When you read a great book, is watching the movie really a good next step? The answer is a resounding yes. In fourth grade, making connections between a written story and a visual or oral presentation of the story and describing a story’s themes, characters, and events are key reading skills under the Common Core Standards. After your child has read a book and seen the movie, practice these skills by talking about how the two compare. For example, ask: Did you like the book or the movie better? Why? How are they different? How are the characters different in the movie than you imagined them while reading the book? What would you have done differently with the characters? Why?
4th grade books so great, they made a movie
Beezus and Ramona
by: Beverly Cleary, illustrated by: Arthur Dorros and Tracy Dockray - (W. Morrow, 1955) 176 pages.
Nine-year-old Beezus is much too grown up to hang out with her little sister, Ramona, who does embarrassingly babyish things like wearing paper bunny ears and dragging around an imaginary pet lizard on a string. Beezus tries to be patient, but Ramona is impossible! This story is more than 50 years old, but today’s kids will still crack up when Ramona powders her nose with a marshmallow and takes a single bite out of every apple in the house. And they’ll sympathize with Beezus, who learns that while she’ll always love her attention-getting little sister, that doesn’t mean she always has like her.
Want to see the movie? Check out Ramona and Beezus (2010) starring Selena Gomez as Beezus, which adds elements from several books in the series to the Beezus and Ramona plot.
Perfect for: Kids with siblings, older and younger.
Find Beezus and Ramona at your local library.
by: Mary Norton, illustrated by: Beth and Joe Krush - (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1953) 192 pages.
The hook: Young teen Arietty Clock and her parents are tiny people called borrowers. They live under the floorboards in a house inhabited by giant “human beans,” surviving by sneaking up into the house for scraps of food and other tiny leavings. When Arietty is spotted by a human boy and the two strike up a forbidden friendship, Arietty’s father is horrified. But then the cook starts to notice that food is disappearing, and the Clock family may need the boy’s help to escape being discovered. This imaginative tale and its four sequels have sparked a love of fantasy in countless children since it was first published in 1952.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1998 live-action version starring John Goodman, or the beautifully animated Japanese version, The Secret World of Arietty, released in 2012.
Perfect for: Kids with big imaginations.
Bridge to Terabithia
by: Katherine Paterson - (HarperCollins, 1977) 176 pages.
Terabithia is a secret kingdom that Jess creates with his friend Leslie in the woods outside her house. The two retreat there to vanquish giants and zombies, and to escape the tedium of school and the cruelty of classmates. In Terabithia, it doesn’t matter that Jess’s family is very poor, or that he and Leslie are considered losers at school. But one day an accident changes everything and Jess has to deal with the pain and permanence of loss.
Want to see the movie? The 2007 adaptation sensitively covers the mature themes in the book, including the death of a main character.
Perfect for: Kids who like intense friendship.
Find Bridge to Terabithia at your local library.
by: E.B. White, illustrated by: Garth Williams - (HarperCollins Publishers, 1952) 192 pages.
This children’s classic makes heroes of two of the most maligned members of the animal kingdom: the spider and the pig. Charlotte, a spider, and a little pig Wilbur form a barnyard friendship that eases Wilbur’s loneliness — and ultimately saves his life. Both kids and adults will be moved by these animals’ courage and devotion to each other, and the power of empathy, no matter how humble the package.
Want to see the movie? The 2006 live-action adaptation features Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte.
Perfect for: Kids who like classics.
Find Charlotte’s Web at your local library.
by: Neil Gaiman - (HarperCollins Publishers, 2002) 208 pages.
Coraline’s world is full of frustrating things: her boring bedroom, her dad’s bad cooking, and the fact that everyone mispronounces her name. Rain frustrates her too, because when it rains her mother won’t let her go outside. One especially rainy day she has nothing to do so she explores her new house and discovers a world much like her own, only better. Coraline is thrilled at first, until she learns that this new world is full of dark secrets that threaten her family and her future.
Want to see the movie? Young or sensitive kids may find the deliciously creepy 2009 adaptation to be a bit too frightening.
Perfect for: Kids who like the thrill of being scared.
