Top 10 Movies Based on Kids' Books

Film adaptations of much-loved children's books often divide audiences. Some claim that nothing could ever beat the book, while others may actually prefer the film - though they may not admit it! Check out some of the film adaptations below, ordered by release date, to see what you think.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr Seuss | Film release: 2000

This Dr. Seuss adaptation from director Ron Howard stars Jim Carrey as the mean, green Grinch, whose traumatic past has led him to become bitter, spiteful and - more than anything - a committed Christmas-hater! Can the compassion of young Cindy Lou help him to change his ways, or is he doomed to be alone and despised forever?

This film was released to rather average critical reception, with an approval rating of 53% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 46/100 on Metacritic. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described it as a dank, eerie, weird movie about a sour creature', concluding that it's 'just not much fun'. However, many reviewers praised Jim Carrey for his animated, maniacal portrayal of the Grinch. But should film-makers have left Dr. Seuss's wacky and wonderful book alone?

2. Shrek

William Steig | Film release: 2001

This hugely popular film is actually based on a 1990 picture book, Shrek! by William Steig. The book features a monstrously ugly ogre who leaves his muddy hovel to see (and scare!) the world, and ends up rescuing a princess (who is also horribly ugly) after meeting a witch, a donkey and a knight.

The film adaptation, which has a rather different tone and style from the book, nonetheless received immediate critical acclaim. 88% of critics gave it a positive review on Rotten Tomatoes, and it has a rating of 84% on Metacritic. Roger Ebert praised the film with 4/4 stars, describing it as 'jolly and wicked, filled with sly in-jokes and yet somehow possessing a heart'. Many critics particularly enjoyed the lively performance of Eddie Murphy as Donkey. William Steig himself loved it, as did his family.

However, it did receive some negative criticism. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker commented that 'there's still something flat and charmless in the digital look'. What did you think of it?

3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

J. K. Rowling | Film release: 2001

The Harry Potter book series by J. K. Rowling has enjoyed worldwide fame, with millions of children (and adults!) revelling in the magical world Harry shares with much-loved characters like Ron, Hermione, Hagrid and Dumbledore. The series features a deprived little boy who discovers he's a wizard and heads off to learn magic at the magnificent Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Danger awaits him, however, in the form of multiple nemeses, perilous adventures and the most terrifying, malevolent wizard there is: Lord Voldemort.

The film series has seen huge popularity, too. The first Harry Potter film broke the single day record of the time at the box office, and broke its own record again on day two! It gained an 80% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 'generally favourable reviews' on Metacritic with a score of 64/100. It was commended for being extremely faithful to the book, but was also criticised on this ground; the Rotten Tomatoes consensus claims that there was 'little room for surprises or discoveries'. Do you agree?

4. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

C. S. Lewis | Film release: 2005

Fans of C. S. Lewis's spellbinding literary adventures may have been delighted or daunted by the prospect of a film adaptation. Could it ever live up to the magic of the book? This particular film, the first of three Narnia films so far, is based on the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, in which four unsuspecting children discover the entrance to an enchanting, snow-covered land at the back of a wardrobe. But can they escape the evil White Witch, who is plotting to kill them?

Generally, the film was positively received. It gained 76% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 6.9/10. On Metacritic, it received a similar rating of 75/100. Roger Ebert gave the film 3/4 stars, and Leonard Maltin called it 'an impressive and worthwhile family film'. However, John Anderson of Newsday said of the film: 'there's a deliberateness, a fastidiousness and a lack of daring and vision that marks the entire operation.'

5. Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine Paterson | Film release: 2007

Get the tissues out - you'll need them for this one! Based on Katherine Paterson's 1977 novel, the film adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia features a baby-faced Josh Hutcherson as the young, frustrated Jesse Aarons. He discovers that the new girl at school, Leslie, is a faster runner than him - and he's not happy! But it's not long before the two realise they have more in common than they first thought, and develop a profound friendship. They use a rope swing to cross a river into the woods and conjure up all sorts of magical adventures there, in an imaginary land they call Terabithia. But Jesse will have to cope when tragedy strikes whilst he's away.

