A couple of years ago in our family we instituted a rule where we were not allowed to see a movie based on a book unless we had read the book. The idea was spawned several years ago when I first started doing a presentation on author craft and style and how to elaborate. In the show I use a lot of award winning books as examples of great writing and I noticed something interesting.
Virtually all the children were familiar with both the movie and the book version of Chris VanAllsburg's "The Polar Express," as well as both the book and movie versions of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But almost no one knew that Shreck is a book by Caldecott winning author William Steig. Similarly not many children were familiar with the fact that Jumanji, Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia, and a host of other very popular movie titles began as great books.
So in my show "Set Sail" I talk about how to become a great writer by reading the works of other great writers. We discuss using interesting words, dialog, implying so that readers can make inferences, the use of similes and metaphors, and the use of adjectives and adverbs to bring writing to life.
But, by design, all the books I chose are award winning books and many (but not all) of them have been made into movies. My goal was not only to improve the writing of children, but also to inspire them to find out about the books that gave rise to some of their favorite movies.
The books always reveal a bit more of the story than a movie ever can. My hope is that I can turn on a few borderline readers and inspire them to grab a book in which they already know how the story ends and read it from cover to cover anyway.
So the next time someone checks out the video of "Bridge to Terabithia," be sure to mention that it is also available as a Newbery winning chapter book.