. Yimou Zhang should be all over that one.

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