While we're still emotionally scarred all these years later, what did critics think? Again, this film was generally well-received. It garnered a score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 157 reviews, with an average score of 7.2/10. Metacritic gave it a rating of 74% based on 25 reviews. Whilst most reviews were positive, there were some negative observations, with Joe Morgenstern accusing it of containing 'brief spasms of overproduced fantasy'. Is this true?

6. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Roald Dahl | Film release: 2009

This stop-motion animated comedy is based on Roald Dahl's much-loved book of 1970, Fantastic Mr Fox, in which a fox leaves his thieving days behind at the request of his long-suffering wife, Felicity. But one day, he can't quite resist, and loses his tail in the process - and things can only get worse when the farmers block the foxes' exit, intending to wait for them to emerge before they kill them! Will the animals of the underground be able to work together to outsmart the farmers and get Mr Fox's tail back?

The film adaptation received excellent reviews. On Metacritic, it currently has an average review score of 83 based on 34 critics' reviews, and a rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states that the film is 'a delightfully funny feast for the eyes'. It became the second-highest-rated animated film of 2009, right behind Up. There has been relatively little criticism, but Ryan Gilbey does comment that '[b]eneath those tactile textures, there's nothing you could strictly call fantastic'. Should Roald Dahl's wondrous books be left alone?

7. Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak | Film release: 2009

Where the Wild Things Are is a 1963 children's picture book by Maurice Sendak, which features a little boy named Max. After being sent to bed without dinner, Max's bedroom turns into a moonlit forest, and he sails in a boat to an island inhabited by big, shaggy, wild creatures. However, he's not scared, and they crown him as their leader. The creatures stomp about and cause a ruckus for days, and when Max finally grows fed up, he sends them to bed without dinner. He then decides to return home, having realised what his mother goes through with him!

The film adaptation has been relatively well-received. It holds a 73% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has a score of 71/100 on Metacritic. Lisa Schwarzbaum declared it 'one of the year's best [films]', and Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars. However, some critics have deemed it too dark and solemn. Stephanie Zacharek states that it 'starts to seem depressive and shaggy and tired' after a while, the plot 'loaded with adult ideas about childhood', instead of things that might actually engage a child. Should it have been more tailored for a young audience?

8. Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll | Film release: 2010

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is a classic story, but its 2010 film adaptation is a rather unique portrayal of this timeless tale. From the renowned imagination of Tim Burton, the film features Alice Kingsleigh, who falls down a rabbit hole and ends up in a bizarre world. There, she must try to take down the foul-tempered Red Queen, slay the almighty Jabberwocky, and restore the White Queen to power. She meets various crazy characters along the way, including the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Bandersnatch.

The film has had a mixed reaction. 52% of reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review, and it has a score of 53/100 on Metacritic. Roger Ebert, giving the film 3/4 stars, commented that: 'Alice plays better as an adult hallucination, which is how Burton rather brilliantly interprets it until a pointless third act flies off the rails.' Was this film just a little too bizarre in the end, or did it strike the balance between adventure and fantasy just right?

9. How to Train Your Dragon

Cressida Cowell | Film release: 2010

Cressida Cowell's exciting How to Train Your Dragon book series follows Hiccup, a young Viking, on his journey to Become a Hero the Hard Way. In the film, he must try to capture a dragon, and he takes down a very rare and dangerous Night Fury. However, he can't bring himself to kill it, and instead ends up taming the dragon, calling it 'Toothless'. Hiccup's father, the village chieftain, consequently disowns him, and heads off to fight the most dangerous dragon of all, the Red Death. Can Hiccup and his friends save the day?

