Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Faithfully Adapting Children's Literature for the Screen

Randy-Michael Testa, Ed.D.

Walden Media gave us our lovely conference bags; I searched through my closet this morning to find something from the last ALA conference, and now I have a new one! (Note to those who plan for the future--I love the little pockets for my phone and pens and paper.)

The presentation basically covered four topics: background of Walden Media, using films to bring kids back to books, educator use (or not) of films, and a few thoughts about how books are adapted.

Hoping to produce Dark is Rising series, new Dick King-Smith (Babe) film, and Mr. Magorium's Wonderful Emporium (Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman)

I Am David, Holes, Because of Winn-Dixie, How to Eat Fried Worms, Bridge to Terabithia, Charlotte's Web

Walden Media and Candlewick Press started as small organizations, and now look!

Films, Kids, and Books:
Savvy librarians and teachers will take hold of the movie release and introduce new generation of readers to older books.

"When you do a faithful adaptation, it drives people back to the original properties."

Moments in popular culture bring kids back to books.

Authors are finding out the hard way that the movies "based" on the book may not fairly represent the book.

Educators and Film:
Educators avoid using film: "babysitting," "won't read the book," "no time," "ratings prohibit use," "don't see value of film."

Middle school kids see 2-3 new movies a week; teachers see 4 a year.

Personal beef of presenter--grade levels on books:
WHO says children should simultaneously be reading above and below "grade level"?
WHAT makes educators sabotage the very goals they extol? (e.g. "life-long learners)
WHERE did the current obsession with "grade level of this book" come from?
Since WHEN is Charlotte's Web "primarily for students in grades K-3?"
WHY can't AP 'honors English' students read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?

Reading levels and formulas don't necessarily create lifelong readers. Kids who become lifelong readers have access to books, make their own choices about what to read, and are actively encouraged to read 'above' and 'below' 'grade level.'

Charlotte's Web stunt--reading passage from book aloud.

NEA ""Reading at Risk": literature reading is fading.

Educational guides are on the web for teacher use. At least one guide is created per movie.

"Intertextuality": How a test means what it does, by referring to other texts. Ex: Bridge to Terabithia refers to Aslan, Moses, Abraham Lincoln, and Shakespeare. Good teachable moments using the film and book to go back to other films and writers.

Vivian Paley--writes about teaching and reading. Personal note: when I was a teacher, we had to read some of her works; she's very compelling.

Schools aren't safe (Columbine, Virginia Tech)--what are we doing to make the world safer for kids? What are the books and movies being produced? How will these events be depicted in fantasy? Bridge To Terabithia is a good example of dealing with tough topics. Books can be deeper than being just about friendships.

Books requested by teachers: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Esperanza Rising, Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963

What is the difference between a literal adaptation and a faithful adaptation?

Power of movies to reflect history--showed clip from World Trade Center. C.S. Lewis wrote about WWII, a very fightening time for an entire country.

93 minutes to hook a group--Narnia was 2 hours 50 minutes long--very long for a children's film, but kept kids attention

Kids don't want to know the secrets of how a film is made! Lesson learned the hard way when they showed a group of kids the "real" Aslan.

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