Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 comes out this Friday. It’s a sequel to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (shocking, I know), which was based on a 1978 children’s book by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett. The sequel, however, isn’t even based on the book’s sequel, Pickles to Pittsburgh. This got us thinking that maybe instead of producing a made-up sequel to a book that’s already been adapted for the screen, Hollywood should focus on adapting one or two of the many classic, darling children’s books we all grew up with but haven’t seen translated onto film, besides the occasional animated short film or low-budget TV movie.
Children’s books are great source material, because they provide opportunity for new animation techniques and fantastical storylines. Because they’re so short and simple, they offer a lot of room for interpretation and experimentation. And if they’re classic enough, they delight both children and adults alike. As long as they’re not too blasphemous or obnoxious, children’s book adaptations can be wonderful. So what’s taking so long, movie people? I just gave you a gazillion reasons to get working on this.
Let’s look at thirteen examples of children’s books whose feature film adaptations are long overdue.
1. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Who doesn’t love that adorably demanding mouse? This book is perfect for adaptation because its circular concept can be drawn out as long as necessary, and the things the mouse asks for can get more and more complex. First he asks for a straw, and the next thing you know he’s asking the kid to fill out his tax returns, drive him to the dry cleaner’s and break up with his mouse girlfriend for him. Then by the end he just wants another cookie and the cycle of mousey torture begins again. Come to think of it, this story is kind of depressing.
2. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Imagine all the wacky shenanigans a live-action Amelia would get into with her quirky hats and her pies and her frankly worrisome penchant for taking everything literally. I’ve seen everyone from Kristen Wiig to Zooey Deschanel suggested to play her. Whoever gets cast, let’s discuss the idea of making this a cautionary tale in which Amelia keeps getting fired because she throws dust on the furniture, and as a result she has to move back in with her parents. Hey, kids need to learn about the real world.
3. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
I was slightly obsessed with Junie B. Jones in my youth after my grandma gave me a box set. She’s messy and silly and she does not want to ride the bus. Scary things happen in there. This is the perfect opportunity to cast an unknown but precocious child actress who will go on to be the next Kiernan Shipka and make us all feel inadequate. Who doesn’t want that?
4. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar
You might remember Louis Sachar for his wonderful book Holes, which was adapted into a film starring Shia LaBeouf back when we could all actually tolerate him. But I loved Sachar for his portrayal of Wayside School, which is a building 30 stories tall, but without the 19th story. This was already adapted into an animated TV movie, but I want to see it made into a live-action film. Perhaps Michel Gondry could direct it with his signature quirky visuals. It could be a surrealist masterpiece.
5. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Funny or Die turned this book into a horror movie trailer that was admittedly hilarious, but I want to see an authentic adaptation. I feel like the French could really do a bang-up job adapting this into an adorable, artsy feature film. With subtitles, probably.
6. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Another Shel Silverstein. It’s a collection of poems, which would be the perfect opportunity for an anthology film featuring various shorts from animators with different styles. I’m sure we’d get some very fascinating results. Just imagine what could be done with “Mr. Grumpledump’s Song.”
7. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
This adorable but frankly terrifying story of a baby bird searching for his mother is perfect for Pixar. It’s an adventure story about an anthropomorphic talking bird communicating with other cute animals. What more could you ask for?
8. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
DreamWorks purchased the rights to adapt this comic in 2011, but it has yet to reach the screen and there isn’t much information out there about it. Superhero adaptations are all the rage. Now’s the perfect time to sneak this movie in there and cash in on the trend.
9. Corduroy by Don Freeman
I L-O-V-E this book. It’s honestly my favorite children’s book ever, and I read it over and over again when I was little, mostly because I really liked the idea of being in a department store after it closes. It’s about a teddy bear who won’t get bought because his overalls are missing a button. When the store closes the bear goes on a search for a replacement button. This story was already a short film and even a TV series (?), but I’d like to see a really talented animator bring this story’s charm to life again (even if it’s just an Oscar-winning short).
10. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Why oh why are there no adaptations of Sharon Creech’s young adult novels? They were my favorite books to read in my preteen years, because they told interesting stories young women could relate to. This book has a lot of serious and thought-provoking themes that would be wonderful to see play out in a film from a skilled director.
11. Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
This classic graduation gift still doesn’t have a feature film adaptation we can give to people in DVD form. Perhaps a weird Tim Burton film is in order? With Johnny Depp playing every character, of course.
12. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
There was a short-lived TV show called Fudge based on this book and Superfudge (George W. Bush’s favorite book). But I think it deserves a new big screen adaptation. It’s got the classic sibling rivalry going on, and it could even be updated by showing us what Peter and Fudge are up to as adults. Are the brothers still fighting? Did the parents ever get Fudge therapy for being the worst behaved child ever? Inquiring minds want to know.
13. Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi
I know I’m not the only one wondering how the heck Hollywood has gone this long without turning this into a feature film. Imagine the ensemble cast they could get! George Clooney poops! Julia Roberts poops! Ashton Kutcher poops! Jennifer Aniston poops! Everyone poops! Sorry I’m the only one willing to say it.
(Lead Image: Wikipedia)