Movies from books. Both movies and books can be great! Do you have a preference as to which you like better?
Which comes first, the movie or the book?
We like to read the books first. (Assuming, of course, that the movie is from the book, not the other way around.) But generally we like to start with the content creator’s version first, whatever that might be. Then, we like to consider how someone else interpreted that content. But enough theory. Let’s check out two recent movies based on books, both oriented to middle-school readers.
Movies from books: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
We had not read this gem in 2013 when first published by author Chris Grabenstein, but when the whole ‘movies from books’ idea popped up, we grabbed our chance and read it. We wanted to read the book before viewing the recently released Nickelodeon movie.
And, oh, how we love this book! Twelve-year-old Kyle Keeley is in the seventh grade. He’s not big on books, but loves board games. He has two older brothers, and the book opens with an intense scavenger hunt among the brothers that ends with some parental consequences for Kyle. Of the ‘you’re grounded’ type of parental consequences.
Kyle is paying for his aggressive scavenger hunt behavior when he learns that a new library is opening in his town. (Make us think of our terrific new Central Library in Forsyth County!) Kyle thinks and plans and develops a way to get invited to the opening, despite his predicament. With robotics and holograms and a wonder dome, this is not your average library. Kyle and his friends get to think their way out of Mr. Lemoncello’s library, with clever references to books and board games throughout the book. A fun escape and a fun read!
So we were so, so excited to watch the movie. Nickelodeon opens the flick with the same scavenger hunt scene as Grabenstein uses to open the book. And the movie’s central story revolves around the ‘escape room’ setup of the book. But much to our surprise, the movie is much darker. It is more like a horror film for middle-schoolers and less like an opportunity to use what you know – from books and board games – to solve a puzzle and win the prize. Sorry, Nick. On this one, we’ll take the book, every time.
“Hey, Kyle – you know what they say about libraries?” “Uh, not really.” “They have something for every chapter of your life!”
We Wonder about making a movie from this treasure of a book
Movies from books generally get us pretty excited. This one, though, scared us. We love, love, love this book. We honestly don’t know how to write about it because what more can we say than what someone else has already said? Two things, then. A quote, and a sequel.
We’ll admit that we were skeptical when R. J. Palacio published The Julian Chapter. How on earth was this book going to stand up against the original story? And about Julian, too? Not exactly a sympathetic character.
“Things that happen to us, even the bad stuff, can often teach us a little bit about ourselves.”
What a WONDERful experience! We loved it. The casting was terrific. The producers were true to R. J. Palacio’s vision for her story. And this creative team produced a film that achieves one of the key accomplishments of the book: to create empathy for all the characters – yes, even Julian – as you learn about each person’s perspective. Even the Wall Street Journal is writing about this movie, as you can read here in their review. Actress Julia Roberts read the book with her kids, and contacted the movie producers about starring in the film as Auggie’s mom. Now that’s impressive.
Here’s the bottom line: If your children haven’t yet read these books, probably because they aren’t of middle-school age, then do yourself a favor. Read the books, and see the movie. You’ll be glad you did. We are!