4 Great Children’s Book Adaptations

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

“Where the Wild Things Are”

Maurice Sendak’s weird and wonderful picture book is only 338 words long, but managed to tell a memorable tale through vivid illustrations. A little boy named Max is sent to bed without his supper, only to find his bedroom transformed into a wild jungle. He soon meets the “Wild Things,” fearsome creatures who romp with him, then crown Max their king. Spike Jonze adapted the book into a feature-film in 2009, crafting the epic beasts as a blend of computer-generated animation and performers in oversized, hairy costumes. The result was exciting and innovative.


Renowned British children’s author Roald Dahl wrote “Matilda” in 1988, and the book was adapted into a fantastic film directed by Danny Devito and starring the adorable, precocious Mara Wilson in 1996. The book also became a successful musical, written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. In each version, Matilda is a brainy little protagonist who loves nothing more than learning and literature. She also happens to have superpowers stemming from her genius; but she only uses them to help people.


The novel by Gregory Maguire is technically a young adult book, inspired by the characters and themes of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (definitely a children’s classic). But Maguire’s novel is considerably darker and more adult than the original; instead of following Dorothy, the story’s heroine is the Wicked Witch of the West, a woman not nearly as wicked as she seems. She’s actually a complex and tragic figure. Stephen Schwartz’s 2003 smash hit Broadway musical adaptation of “Wicked” starred Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel and has been running on Broadway for 5,000 performances.

“Marry Poppins”

Everyone knows the 1964 Walt Disney musical starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke; Andrews won an Oscar for Best Actress for the film, and iconic song numbers like “Chim Chim Cher-ee” (during which the characters dance with chimney sweeps on rooftops), “A Spoonful of Sugar” and, of course, the unpronounceable “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” have become cultural staples. But far fewer people have read the original “Mary Poppins” books; eight in all, written by P.L. Travers, published from 1934 to 1988. The series follows an English nanny who cares for the Banks children in London. She’s magical, and leads the kids on strange adventures – although she’s meaner and more aloof in the books.

— Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer


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