Magazine article Book

Positive Projections: Good Things Can Happen to Children's Books-And the Authors of Children's Books-When the Lights Go Down in the Multiplex

Magazine article Book

Positive Projections: Good Things Can Happen to Children's Books-And the Authors of Children's Books-When the Lights Go Down in the Multiplex

Article excerpt

NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS movie," someone once said, but in the world of children's lit a film adaptation is sometimes the best thing that can happen to a book. Take Babe: The Gallant Pig, a heartwarming story by the British writer Dick King-Smith. The 1995 movie version, with the truncated title Babe, received six Academy Award nominations and catapulted the book and its author to international fame.

"When I went to see it in London, I had no idea what to expect," says King-Smith, recalling his attendance eight years ago. "Within ten minutes, I was delighted. Within a half hour, I was enthralled. And at the end, I had a bit of a cry. I've seen it seven times now and wept every time."

The eighty-year-old author adds that the movie "definitely upped" his profile--he gets thousands of letters every year from children around the world. "Since the movie and video came out," he says, "I haven't met a child who hasn't seen it and loved it." And the really great news for the book's original fans is that, according to King-Smith's American publisher, all of his books--not just Babe--gained in popularity after the movie's release. It's worth mentioning that King-Smith hasn't seen the film's sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, which was not based on his books. Justine Korman's Pig in the City, the book version of the sequel, is a novelization of the film. "I hear the movie's rather a turkey," says King-Smith, "and I can't even bear to look at the book." Still, he's not complaining, since the original Babe film did him so much good.

Among the porcine charmer's fans is another children's author with some Hollywood experience. "Babe is a wonderful movie--and as a parent, I see a lot of children's movies," explains Chris Van Allsburg, whose award-winning picture book Jumanji became a 1995 blockbuster for Robin Williams. In fact, Van Allsburg says, becoming a parent--and watching so many kids' flicks--changed his assessment of Jumanji the film. "At first, I felt it was too much of an action movie, that it lost touch with my book's surreal quality," he says. "But I watched it on television a few months ago with my seven-year-old daughter, and this time I saw a compelling story in it about a boy who lost his childhood and struggles to regain it."

Now Van Allsburg has film studios considering three of his other books, and he's awaiting the film version of his Christmas classic The Polar Express, due out next year. Tom Hanks is on board to play the conductor of the eponymous train.

Moving pictures

Okay, so movies can be good for authors, but what about children? Don't movies just keep them from reading the book? …

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