Best Book to Film Adaptations for Children and Teens

Best Book to Film Adaptations for Children and Teens

Divergent (2014)

Based on the first novel in the best-selling dystopian trilogy by Veronica Roth, the film is more or less faithful to the book. However, die-hard fans may notice a few changes; for example, Uriah, one of the characters from the book who invites Tris to go on an epic zip-lining adventure, was cut out completely, and – despite the character Four being aged just 18 in the book, he is played by a (then) 28-year-old Theo James. Kate Winslet also stars.

If I Stay (2014)

A romantic drama film, this one is based on the eponymously-titled book by Gayle Forman. It follows Mia, a cellist from Oregon, who is debating whether to stay with her boyfriend or attend a prestigious music school when she is involved in a car crash. Mia recounts events of her life – including her thoughts and emotions – while in a comatose state. A real tearjerker, you might want to bring your tissues for this one.

“Honest, emotional teen melodrama with a great performance by Chloe Grace Moretz that serves a beautiful metaphor for the choices that teen girls face.” – Flick Filosopher


He’s been the subject of numerous books, comics, animations, merchandising and television shows over the decades, but last year, everyone’s favourite marmalade-loving bear finally came to the big screen in a feature-length film. The screenplay, from the producers of Harry Potter, manages to retain the charm of the original hand-drawn sketches, using CGI technology to bring Paddington to life. Author of the books Michael Bond described the movie in an interview as being “a delight from start to finish.”

“Paddington is a very well-executed adaptation of the titular bear for a 21st century audience… Paul King’s irresistibly warm story creates a sense of nostalgia whilst boasting a quintessentially British feel.” – IMDb Review

The Maze Runner (2014)

This YA movie is based on the trilogy written by James Dashner, and – like the book – opens with a young man (Dylan O’Brien) in a woven caged box, remembering nothing but his own name: Thomas. He soon finds out that the grassy area’s perimeter is surrounded by huge concrete walls, beyond which lies a maze – a maze that must be figured out if he wants to be free. Fans may notice a fair few changes – for example, Thomas and Teresa don’t have telepathic conversations as they do in the book.

“A curious blend of our newly acquired taste for dystopia alongside a healthy sprinkling of Lord of the Flies, the film offers familiar pleasures without prompting the sense of having already been here before.” – Meta Critic Review

The Book Thief (2013)

This film is an adaptation of Markus Zusak’s 2005 novel about a young girl in Nazi Germany. The girl, who lives with her adoptive German family, is taught to read by her caring foster father. She then begins “borrowing” books and sharing them with the Jewish refugee who is being sheltered by her foster parents in their home. The voice of the narrator represents Death – readers will be used to hearing this “voice” in their head so may find this strange to begin with – but strong performances from Emily Watson and Sophie Nélisse and a musical score by Oscar-winning composer John Williams are sure to please.

“A frank and adventurous portrayal of love in the margins.” – Little White Lies

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is an adaptation of the first in a set of three fantasy books aimed at the younger generation by Suzanne Collins. In it, teenagers are brought together from the 12 districts of a post-Apocalyptic nation called Panem and pitted against each other in a yearly, state-sponsored fight to the death. Jennifer Lawrence plays a strong lead role in this film and she gained international fame from her performance. While the film misses a few scenes from the book, readers will be pleased to know that it also adds some fairly significant ones, too.

“The Hunger Games is an essential science fiction film for our times; perhaps the essential science fiction film of our times. Whatever your age, it demands to be devoured.” – The Telegraph

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010)

Director Chris Columbus, a past master of two Harry Potter films, conjures up cinematic magic once again with his adaptation of Rick Riordan’s novel. This is based on Percy, played by Logan Lerman, who’s a regular kid until he discovers he’s the demigod son of Poseidon. In order to maintain their safe haven, he and his friends must embark on an adventure to fight the gods and prevent an ancient evil from arising. The strong supporting cast includes Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan.

“The movie is packed with enough high-spirited action and cool Greek mythology to be a hit with the book series’s multitude of fans.” – Time Out

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Hiccup, a misfit Viking, wants to be just like his heroic dad and fight dragons. However, he ends up befriending one instead – a beautiful, sleek dragon who he names Toothless. The spectacular 3D scenes of the pair of them soaring through the mountains really bring this tale to life; however, the film is said to be only “loosely based” on the book by Cressida Cowell of the same name. For example, in the movie version, dragons are viewed as hunting material – they are there to be killed – whereas in the book, they are seen as dangerous creatures, but ones that need to be captured and domesticated.

