So the adaptation, if you haven’t gleaned that already by my previous musings, is a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart. This week I’m doing a list of the top 10 youth novels that have been adapted to film.
Before we begin, full disclosure. I’ll be grading the quality of adaptations exclusively off of the caliber of the film, as chances are that I simply haven’t read both the book and seen the movie to write a satisfying enough a list if having done both were to be a requirement. As a bare minimum, I have seen the movies. I’ll reference the original book so that if you so desire, you can go out and make it yours!
10) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 
So I have to represent the entirety of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling with arguably the darkest installment of the series. While the overall quality of the films vary, by and large the entire series holds together quite well. To the woman who got the digital generation to pick up books, at least for a little while, I give her the 10th spot on this list.
9) Bedknobs and Brooksticks 
Adapted by the 1943 book The Magic Bed Knob by Mary Norton this titles holds a special place in my heart. I grew up on this! But more than sheer nostalgia, this movie blends old school pencil and paper animation with live action and other visual effects so seamlessly it’ll make your jaw drop. Loaded with song and dance and humor, it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser and well deserving of its place on this list.
8) Lost in the Barrens 
Based on the 1956 Farley Mowat book of the same name, this is book that my mother found the inspiration for my own name. Once again, I’ll defend this installment of my top 10 by saying more than nostalgia warrants its place here! It straddles a fine line of being simply too dark and depressing to be a kids story, but not so much so as to actually cause kids to run screaming into their mother’s skirts. The tale of two youths lost in Canada’s northern Barren Lands in the dead cold of winter must learn to work together if they are to survive.
7) Big Fish 
I’m almost apprehensive about giving Tim Burton any more time in the sun but there’s just no denying the imagination in how well Daniel Wallace’s 1998 original tale was brought to the screen and how absolutely charming it is. McGregor and Finney are absolutely stellar in this film and if you don’t find yourself smiling through this one, check for a pulse.
6) The Outsiders 
Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of S. E. Hinton’s 1967 book (yep, of the same name!) packs a wallop with an all star cast. Hinton was only 15 when he started writing his story of street kids in the 60’s struggling to find themselves as they war with rival gangs. Probably one of the grittier films on this list, it tackles some pretty heavy issues for a children’s book. For that reason, it weighs in at number 6.
5) Around the World in 80 Days 
It’s really hard to dislike the chemistry between David Niven’s, Philleas Fogg and Cantinflas’, Passepartout. I’d be hard pressed to think of a more engaging, well rounded (if not a tad long) way to trek all the way around the world and back again in such a way to make author, Jules Verne, more proud of his 1873 classic tale. While it may prove to be a little taxing for some audiences at 175 minutes, it’s simply epic in scope and execution and well deserving of its spot on this list!
4) Mrs. Doubtfire 
So, we have to travel all the way to number 4 before we have a book that’s not titled the same as the movie from the number 9 entry. Originally Madame Doubtfire in the 1987 novel by Anne Fine, the tale is much the same. What warrants this film’s position is, well, honestly, Robin Williams. His boundless energy and ability to navigate from the outright zany to serious dramatic breaks back to slap stick make this film endearing to both adults and children. Moreover, the humor that Williams breaks is delivered so as to skip across the minds of kids but resonate with hilarious effect with the adults.
“Oh I’m sorry, am I being a little too graphic? I’m sorry. Well, I hope you’re up for a little competition. She’s got a power tool in the bedroom, dear. It’s her own personal jackhammer. She could break sidewalk with that thing. She uses it and the lights dim, it’s like a prison movie. Amazed she hasn’t chipped her teeth.”
3) Mary Poppins 
Okay, let’s class this up a bit after that for the top three. Like Bedknobs and Brooksticks, though likely a little more well known, pairs live action with conventional pencil and paper animation with the heartwarming duo of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in this reimagining of P. L. Travers’ original 1964 novel. Finally, I’m confident enough to say, who isn’t nostalgic over this one? And with good reason too!
2) The Wizard of Oz 
We’re into some pretty serious movies here. The Wizard of Oz is nothing short of a cinematic milestone. Originally published in 1900, L. Frank Baum’s original tale is a Lewis Carroll-esque romp for a young woman as she is magically transported to a far away land where she meets fantastic beings who join in her quest to meet with the great and powerful wizard of, well, Oz! Cinema history was made when this film broke and there really isn’t much to say in a single paragraph about it. You either know it for what it is, or we’ll need many, many more pages to break this puppy down.
1) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 
My reasoning for awarding this film the number 1 spot on this list are 3 fold. First, it’s genuinely fantastic; nothing short of perfectly cast with Kirk Douglas, James Mason, and Peter Lorre in leading roles, their chemistry is utterly palpable. Second, the presentation isn’t overly childish and as a result has appeal to both adults and children alike. There are some genuinely dark moments in this film but all told, it’s a wild ride and a shining example of brilliant storytelling and filmmaking. Third and finally, author Jules Verne would be proud of how his timeless imagination was capture and brought to the screen. A positively essential work of Science Fiction is given a worthy adaptation to the screen and quite frankly, they don’t make ’em like they used to. Originally published in 1869 people.