Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Faithfully adapting children's literature for the screen

(Some thoughts about movies book, lifelong readers—and what it means to be safe)

An Exploration

By: Randy-Michael Testa Ed.D.

The major focus of this session was (not surprisingly) the importance of staying faithful to the books that are being adapted. Some of the movies adapted by Walden Media include, Holes, Charlotte's Web, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Bridge to Terabethia. One manner in which this company stays faithful to the literature is to involve the author when possible. Actually, Katherine Paterson was extremely involved in the entire process. She even added lines for the movie because sometimes words need to be different when spoken aloud to be more powerful.

So, why should we as librarian encourage or even care about adaptation of books to movies? While we all love books and believe in the power of text, we also have to agree that not everyone is a textual learner. The medium of film can involves the visual and auditory senses. Thus many people who have difficulty with reading or concentration can still benefit from moving stories. There is also well documented proof that the release of a movie will increase a demand for the book. Ultimately, this means more and not less readers.

There are also many people (teachers, parents and students) that strictly adhere to reading levels of books. This limits some stories from possible choices for children. However, when a movie comes out, we see that the story is indeed appropriate for any one who finds interest. Mr. Testa called our own reading habits to mind. He asked us to think about what we read when we are sitting on plane. Yes, we bring our library journals or some type of pleasure reading, but we also pick up that silly catalog and do some mindless browsing. I haven’t met a librarian yet that doesn’t enjoy reading children’s and YA books. The main point here is that the story can effect anybody but only if you are introduced to it.

Lastly, Mr. Testa developed the idea of why children either read books or watch movies; to find a place of safety. Sometimes that can only be found deep in our minds through fantasy. With the safety being threatened in our schools, children now needs this escapism more than ever.

I am very glad that I attended this session and learned how this company that started very small with such a big plan is growing and creating works of art. By staying faithful to the literature they are creating movies that will be viewed by and influence many generations.

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