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Books Rule the Day for My Emerging Movie Critics

Posted by Jen on March 24, 2010 at 7:00 AM in Books and Reading
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My kids are at those ages where the little kid movies aren't going to work anymore. They are reading real big kid books--the kind that get turned into long, serial movies, and so they have opinions now about well the filmmakers did at being true to the original tale.

This is funny for me because I used to be that kid--the voracious reader, the analytic critic--and now I'm reduced to whatever memoir can be read on a plane. I've almost given up reading altogether, living almost entirely on the fiction or the occasional juicy biographical articles you can read about a movie star or a political figure in The New Yorker.

So when I'm taking my kids to the movies now to see a film based on a book, I'm a pretty easy customer. Since we didn't have a television in our house for almost ten years, I've discovered I have fairly abominable taste in film. Case in point: Alvin and the Chipmunks did not trouble me one bit. I do not need my movies to have the air of literature as long as they make me laugh.

My kids, however, are not on this page. As the credits rolled for The Lightning Thief a few weeks ago, I stretched in my chair elated only to look over and see my eight and eleven year old slumped over in disbelief.

You've got to be kidding me, Madeleine said.

Nothin' like the book, Carter sighed.

We then spent the next hour listening to their frustration on the discrepancies. As long time fans of Greek mythology (upon which the characters in The Lightning Thief are loosely based), they were colossally disappointed.

The longer they talked the more I could see actual problems in the movie that my exhausted middle-aged mind didn't have the energy for a few hours earlier. The female character, while given a more aggressive role, remained one-dimensional. This happens all the time, Madeleine pointed out to me. I agreed and we talked about how girls are portrayed and what it would look like to have a real female protagonist who was supportive of her friends and capable of battle at the same time.

I don't know how long my kids will stay in this in between place where more grownup movies look boring and little kid movies are irrelevant, but I'm grateful at the moment for this trend of making reading books into movies. It's not only giving us good topics of conversation, it's helping me see little glimpses of my kids as adults. I'm looking forward to being pulled into discussions that are driven by their interests; I'm seeing all the ways my own experience can be deepened and expanded because of the ways their minds can grow.

How about you? Are your kids reading along with the movies? What's your policy on book vs. movie--do you make your kids read the book first before seeing the film?

Weigh in in the comments below.


Amy writes...

My kids are also at this age and we had a similar experience with "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." My almost-8-year-old took delight in pointing out scenes that "weren't in the books" and things that were. Agree, anything that gets them reading is good. The discussions are a welcome bonus.

Rhonda writes...

Same with my daughter. She, and most of her friends, are a lot like this. I have to admit though, that my spouse & I are also voracious readers & film buff's, so she comes by it honestly.

JenAuthor Profile Page writes...

It's true--you can't step over the fact that reading parents really do tend to produce kids who read, too.

Tiffany writes...

I absolutely love this!! My son and his neighbor friend have been having these types of conversations a LOT lately! They are also at that "ripe" age where they are sneaking out of the innocent ages of Dora and into the ages of much thicker drama!

I'm actually excited to see this, as well as that they are actually READING the books vs. the movies or vice versa. Which ever comes to our house first! I am never really sold on the idea that children still LOVE to read the way that I did as a child, and certainly I'm never sold on the idea that I am giving them enough support to do so-until I hear these conversations coming from my living room or other "hang out" source! LOL!

Thanks for sharing your experiences! Maybe the "written word" will survive the internet and "green" worlds we have allowed our minds to dive so deeply into!

Tiffany-Still reading in North Carolina

JenAuthor Profile Page writes...

I really think the written word will survive--we're just going to see our stories and our reading sources come from different places maybe. But I know what you mean--I spent the same time reading as a kid that my kids do online.

Alicia writes...

I was also one of those voracious reader kids and am myself very picky about book vs. movie. I was heard to complain that the hobbits should have returned to a ruined Hobbiton, one they had to fight a bit to get back from Saruman, "His name was Tristran not Tristan" (among other things) and "Why couldn't they have just made Daniel's eyes green?!" My husband has to constantly remind me that not everything from the book is translatable to the movie ("but green eyes would have been so easy!"). My kids (8,5 & 2)love to read and be read to. I try to read the books myself before I see the movie and at least try to read aloud some the books for the kids (like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Prince Caspian). I think both mediums can do things the other can't but letting them know "This was a book before a movie and you might enjoy reading it." is great, like my mom telling me "I know this song because it was originally sung by Roberta Flack not the Fugees."

JenAuthor Profile Page writes...

I like the idea of letting kids know it was a book first instead of insisting they read as a rule. It leaves the door open and lets them be curious if they really liked the movie. Thanks for commenting.

Pam writes...

My children also shared the same extreme disappointment with The Lightning Thief. We spent the next hours and days shaking our heads and discussing -- Why "fill in the blank" happened", and why "fill in the blank" didn't happen. So I guess the bright side to this thumbs-down movie is it generated many family discussions.

For our family sometimes we read the book first and sometimes we don't. Sometimes after seeing a movie we'll find out it was based on a book and then read the book.

Almost always though, the books come out the winners.

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