Friday, May 10, 2024

Whether you’re a movie-first or book-first type of person, it’s always exciting to see your favorite characters come to life on the big screen! Our staff at the Iowa Reading Research Center has compiled a list of our favorite books that have been adapted into movies, including novels, chapter books, and picture books.

Which books and movie adaptations are important to you? We encourage you to pick your favorites and share them with your child. Reading a book and watching its film adaptation can provide an opportunity to reflect on reading and have conversations about a text. 

To guide these conversations, check out these discussion prompts for caregivers looking to spark conversation with their child about literary elements, such as plot, setting, and theme. To learn how to make the most out of reading to or with your children, check out our previous blog posts about paired oral reading and dialogic reading strategies.

The age ranges listed provide general guidance but will vary by student. Use your own judgement when considering which texts are appropriate for your child in terms of text complexity and topic. Please note that age ranges listed apply to the books and may not directly correlate with the recommended age for movie viewing. 


Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Ages 2+

Chosen by Sydney Smithgall, Student Writer

This picture book follows Max, a mischievous young boy who dreams up a world of adventure and strange monsters after being sent to his room for misbehaving. He sails across a vast ocean to the land of the Wild Things, and its inhabitants make him king. However, Max begins to feel lonely and realizes running away may not be the answer he’s looking for.

“One of my childhood favorites!” Smithgall says. “I love how Sendak brings young imagination to life with fun creatures while also delivering a sweet message about navigating big feelings.”


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett 

IRRC staff member holding Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Ages 4+

Chosen by Lindsay Seydel, Education and Outreach Coordinator

The residents of Chewandswallow are used to wacky magic, having grown up in a land where food falls from the sky three times a day. When the weather takes a dangerous turn, the citizens must decide whether to stay in their small town or venture out to find a new, safer home.

“I love the creativity in this book!” Seydel says.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 

IRRC staff member holding Alice in Wonderland

Ages 5+

Chosen by Sydney Smithgall, Student Writer

Alice follows the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole and finds herself in a fantastic world of talking animals and eccentric characters. The young girl’s curiosity encourages her to explore, learning along the way that Wonderland is a place of magical impossibility that defies all she has come to believe about the world above.

“I’ve always loved how whimsical the characters and setting are in this book, and I had a particular affinity for the Cheshire Cat,” Smithgall says. “Definitely a children’s classic.”


The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

IRRC staff member holding The Lorax

Ages 6+

Chosen by Rachel Wallace, Administrative Services Specialist

Ted lives in a place where nature doesn’t grow, but the girl he likes wants a Truffula tree more than anything. To get it, Ted must talk to the former guardian of the trees, and he learns how one entrepreneur’s greed led to the destruction of their environment.

“The book encourages readers to consider their impact on the planet and the importance of preserving natural resources for future generations,” Wallace says. “Its message is timeless.”


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Ages 7+

Chosen by Stephanie Edgren, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Consisting of seven books, this fantasy series follows battles of good and evil in the magical world of Narnia. The first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, follows four siblings who stumble across a portal to Narnia tucked in the wardrobe of an old mansion. As is prophesied, the four children embark on a quest to help the rightful ruler of Narnia, the great lion Aslan, regain his throne.

“I have wonderful memories of reading the entire series to my son at bedtime,” Edgren says. “I enjoy reading books where good triumphs over evil.”


Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

IRRC staff member holding Charlotte's Web

Ages 8+

Chosen by Nikki Hodous, Associate Director for Operations and Project Management

This novel tells the story of an unlikely farm friendship between Wilbur the pig and the Charlotte the spider. When Wilbur finds out he’s been marked for slaughter, Charlotte spins messages in her web to save him.

“I remember reading Charlotte's Web when I was younger and recall it as the first (but definitely not the last!) time a book was able to bring me to tears,” Hodous says. “I was so surprised how much a story could make me feel such strong emotions.”


Matilda by Roald Dahl

Ages 8+

Chosen by Stephanie Edgren, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Matilda Wormwood has telekinesis and a reading level far beyond her age, though her parents don’t seem to care. Matilda uses her abilities to help Miss Honey, a teacher who has supported her, and to take down the school’s biggest bully, Headmistress Trunchbull.

“I enjoyed reading books by Roald Dahl because they are fanciful and have quirky characters,” Edgren says.


The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

IRRC staff member holding City of Ember book

Ages 8+

Chosen by Kate Will, Communications Specialist

Ember is a post-apocalyptic underground city threatened by depletion of resources and blackouts that leave surviving residents in poverty and complete darkness. Two children, Lina and Doon, find an ancient message from the city’s builders that they believe is the key to saving Ember.

