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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Book to screen

September 17, 2009

Children's books have inspired creators of other media for a long time. You can probably come up with many television programs inspired by characters who first appeared in print: Rosemary Well's Max and Ruby; Angelina, based on the mice-children created by Katharine Holabird, and Marc Brown's ever popular aardvark Arthur are just the start.

Films, too, have been inspired by children's books: the Wizard of Oz, Old Yeller, and more recently Shrek and Polar Express.

Books translated into film or television shows are a different medium. Pictures move, voice and music are added and often action is added to adapt the material to its new format.

The appeal of films or television from books is much like the appeal of series books. Known characters are brought to life again in a different way. And translations are good. I think.

One of my all-time favorite books, a practically perfect picture book, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollilns) is being released as a live action (enhanced by computer generated animation, I think) next month.

Okay, it's a different medium. But how can this perfectly paced tale told through a flawless yet brief blend of words and illustration be adapted to a live action movie that will have to be at least 90 minutes long?

What will be added? And what will be lost? Will the audience be new or will it be for folks like me — those for whom Sendak's classic holds a special place?

I don't know. So I'll have to wait until next month to find out, I suppose. I don't worry about the film ruining the book for me — I know it by heart (and in my heart, too, I think).

I wonder about those children who haven't met Max personally yet. I wonder if the screen Max will diminish the Max of the imagination, the one who lives every time a child and an adult read Where the Wild Things Are.


where do you get that kind of smartness from the book 'Where the Wild Things are'?

It does seem as if books are chosen for the screen because they are wonderful, and then are "popularized" beyond recognition. Two that come to mind are both by Dr. Seuss: HOw the Grinch Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who. I feel that the fate of Where the Wild Things Are will be similar--the magic will be lost, and children will, as you said, see the movie as the true story.

I am worried what this movie will do to the story as well and how children will think of the story after they see the movie. For those of us who grew up with the book, the movie won't change how we feel about it. However, for children who don't know the story, will the movie become what they know when they hear Where the Wild Things Are? I was so disappointed with The Tale of Despereaux. I hope this won't be the same.

Taking my granddaughters to see "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" tonight. I'll send a reveiw!

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"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943