Classic Book and Movie Combos for Kids

For most of my life, I haven't had very many kids to buy presents for. My nieces and nephews were easy since anything bright and shiny (including wrapping paper) would be a hit but now that Emily is reading, I feel the need to be enriching her education by introducing her to some of my favorite books. The same was true of Miles and Meghan (my ring bearer and flower girl)... I wanted to be the cool "cousin" (our chosen title =) but also give them something that was actually beneficial. 

Any kid would be happy to get a new movie, but not every kid is delighted with a book. (Weird!) Last year I had a moment of inspiration and decided to get Miles a movie I knew he liked and the book it was based on... hopefully inspiring him to enjoy the movie AND to read and appreciate the classic book. (He was thrilled with both.) 

SO, since that went over so well and since I just found a combo-pack of some of my favorite book-turned-movies this weekened (yay Target!) I was inspired to make a list of some of really great classic books (and their equally wonderful movie adaptations.) These make such good Christmas or birthday presents!

1. Anne of Green Gables- naturally this first of the Anne series by L. M. Montgomery  is the most well-known (and it's my personal favorite) but the movie version with Megan Follows is a classic in its own right. It still blows my mind that a made-for-tv movie could be so good and still beloved by pretty much everyone 30 years later. (This was evidenced by the public outcry of grief over the recent death of Jonathan Crombie who played Gilbert Blythe... RIP, Gil! =( Anyway, both are definitely worth reading/watching and it would be pretty cool to introduce a little person in your life to Anne-with-an-E. 

2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- this was always one of my favorite movies (the Gene Wilder version, not the creepy-as-all-get-out Johnny Depp version) but, inexplicably, I had never read the book until last fall. Ronald Dahl is just a wonder- the book is smart and sweet and hilarious and any kid would love it. And if you get the movie to accompany it, the kid will get to see that amazing chocolate-making montage in the beginning (and also be haunted by a lifetime fear of Oompa Loompas. Win/win, right?) 

3. Pollyanna- this is another one that I had somehow reached adult without reading, but the Disney movie starring Hayley Mills was a Baines family favorite when I was growing up. The book by Eleanor Porter is excellent and delves a little more into the story, especially the perspective of the adults (more background in the whole Polly Harrington/Dr. Chilton storyline, for example) but I do love the movie with Aunt Polly brought to life by an austere Jane Wyman. While I never quite mastered it, maybe your child will take a shine to playing the "Glad Game" and become more positive. =) 

4. The Secret Garden- this book might be a little hard to get through in some spots for some kids, simply because it spends a lot of time describing scenes (like the garden) and the dialogue and story are more sparsely placed... it's not an action-packed novel by any means. But it's beautifully written and can give the reader an appreciation for descriptive writing. (I promise, reading good writing is SO helpful in forming kids' vocabularies and writing ability.) Anyway, the movie version (starring Maggie Smith as Mrs. Medlock- the other versions are no good!) is awesome. The little girl who plays Mary is perfectly prickly and thaws as the magic of the garden and new friends unlocks her cold, lonely little heart. 

5.  Cheaper by the Dozen- this book is just a pure delight to read. I'd probably recommend it for middle-grade and up (and warning, there's a bit of language from Mr. Gilbreth) but these stories just make me so happy. This real-life family and their hilarious antics seem almost too good to be true, making it even more heartbreaking when their dad does pass away unexpectedly. But, in true Gilbreth fashion, they take even a tragedy in stride and do their best to keep things rolling the way Dad would have wanted. (Read the sequel Belles on Their Toes for a better look at their life after losing their father and then read Time Out for Happiness, written by Frank, Jr. in 1973... it's basically a biography of both Frank, Sr. and Lillian Gilbreth and a detailed look at their work in motion studies- absolutely fascinating.) Anyway, the movie is one of my favorites ever and it's on Netflix if you want a preview. (I'm talking about the 1950's version- not the lame one with Steve Martin that has absolutely nothing in common with the book other than the twelve kids.) I think this would be really fun to read aloud!

6. A Christmas Carol- I bought this for Meghan last year and then took her to see the play... if you can't manage that (although you should if you can- so fun!) then there are several movie versions available. The book isn't very long- it's actually considered a novella- and is divided into only five chapters or staves- you can impress your child by explaining that a stave is a musical staff. Stave-music-Christmas carol- get it? I also had my students read this and we really enjoyed the discussion. (Well, I did.) My favorite movie version takes quite a bit of liberty but then, it's the Muppets, so... yeah, Bob Cratchit wasn't really a frog, was he? But Michael Caine is awesome as Scrooge and I love the songs. That said, if you want to be more of a purist, the George C. Scott version is very good and slightly less ridiculous. =) 

7. A Little Princess- I saved my favorite for last... this book (a hardcover from a garage sale my mom bought for probably a quarter) was probably my most re-read and beloved as a child (and teenager- and adult.) It's just so GOOD and never gets old to me. (Side note- I used passages of it every year to teach the unit on adjectives. The descriptions are excellent.) There are several movie adaptations, ranging from a Shirley Temple one complete with tap-dancing to my personal favorite, the 1995 version that, while not terribly faithful to the book, is just a great movie. (I scored it and The Secret Garden in one DVD!) Please, if there is a little girl in your life, get her this book and the movie. But first, the book- she needs to appreciate the beauty of it. (I still love finding my copy at my parent's house and seeing "Ashley Baines age 11.") 

To this list I would add Ella Enchanted (the movie's okay but the book is SO good),  the Harry Potter series, Matilda, with the movie starring Mara Wilson, and James and the Giant Peach, with the Disney claymation version. (Roald Dahl can do no wrong and particularly excels at writing nasty adult characters that kids will love to read about.) I know that there are tons more options, but these are what I'd consider classics and books I'd really want a child to be familiar with. Not every movie is a cinematic masterpiece but if you have a reluctant reader, the promise a movie version (after the book is read or maybe while they're progressing through it) can help encourage them to try a new or more challenging book. 

Speaking of, it's going to be so fun to introduce Alice to all my favorites over the next few years. If by some strange coincidence she doesn't become a bookworm and/or movie buff, it won't be from lack of trying on the part of her mother. =) 


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