The film received critical acclaim upon release, with 98% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and a score of 74 on Metacritic. It has been criticised by multiple reviewers, however, for focusing too much on action and clever cinematography, rather than character and story development. Roger Ebert (giving it 3/4 stars) sums up the general consensus: 'It devotes a great deal of time to aerial battles between tamed dragons and evil ones, and not much to character or story development. But it's bright, good-looking, and has high energy.' Do you agree with this?

10. The Hobbit

J. R. R. Tolkien | Film release: 2012, 2013, 2014

A trilogy of blockbusting films portrays Tolkien's world-famous children's story, a captivating tale filled with fantastical creatures, including hobbits, dwarves, elves, goblins, wizards and more. Bilbo is employed as a 'burglar' for a band of dwarves who are determined to retake the Lonely Mountain from the savage dragon, Smaug, but it certainly won't be easy for the homely hobbit who's used to a peaceful life in the Shire!

The second film, The Desolation of Smaug, was most popular with critics, with 74% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 66 on Metacritic. The final film, The Battle of the Five Armies, was least popular, with 59% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 59 on Metacritic. The first film, An Unexpected Journey, gained a 64% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but was the least popular film of the trilogy on Metacritic, with a rating of 58. Mick LaSalle commented that Martin Freeman as Bilbo is 'the one thing that has made this trilogy bearable'. Should the book have been adapted into three lengthy films - and could it have survived without its charismatic lead?

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  • HOI2 9 years +
    9 years +
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    Likeable and unassuming hero Bilbo Baggins is unwittingly caught up in an epic adventure in one of the most imaginative and captivating children's classics ever written.

    Although Bilbo sets out on his quest for a dragon's gold rather reluctantly, as he is a cautious hobbit who likes a quiet life, his journey helps him find courage, strength and hidden resources that are sure to inspire readers young and old.

    The Hobbit is a fantastic book for confident readers aged 9+, but it's also a great book for parents to read aloud to their child at bedtime, especially with the success of An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug - the first two of Peter Jackson's award-winning trilogy of films based on The Hobbit starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo - bringing the story to a new audience.
  • TDG2 7 years +
    7 years +
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    This is the first of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III's How to Train Your Dragon memoirs and is the book that inspired the first hit film from Dreamworks. Hiccup may now be considered an awesome sword-fighter and the greatest Viking Hero to have ever lived, but he didn't always have this reputation....

    As a child, he wasn't popular nor good at sports and he struggled to make himself heard. But things began to change when he found Toothless, a dragon that quickly became his best friend - a stark contrast to the fearsome dragon enemies he'd grown up believing in...

    Written by Cressida Cowell and suitable for readers aged 7 and over, Hiccup: How to Train Your Dragon is the first book in a series full of action, adventure and laugh-out-loud fun.
  • ADXLN 3 years +
    3 years +
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    Shrek wasn't always a movie star ...Discover the ugly truth about everyone's favourite ogre. There's no doubt about it - Shrek is ugly. Really ugly. He scares the socks off anyone unlucky enough to encounter him. Even the flowers and trees lean away from him to avoid his horrible stench. And any snake dumb enough to bite him instantly falls down dead. What Shrek needs is someone just as repulsive as he is. So, after being kicked out of the black hole in which he was hatched, he slogs off on a quest to find the most stunningly ugly princess on the surface of the planet. Will they live horribly ever after? Created by one of the twentieth century's most beloved children's authors and reimagined as a series of films and a musical, this is the original, monstrously funny story of Shrek.
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    A beautiful hardback gift edition of this classic Christmas tale from Dr. Seuss. With a heart two sizes too small, the Grinch is the meanest creature you'll ever meet. He hates Christmas and the whole festive season. But when he hatches a dastardly plot to steal Christmas, he's in for a big surprise! With hilarious rhymes and beautiful illustrations, this classic seasonal story has become a favourite for good reason and teaches readers the true meaning of Christmas.
  • FXD2 7 years +
    7 years +
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    Especially redesigned to celebrate the Roald Dahl 100 celebrations, Fantastic Mr Fox is a funny story about a quick-witted fox who likes to hatch plans - but will he be able to outsmart the farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean?

