Middle-grade Book-to-Movie Picks

“The book was better than the movie.”     

“They totally changed that part!”     

It’s hard to translate fully realised worlds and characters of entire novels within 90 minutes of screen time, but there are plenty of great middle-grade book-to-movie adaptations worthy of a couple of bowls of popcorn.     

Here are some of my favorites!      

Buy @ indiebound.org

 HOLES by Louis Sachar: the book!     

Stanley Yelnats and his family are cursed with a long history of bad luck. A miscarriage of justice sends Stanley to a strange desert camp for troubled teens where the ‘campers’ spend their days digging holes in the sand. To what end? The mysterious reason behind the holes is a closely guarded secret by the warden and her posse. Hilarity ensues.     

4/4 Bookmarks!   

View trailer

 The movie!     

Sigourney Weaver is awesome as the lipstick wielding Warden Walker. The rest of the cast (from Caveman, Zero, Squid and Armpit) is pitch-perfect. A great book-to-movie adaptation with great scenery, music and as close to the book as you can get.     

4/4 Bowls of Popcorn!    


Buy @indiebound.org

 NIM’S ISLAND by Wendy Orr: the book!    

 Nim is an adventurous girl with a great imagination. When her scientist father disappears from their idyllic island home, Nim is left with only a pet iguana, an adventure novel and an e-mail link to her favourite author. A modern day, pint-sized Robinson Crusoe. 

4/4 Bookmarks!   

View trailer

 The movie!

 Adventure, a touch of danger and well-trained animals make for a highly watchable movie. Nim’s character, played by Abigail Breslin , outshines Jodi Foster’s role as reclusive author, Alex Rover, but both are still very entertaining.    

3.5/4 Bowls of Popcorn!     



Buy @indiebound.org

 THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX by Kate DiCamillo: the book!     

“Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish.”  What’s not to love?    

4/4 Bookmarks!        

View trailer

The movie!    

Great as an animated adaptation because, well, the main character is a MOUSE but more than that, the animation is gorgeous, moody and evocative.  Dungeon scenes are a bit dark but, conversely, Mig’s storyline is less harsh than in the book.     

3.5/4 Bowls of Popcorn!     


Here are a few more suggestions from Mixed Up Files authors and my bibliovideophile friends (please add your picks in the comments!):     

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (book/movie)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (book/movie)
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling (book/movie)
How to Train your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (book/movie)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (book/movie)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (book/movie)
Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key (book/movie)
Hotel for Dogs by Lois Duncan (book/movie)
Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman (book/movie)
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (book/movie)
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (book/movie)
The Borrowers by Mary Norton (book/movie)
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (book/movie)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (book/movie)
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (book/movie)
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (book/movie)
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (book/movie)
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell (book/movie)
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks (book/movie)
Stuart Little by E. B. White (book/movie)
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (book/movie)
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (book/movie)
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Raold Dahl (book/movie)
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (book/movie)

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Happy reading and viewing! 
Hélène Boudreau loves to read middle-grade books, listen to middle-grade books and watch middle-grade book-to-movie adaptations. Her own upper middle-grade book, REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky) will be released Dec.1/2010 in book and audiobook format, though she can’t resist casting the characters in her head. You can visit her at www.heleneboudreau.com

Helene Boudreau
  1. As a big fan of The Tale of Desperaux was so sad to see the story butchered by the movie. The Lightning Thief is another example of great book/bad movie. A Series of Unfortunate Events was good and many of the Roald Dahl books to movies worked. We love Matilda at our house! I didn’t know they made a movie of The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. either-I’ll have to hunt it down.

  2. What a great list! I can’t wait until my kids are older so I have an (official!) excuse to immerse myself in these movies.

  3. I just saw the new movie Flipped based on the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen. It was a great adaption (though I still like the book better).

  4. One of my all-time favorite film adaptations is Alfonse Cuaron’s superb version of A LITTLE PRINCESS. That movie, as much as any other, creates a mesmerizing sense of how children can, even under severe duress, summon up and enmesh themselves in a world that springs entirely from imagination and belief in the possibility of wondrous, magical events.

  5. How nice to be mentioned here with some of my own favourites!

  6. I was nervous about Holes the movie version but I thought they did a great job 🙂

  7. All I can say is poor, poor Rick Riordan. They really butchered his fabulous book when they made the movie. I hope people who have only seen the movie will not be put off and will still go out and get the book, because it really is a stunning piece of MG fiction that everyone should experience.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  8. Okay, lol, a few more,

    Because of Winn Dixie

    Anne of Green Gables

    Girl of the Limberlost (not sure if the movie is still about, but a great classic)

  9. Fantastic list, Helene! A couple to add:

    Series of Unfortunate Events
    Spiderwick Chronicles

    Hmmm, this gives me an idea for my book club, thanks!!

  10. My favorite book to movie (though it might not be strictly middle grade) is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They did a brilliant job with that translation.

  11. Wow–I am recommending NIMH as a read-aloud in my next blog entry. Must be something in the air.

  12. Glad to see The Borrowers on this list. Haven’t seen the movie, but I can still recall many of the B books from childhood – aeons ago – ans this is a great reminder to track the movie version down at the video store. Great article, Helene.

  13. Deniz, so funny you mention NIMH. It was my first book to movie experience, and it wasn’t pleasant. The changes were to much for me. That experience has always made me wary of book movies.

  14. Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH!