Six Of The Best: Children’s Literature On Screen

With an established fan-base in place, it’s not surprising that film-makers are turning increasingly to well-read novels for inspiration. In recent years more and more books have been adapted for the silver screen, bringing new takes on old tales to a fresh audience. Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons joins the ranks of some of the most beloved classic children’s literature to be adapted to the screen including Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz to name but two. We take a look at some of the best book to film adaptations to have captivated young audiences.

Alice In Wonderland
Lewis Carroll’s infamous fantasy novels ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ have produced numerous film adaptations down the years; but none more fantastical than Tim Burton’s 2010 effort. Johnny Depp’s truly mad portrayal of The Mad Hatter is a stand-out in Burton’s psychedelic world that marries so well with Carroll’s original. Also starring Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Mia Wasikowska as Alice, and the voice talents of Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and the late Alan Rickman, the film brings a well-loved cast of characters splendidly to life. Burton’s style brings new life to the imaginative adventure, capturing the heart and hope of Carroll’s tale with stunning visuals sure to please fans of the book.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl is one of the most notorious and widely read authors to have his work adapted for the big screen. With numerous titles having been reimagined, from ‘Matilda’ to ‘The BFG’, none have captivated audiences quite like the 1971 adaptation of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. Renamed Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for its cinematic release, the film stars the late Gene Wilder as the titular character who holds a competition to find a successor to the factory. The film has since been remade starring Johnny Depp and takes the original moniker of the novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), but the 1971 adaptation remains a favourite among fans of the book and films.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Written and illustrated under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel published ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ on Christmas day in 1956. Written in rhymed verse and illustrated by Geisel himself, the book follows the Grinch, an Ebenizer Scrooge-like creature who attempts to cancel Christmas by thieving Christmas-themed items from the homes of the nearby town Whoville on Christmas Eve. Despite his efforts, Whoville’s inhabitants still celebrate the holiday, so the Grinch returns everything that he stole and is the guest of honour at the Whos’ Christmas dinner. In 2000, Geisel’s vivid and visual world was brought to filmic life on the big screen, with Jim Carey’s portrayal of the Grinch a memorable highlight.

Where The Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak’s 1963 picture book has been widely read and loved by children everywhere. The film follows a young boy named Max with a vivid imagination. Distraught at his feelings of insignificance amongst his boisterous family, Max dreams himself away to a land of magical beasts known as the Wild Things where he becomes their king. With a cast featuring child actor Max Records, Mark Ruffalo, and Catherine O’Hara among others the film has plenty to please the adult crowd, rendering Sendak’s imaginative tale with great care.

Winnie-the-Pooh
A. A. Milne’s classic children’s tale of Christopher Robin’s woods has been passed from one generation to the next. The 2011 release was Disney’s second adaptation of the children’s books and brings Milne’s beloved characters to a contemporary cinematic audience. With a voice cast including Jim Cummings as the titular character and Tigger, Travis Oates as Piglet, and Bud Luckey as Eeyore, plus direction by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall, the film draws inspiration from three of Milne’s stories about our favourite honey-loving bear. Winnie-the-Pooh takes adult audiences on a nostalgic trip back to the hundred acre woods of their childhood.

Swallows and Amazons
Arthur Ransome’s classic series of novels have been loved by readers since its first publication nearly a century ago. Now it comes to the big screen, promising audiences a tale of whimsical adventure. While on holiday in the beautiful Lake District the four Walker children discover a seemingly deserted island but soon find that a pair of sisters, the Blacketts, have already lain claim to the land. Taking up the mantles of their respective sailboats the two groups of children engage in a battle of wits for control of the island, but when the Walkers discover a secret about the Blackett’s uncle, the kids are forced to set aside their differences and find themselves on a very different adventure than they had intended. With a talented cast (Kelly MacDonald, Rafe Spall, Andrew Scott and Harry Enfield) bringing to life Ransome’s characters, the film is sure to be a treat for fans of the books and new audiences alike.

 

John McArthur
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