Adapting to Adaptations

2nd Jan 2017

We've all been there. You read a book and you fall in love with the characters. You imagine the character's looks. You see the scenery. In some cases you even become the characters! 

And then you go to see the film version and the bubble bursts because S/HE DOESN'T LOOK LIKE THAT! I had that exact moment with first Harry Potter fiim admittedly... Ron simply wasn't Ron (and actually JK Rowling did describe him to be a tall boy with a long nose which he really wasn't in the film).Over time (and a hundred+ viewings later)I've adapted to the Harry Potter films and seeing them through the eyes of children helps to reinforce the wonder of the magical effect that has been visually created for our pleasure, but I still maintain you miss something of the author's inferences and intentions by going straight to film.


This said, if done well, the films often add a quality that we the reader appreciate even more. Direct references to the original text through the scenery, or a character's nuances beautifully portrayed through their expressions. These visual treats remind us that we read in different ways and a strong narrative can be carried across genre, and even defy it. Certainly 'A Monster Calls' is a case in point. We adored this book, loving the way Ness sensitively painted a picture of pain through the richness of his description of how a teenage boy would feel, and deal, with his mother having cancer whilst being bullied at school. The book bravely tackled this head on and thankfully, so did the film. What we were not prepared for however, was how beautiful the film would be considering the depths of the subject. It mirrored the book in many ways but allowed it to take in an artistic quality, drawing heavily on actual artwork within the film. It suited it well. 

So this made us sit down (on the bus coming away from the cinema) about other adaptations worth watching for their visual flair and we thought we'd put a little list together. It can be so useful using a film in class to support the understanding of a longer text - especially a historical novel where the setting might be unfamiliar.  And occasionally - like a good song that has been covered by another band - the film can actually be better. There's no shame as well in using the film to compare to the book or to 'finish off' in the case of where a text has dragged on due to other class commitments. I wish the film for Northern Lights had been out when I embarked on doing it with my Y6 class in the year 2000! There should be no guilt felt here - many children will go off and read the book themselves after you have introduced them to it.

And of course the genre of film makes a text accessible to a wider audience. At the cinema yesterday a friend was explaining to her group of friends the premise for the narrative, as she had clearly been the only one to have read the book. 'What else has he written?' we overheard one of her friends enquire afterwards (whilst we were still mopping up our tears).

So here's our little list of films we would certainly use alongside, before or after the books.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A Monster Calls
Hugo Cabret
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 
The Golden Compass (for Northern Lights)
The Lost Thing
The Hobbit
Charlotte's Web
Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass
Ethel and Ernest
The Harry Potter saga
Jungle Book



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