“When I read books, I create mental images of the setting and the characters, but these mental images usually deviate significantly from how the story world is depicted in the movie adaptation,” Will says. “However, I was shocked by how closely the movie adaptation of this book reflected my own imagined version of the story.”


Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

IRRC staff member holding Ann of Green Gables

Ages 9+

Chosen by Olivia Tonelli, Communications Coordinator

Anne Shirley is an energetic and imaginative orphan sent to live with middle-aged siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert by mistake, though she quickly wins over their hearts. This coming-of-age story follows a growing Anne as she makes friends, learns the rules of social conduct, pursues an education, and grows closer to her unexpected family.

“When I read this in childhood, I remember feeling delighted and inspired by the fanciful and dramatic personality of Anne Shirley, the novel's main character. I looked up to Anne, who is acutely sensitive but also adamant in her beliefs and unabashedly outspoken,” Tonelli says. “I think Anne's idealism and imagination can serve as a reminder for people of all ages to hold tightly to the dreams and ideals that are integral to their sense of self. There are more adaptations of Anne of Green Gables than I can count, but I'm specifically recommending the 1985 Canadian made-for-television film starring Megan Follows.”


Wonder by R. J. Palacio

IRRC staff member holding Wonder

Ages 9+

Chosen by Lindsay Seydel, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Told by multiple narrators, this novel follows August “Auggie” Pullman, a young boy with an unusual appearance due to a genetic condition, as he leaves homeschooling behind and navigates a complex social world of friends and bullies.

“This book has a strong message to ‘choose kindness,’” Seydel says. “Other themes include empathy, compassion, acceptance and friendship.”


Holes by Louis Sachar

IRRC staff member holding the book Holes

Ages 10+

Chosen by Taylor Miller, Project Manager for Online Learning and Research

After being falsely accused of stealing, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a camp for behavioral correction where he’s tasked with digging holes. As Stanley learns more about the camp’s history, he realizes the detention facility and his family’s secrets might just be intertwined.

“We read this book as a class when I was in 5th grade, and I remember everyone loving it!” Miller says. “The main character Stanley is a lovable narrator with the story taking many twists and turns.”



Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Ages 10+

Chosen by Kate Will, Communications Specialist

This novel follows sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March as they navigate balancing family and love through adolescence and into womanhood during the 19th century.

“I always like a coming-of-age story!” Will says. “Considering that the book came out over 150 years ago, I appreciated how the movie adaptation maintained and challenged some of the book's themes so that the story would remain relevant for viewers today.”


The NeverEnding Story by Louisa Michael Ende

Ages 10+

Chosen by Rachel Wallace, Administrative Services Specialist

When Bastian escapes bullies by hiding in a bookshop, he finds a book of fairytale creatures and adventures that he reads in the school attic. Bastian is later transported into the book’s fantasy world, where he might just be the hero they need.

“The NeverEnding Story is a tale filled with fantastical creatures and landscapes,” Wallace says. “A great story for all ages. #falkorforever.”


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

IRRC staff member holding the book The Book Thief

Ages 13+

Chosen by Bailey Christensen, Student eLearning Team Member

After her brother’s death, Liesel falls in love with language and begins stealing books from wherever she can find them, including Nazi book burnings. When her foster parents hide a Jewish man in their home, Liesel must come to terms with growing threats against the security of her new life and family.

“I always thought this book was particularly interesting because it is narrated by Death, which helps introduce some heavier themes to teen readers,” Christensen says. “There are also so many examples of platonic, familial, and romantic love in this narrative that have stuck with me over the years.”


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

IRRC staff member holding the book Simon

Ages 14+

Chosen by Sydney Smithgall, Student Writer

Simon Spier is a closeted high school student in an anonymous email relationship with another boy at school. When someone discovers their correspondence, Simon is blackmailed under threat of being outed and must make difficult decisions about balancing friends, family, and a budding romance.

“Albertalli’s engaging writing style lends itself to capturing authentic teenage experiences,” Smithgall says. “This was a casual read and a heartwarming story.”



The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Ages 14+

Chosen by Lindsay Seydel, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Protagonist Hazel is falling in love with Gus, a boy she meets at her cancer support group. When Gus establishes correspondence with Hazel’s favorite author, the two embark on an adventure to meet him.

“This is a book of love and loss. It is a rollercoaster of emotions and hits you square in the heart,” Seydel says. “Any book that can elicit such emotion is a favorite of mine.”