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Do the best books make the best movies?

When I was little, I absolutely loved the Ramona book series written by Beverly Cleary. The movie version, Ramona and Beezus, comes out today, and I have mixed feelings about this.

Any avid book lover knows that a movie adaptation can go two ways—they can take one of your favorite stories, and all the images you pictured when you read them, and your interpretation of the characters, and totally and completely muck it up—or, they bring delight to millions of fans by bringing our favorite fictional characters to life. This balancing act between a good movie adaptation and a potential disaster is, I think, even more dangerous when we’re talking about children’s books—you don’t want to mess with people’s sense of nostalgia the wrong way.

I’ve seen some great movie adaptations of some of my favorite children’s books—Horton Hears a Who, A Little Princess, Charlotte’s Web—and I’ve also seem some pretty terrible ones, which shall remain nameless here.

The same is true of adult movies—I Am Legend, I Robot, Fight Club (yes people, it was a book first), Romeo and Juliet, My Sister’s Keeper, Lord of the Rings, The Shining, Carrie, It, and on and on.

Why do you think great books get turned into movies? Does it open up a great story for those who wouldn’t normally pick up the book, or dumb down great books and ruin the way the fans remember them? What are some of your favorite book-to-movie adaptations? What makes them successful, or not? Is it the actors, directors, setting, or some subtle combination of these elements that makes it work?

–Jennifer Ringler

Check out the trailer for Ramona and Beezus:

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