    Boggis is a chicken farmer who only eats boiled chickens smothered in fat; Bunce is a duck-and-goose farmer whose dinner gives him a beastly temper; and Bean is a turkey-and-apple farmer who only drinks strong cider... however, none of them are all that smart so is it any surprise the clever Mr Fox is always creeping down the valley and helping himself to their food? When he hears of their plan to Bang-Bang-Bang shoot him dead, Mr Fox comes up with a thoroughly fantastic plan.

    Fast paced and full of brilliant characters, the story is (of course) accompanied by Quentin Blake's iconic illustrations.
  • LWD2 7 years +
    7 years +
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    Thanks to C. S. Lewis and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, we suspect countless children have stepped into random wardrobes and held their breath, hoping to be transported to a fantasy world - some of us at Book People certainly have!

    Best known of all the books in the Narnia Chronicles, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe follows on from The Magician's Nephew and is all about the adventures of four brothers and sisters as they discover a magical country and get caught up in a battle against the evil White Witch. An exciting and thrilling adventure ensues as they fight to save the land of Narnia from perpetual winter.

    Presented with stylish new cover art from original illustrator Pauline Baynes that will delight fans of all ages, this is a must-read children's classic; inspiring and imaginative with enduring appeal for readers aged 9 and over.
  • AWZ2 9 years +
    9 years +
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    A beautiful Oxford Classics edition of Lewis Carroll's inspired fantasy Alice in Wonderland. This surreal story has truly enduring appeal and is a must-read book for all readers aged 9 and above.

    On an ordinary summer's afternoon, Alice tumbles down a rabbit hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world, she meets some even stranger characters including a grinning cat, a rabbit with a pocket watch and a queen who plays croquet using hedgehogs and flamingos!

    Packed full of nonsense poems and songs, quirky characters and bizarre goings-on, Alice in Wonderland is a timeless classic!

    Please note this edition does not contain any illustrations.
  • HPF2 9 years +
    9 years +
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    Head to Hogwarts and discover where it all began with this special children's edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

    Living at number four, Privet Drive, Harry Potter has never even heard of the Wizarding school when the letters start arriving (and are subsequently confiscated by his aunt and uncle, Petunia and Dudley Dursley). On his 11th birthday, Harry learns from a giant of a man named Rubeus Hagrid that he is, in fact, a wizard... And that's when the most magical adventure really begins!

    Compete with Jonny Duddle's eye-catching, new artwork - this is a wonderful introduction to the Wizarding World.
  • AOHWL 9 years +
    9 years +
    • £6.29
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    Jess Aarons wants to be the fastest boy in the class, but when a girl named Leslie Burke moves into the neighbouring farm his life changes forever. Even though she runs faster than him, Jess begins to think Leslie might be okay - she's clever and funny and not a bit soppy. And it is Leslie who invents Terabithia, the secret country on an island across the creek where he can escape his troublesome family. The only way to reach Terabithia is by rope-swing where Jess and Leslie become King and Queen, defeating giants, sharing stories and dreams, and plotting against their enemies. They are invincible - until tragedy strikes. It is more dreadful than anything Jess had ever dreamed of, but as he struggles to cope with his grief and anger, he finds that his family value him more than he'd thought and that, still King, he could even save Terabithia for the future.
  • WWM2 3 years +
    3 years +
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    One of the classic children's books, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is pretty much the perfect bedtime read.

    Max doesn't want to go to bed and finds himself travelling to a faraway, mystical land full of monsters who roar and gnash their terrible teeth. It's a little frightening but so much fun!

    Bold and stylish, funny and ultimately heart-warming, the book is full of toddler appeal and was memorably adapted into a hit film by Spike Jonze.

    This paperback edition of the Caldecott Medal-winning story will be returned to time and time again by toddlers who love mystery and adventure.