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Books for little readers become big screen fodder In Focus by Richard Crouse METRO CANADA Published: June 08, 2011

Mr.-Poppers-Penguins-movieAccording to Wikipedia, books written specifically for children have existed since the 17th century.

Some of those books and stories have endured — Charles Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Some have not — remember the 1658 book, Orbis Pictus in Bohemia? However, stories for kids remain among the top sellers at bookstores and on line.

Hollywood has been paying attention. As far back as 1910, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz graced the silent screen and this summer, 101 years later, the parade of movies adapted from children’s books shows no sign of slowing.

Next week Jim Carrey brings the Richard and Florence Atwater book Mr. Popper’s Penguins to life, and this weekend Heather Graham stars in an adaptation of Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.

In the world of kid lit, the name Dr. Seuss looms larger than most. His books are classics. Unfortunately, the movies made from his work tend not to be.

Although Theodor Geisel (the good doctor’s real name) had great success on the small screen with animated specials like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, he was reluctant to allow his creations to be turned into films.

Two uneven adaptations — Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Mike Myers as The Cat in the Hat — so annoyed the writer’s widow, Audrey, that she vowed to never again allow live-action versions of her husband’s books.

Apparently animation adaptations are OK, and in 2008, Horton Hears a Who!, a big CGI film featuring the voices of Jim Carrey, Steve Carell and Carol Burnett earned good reviews and broke the Dr. Seuss silver screen curse.

One writer whose work seemed made to entertain kids at movie theatres was Roald Dahl. From Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (later remade by Tim Burton as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) to James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr. Fox to The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), his stories have easily adapted to live-action, stop-motion or traditional animation treatments.

Of course, not all movies that sound like adaptations of children’s books are the real deal. Think twice before you rent The Woodsman.

The title may sound reminiscent of Little Red Rising Hood, but it’s a dark drama about decidedly non-kid-friendly events and although Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? is based on Hansel and Gretel, be careful. It’s the stuff of nightmares for little ones.

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