A Tuesday Ten: From book to movie

So many books are picked up and turned into movies but it can always be fun to look at some of those that have been done in the past while we get excited or anxious (or even horrified) at the ones coming out in the future.  Let’s face it, the movie version of a book can never quite equal what is in our minds when we read it.  I’ve tried to stay away from the super obvious ones here and highlight a few books and movies that folks might not be as familiar with.


The Iron Man by Ted Hughes (Knopf Books for Young Readers, c1968)

This book may have been written in 1968, but most people probably aren’t familiar with it.  In fact the title is a little to close to a popular superhero’s name which may cause some confusion.  But I’d bet that the animated movie The Iron Giant (1999) is a lot more familiar.  The story of a gigantic robot crashing to earth and being befriended by a young boy is one that really resonated and the movie is still a favorite today with my own kids.



The Magic Bedknob by Mary Norton (J.M. Dent and Sons, c1943)

Most of you probably know the Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). You might not know it was based on 2 books.  The book above, plus a sequel called Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947) were combined to make the movie we’re all familiar with.  Most readers are more likely to know Mary Norton for her more famous series: The Borrowers, but the images of children having adventures and misadventures with the help of a witch in training helped to create a delightful movie that was one of the highlights of my youth.



The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (Laurel Leaf, c1960)

In this case, people may be more likely to be familiar with one of the movies inspired by the novel than the book itself.  The first movie by Disney, The Incredible Journey (1963) retells the story from the book.  This is the movie I grew up watching.  However a newer retelling of the tale of three animals heading out on their own to find their home was made in 1993 with several changes to the story and animals–and included conversations voiced by actors as the animals.  I read this book for an assignment in school and did an entire book report on it of which I was immensely proud at the time. The fact that you see how the animals are thinking is the only real fantastic element of the story.


The Princess Bride By William Goldman (Ballantine, c1973)

Originally published as “The Good Parts” edition abridged by William Goldman, it’s worth noting that it is the only edition of the book.  Goldman’s clever conceit in writing this book struck a chord with many people.  So did the movie by the same title that came out in 1987 and stuck pretty true to the original book.  I like both the book and movie quite a lot, although the book adds in a richness that the movie couldn’t quite express, and the movie manages to have my favorite sword fight of all time.


The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, translated by Ralph Manheim (Dutton, c1979)

I didn’t realize for a few years that there was a book behind the movie The Neverending Story (1984) when I found the book I quickly discovered that the movie is only about half  of the book.  I learned later that Michael Ende was not very pleased with how his book was distorted for the American movies that followed.  I think the first movie is fine, but the book is honestly better.  If you haven’t read it I recommend finding it on the library shelves and giving it a try!



Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith (Knopf Books for Young Readers, c1983)

Originally published under the title, The Sheep Pig,  the title later changed, perhaps to make the connection between the book and the  movie Babe (1995) more obvious.  Dick King-Smith has had at least two of his marvelous creature stories transformed into movies for the big screen.  I didn’t know about the book until I started working in the library system and discovered the author.


A Day With Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce (HarperCollins, c1988)

This was one of those circumstances where I had the opportunity to see the movie Meet the Robinsons (2007) and I thought  “hey I know a book like that . . .” a little research soon provided me with the above picture book which I’d read and enjoyed a few times back years before.  It’s a wild and crazy SF/Fantasy romp of the sorts I loved both as a kid and an adult.  But I didn’t make the connection between the book and the movie at first.  The movie is a serious expansion of the ideas in the original picture book and does fairly well with it in my opinion.



Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key (Pocket, c1968)

I saw the movie Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) years before I knew there was book, I think I was five or six the first time I saw the movie and it caught my imagination like wildfire.  So when I found the book in paperback form in the library I grabbed it and read it cover to cover.  The book and the movie a fairly close in character and plot, and I honestly enjoy both.


A Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall (Atheneum, c1976)

More tween and YA, both the original book and the Disney movie crafted from it: The Watcher in the Woods (1980) are both pretty obscure.  The movie actually holds up better than the book in some ways and is notable in that its a sort of SF/Horror tale with three different endings.  I first saw the movie when I was about ten and it both freaked me out and fascinated me.  The fact that Bette Davis has a a role in this  movie just adds to the appeal in my opinion!


The Rescuers by Margery Sharp, illustrated by Garth Williams (Little, Brown & Co. c1959)

The original story of these brave mice on missions to help humans.  Our furry protagonists set out on a mission to risk their lives in order to rescue a young girl from captivity.  Disney was created  the movie The Rescuers (1977) that follows the story of Miss Bianca and Bernard from the Rescue Aid Society as they seek to rescue a young girl named Penny.   Margery Sharp wrote at least six volumes about her intrepid creatures, though I’ve never had the chance to encounter any of them.


What’s your favorite book inspired movie?  Comments welcome!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on February 13, 2016, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I never knew The Watcher in the Woods came from a book!! That is one seriously creepy but squarely PG movie which is so hard to come by these days. My sister and I used to watch it all the time on VHS in the early 80s.

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