9 Books to Read With Kids Before You See the Movies in 2016
These characters make the leap from page to screen this year and will help your children love literature
From sweet children's classics to a swoon-worthy romance, movie adaptations of kids' and teen books in 2016 are likely to be big box-office draws for families. If you or your kids like to read 'em before you see 'em, here's a list to help you get ready between June and next Christmas.
1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (in theaters June 3; targeted to teens)
A girl (Emilia Clarke) in a tiny English town becomes the caretaker of an adventurer who was left a quadriplegic (Sam Claflin) after an accident. He's bent on assisted suicide, while she aims to give him something to live for. Their transformative relationship keeps the novel from becoming maudlin; hopefully, the movie can maintain that balance.
A popular choice for beginning chapter-book readers, The BFG is a fun fantasy about a Big Friendly Giant (BFG) who prowls British streets blowing dreams into children's minds. After he plucks young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) out of her orphanage, she hatches a plan for him to stop the not-friendly giants who eat children. Wacky wordplay makes the book a great read-aloud. Steven Spielberg directs.
3. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs (in theaters July 1; targeted to teens)
The first book in the multivolume Tarzan series introduces readers to an English boy raised by apes in the African jungle after his parents are killed. The film The Legend of Tarzan, starring Alexander Skarsgard as the vine-swinging hunk, follows Tarzan's adventures after he's called back from his home in London to investigate a mining operation. The original novel, while viewed as a classic, features lurid human and animal violence, as well as racial and gender stereotypes that make it ripe for discussion from our 21st-century perspective.
4. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (in theaters Sept. 30; targeted to teens)
This is the first book in a gripping, spine-tingling, time-traveling gothic trilogy about 16-year-old Jacob, who explores the mysterious orphanage where his grandfather was sent before World War II and encounters the monsters and "peculiars" linked to it. More than 40 creepy vintage photographs lend a sense of eerie realism to the shadowy atmosphere. The film adaptation by director Tim Burton (Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas) stars Asa Butterfield (Ender's Game, Hugo), as well as Samuel L. Jackson and Judi Dench.
5. Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts (in theaters Oct. 7; targeted to kids)
This irreverent story of middle school life centers on Rafe, a boy who becomes the target of a bully. He develops a strong friendship with Leo, whose drawings enliven the pages and add to the appeal for reluctant readers. Steve Carr (Paul Bart: Mall Cop) directs, and Griffin Gluck ("Red Band Society") plays Rafe.
6. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (in theaters Oct. 14; targeted to teens)
A giant yew tree haunts a boy dealing with his mother's terminal illness in this moving story of love and loss, amplified by Jim Kay's dramatic pen-and-ink illustrations. Menacing but also protective, fierce, and funny, the tree makes young Conor's pain more bearable by giving him something tangible to fight against. The movie stars Liam Neeson as the Monster, Lewis MacDougall as Conor, Felicity Jones as his mum, and Sigourney Weaver as Grandma.
7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling (in theaters Nov. 18; targeted to kids)
Rowling's short book purports to be a Hogwarts textbook that describes various beasts and dragons but doesn't tell a story. For the film, which stars Eddie Redmayne as textbook author Newt Scamander, Rowling wrote an original story about Scamander's adventures in New York's secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter first arrived at Hogwarts.
8. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (in theaters fall 2016; targeted to kids)
Gilly Hopkins is one tough cookie. She beats up boys and terrorizes her teachers and foster parents. But she meets her match in Mrs. Trotter, whose strongest weapon is unconditional love. The film adaptation of this Newbery Honor book stars Sophie Nélisse (The Book Thief) as Gilly and Kathy Bates as Mrs. Trotter.
9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (on Netflix later this year, date unannounced; targeted to kids)
This classic fable about a pilot who encounters a planet-hopping prince in the Sahara Desert is a lyrical meditation on love and friendship, translated from the original French. Though it looks like a kids' book — and has no material that's inappropriate for elementary school-age kids — the book's critique of adult behavior and nostalgia for childhood may be better suited to older readers. The animated adaptation frames the tale of the Aviator and the Little Prince with the story of a little girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) and her eccentric older neighbor (voiced by Jeff Bridges).