Coraline (2009)

In director Henry Selick’s animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s bestseller, courageous 11-year-old Coraline (the voice of Dakota Fanning) steps through a secret door and into a parallel reality that is similar to her own life, yet unsettling creepy in several ways. Her eccentric neighbours are voiced by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, and both mothers (she is introduced to Other Mother in her strange new world) are voiced by Teri Hatcher. When her Other Mother tries to make Coraline’s stay permanent, will she be brave enough to save her real family and find her way back home?

“A cinematically inventive, dramatically-involving children’s adventure that isn’t exclusively aimed at children.” – Rotten Tomatoes

Twilight (2008)

This fantasy vampire-romance film is based on Stephanie Meyer’s novel of the same name. When seventeen-year-old Bella Swan (played by Kristen Stewart) moves to a small town near the Washington coast, she becomes fascinated by one of the local boys named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). The film focuses on this relationship and the subsequent efforts of Cullen and his family to keep Swan protected from a coven of evil vampires. This film was a box office smash on its release and has resulted in a further four films being added to the saga.

Northern Lights (2009)

This made-for-TV movie, adapted from the Nora Roberts novel, stars Eddie Cibrian who plays the lead role as Nate Burns. Nate accepts a job as chief of police in Alaska to try and get away from the death of his partner in Baltimore. He soon meets Meg Galligan (LeAnn Rimes), an independent bush pilot, whose father passed away mysteriously resulting in a troubled relationship with her mother. The story centres around their relationship and the strange happenings in the small town, as Meg gets closer to discovering what really happened to her father.

Charlotte’s Web (2006)

This charming adaptation of EB White’s 1952 novel combines live action and CGI to tell us the tale of Fern (Dakota Fanning), a young girl, and her pet pig, Wilbur. Julia Roberts voices Charlotte – a spider who manages to save Wilbur from being turned into bacon by spelling out enthusiastic words in her web. With nearly all major events in the book being included, the film is very much true to the original story.

Howls Moving Castle (2004)

Diana Wynne Jones’ 1986 fantasy novel was adapted into an anime film in 2004, and follows the love story between a teenaged girl named Sofi, who is cursed into an old woman’s body by a spiteful witch, and her relationship with a young wizard. Christian Bale is the voice of Howl, and Jean Simmons voices Grandma Sophie. An emotional and intriguing plot, director Hayao Miyazaki manages to create a dreamy, imaginative world that was a hit in Japan and the rest of the world.

“A richly inventive and enchanting delight.” – New Yorker

Holes (2003)

Unusually, Louis Sachar adapted this 2003 movie from his own book for an absorbing film that features Shia LaBeouf, pre-Transformer days, as the charmingly nerdy, unlucky protagonist, Stanley Yelnats. Stanley is given a long sentence of detention at Camp Green Lake for a crime he didn’t commit. Along with his new campmates, they are forced to dig holes in order to “build character”. But is there another reason behind all this digging? There are some differences that will be noted – Stanley is described as a tall heavy boy who is teased about his weight in the book – certainly not the characteristics of LaBeouf – but overall, fans consider this a wonderful adaptation.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

This list wouldn’t be complete without the mention of Harry Potter. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was J.K. Rowling’s debut novel and the first in the Harry Potter film franchise, released in 2001. Fresh-faced Daniel Radcliffe appeared as Harry for the first time, bringing to life moments such as Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) telling him he is a wizard and boarding the train to Hogwarts via Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. Seven subsequent films followed, spanning over ten years and culminating with 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.

“This faithful rendition of the inaugural Potter book demonstrates that the franchise is in safe, sensible hands.” – Radio Times

The BFG (1989)

The beloved BFG is a British animated film based on the 1982 book by Roald Dahl. Sophie is snatched from her orphanage by the BFG (Big Friendly Giant), and is whisked away to Giant Country. Will she be able to defeat the mean giants with the help of the Queen? Both the movie and the book have been delighting children for decades. Of course, next year, The BFG goes to Hollywood: directed by Stephen Spielberg and scheduled for release in July 2016, it is eagerly anticipated by both children and adults who grew up with the book and original film.

“A giant tale of imagination with a dark side.” – Common Sense Media

Tell us which children’s book adaptation you loved seeing on the big screen in the comments box below.

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