Find Coraline at your local library.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
by: Jeff Kinney - (Amulet Books, 2007) 244 pages.
The main character, Greg, is a kid who usually doesn’t do the right thing the first time around. His cluelessness about what would keep him out of trouble and why parents, teachers and friends are upset with him is part of the book’s humor, which leads the reader to any lesson Greg should be learning. Parents will appreciate that his friend’s dad looks up video games on a parent Web site to see if they have too much violence. Also, you can tell that Greg’s mom is working hard to raise respectful sons. When a bikini picture from her oldest son Rodrick’s heavy metal magazine ends up in her youngest son’s hands for show-and-tell, she makes Rodrick apologize to all women on paper. Parents will also be thrilled to know that despite the fact that the book is written in less-formal journal style with fun cartoons, everything is spelled correctly (i.e., no texting slang in sight!).
Want to see the movie? The 2010 film version tells the story of Greg’s quest to become popular and features lots of goofy lowbrow jokes about bodily functions.
Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.
Find Diary of a Wimpy Kid at your local library.
Harriet the Spy
by: Louise Fitzhugh - (Harper & Row, 1964) 320 pages.
Precocious, slightly lonely, 11-year-old Harriet wants to be a writer when she grows up. She spends her afternoons writing down her uncensored and decidedly unflattering observations about her neighbors and classmates in a secret spy notebook. But when the other kids find the notebook, they form a Spy Catchers’ Club — and Harriet is NOT invited. This funny novel deals with issues central to the tween experience like friendships and peer rejection, without being sappy.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1997 film starring Rosie O’Donnell as Harriet’s nanny.
Perfect for: Observant kids who notice everything.
Find Harriet the Spy at your local library.
by: Cornelia Funke - (Scholastic, 2003) 534 pages.
Meggie’s life changed forever one rainy night when she looked out the window and saw a stranger standing outside her window. This was her first sighting of Dustfinger, one of many colorful characters that her father brought to life from the pages of the book Inkheart. Meggie’s father, Mo, has a special talent — when he reads aloud, characters from the book switch places with people from the outside world. In fact, Meggie does not know this yet, but this is how her own mother disappeared nine years before. Now, the evil Capricorn wants another character brought to life, and is determined to have Mo read aloud. This fascinating multi-layered story is an enjoyable but dark read for anyone who loves a good story within a story.
Want to see the movie? The 2009 adaptation stars Brendan Fraser and Helen Mirren and stays fairly close to the book’s storyline.
Perfect for: Kids who like science fiction and fantasy.
Find Inkheart at your local library.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by: Brian Selznick - (Scholastic, Inc., 2007) 544 pages.
Hugo is an orphan who tends the clocks in a Paris train station. He lives a lonely existence in the shadows of the station, stealing food and dodging the Station Inspector. One day he encounters a flinty old man who has even more secrets than he does. With the support of his friend, Isabelle, Hugo discovers the key to his past and the old man’s — and both find a measure of happiness. This powerful story is beautifully illustrated to create the pace and visual effects of a movie.
Want to see the movie? Check out Martin Scorsese’s 2011 Hugo, which won five Academy Awards.
Perfect for: Kids who like historical fiction.
Find The Invention of Hugo Cabret at your local library.
James and the Giant Peach
by: Roald Dahl, illustrated by: Quentin Blake - (A.A. Knopf, 1961) 126 pages.
James Henry Trotter leads a happy life until his parents are eaten by an escaped rhinoceros and he is thrust into the world of his nasty aunts, Sponge and Spiker. Then he becomes “the saddest and loneliest boy you could find.” When a little man in a dark green suit gives James a bag of magic crystals, the story takes off. James finds an “ancient peach tree that never gave any peaches,” but with the magic crystals, it suddenly does! A single peach grows and keeps growing until James can climb inside and roll away from his horrible aunts to a whole new life. James befriends overgrown garden dwellers, Grasshopper, Earthworm, Miss Spider and Centipede. James and the Giant Peach is considered by many to be one of the finest children’s books ever written.
Want to see the movie? The 1996 adaptation combines stop-motion and live action, plus a few musical numbers.
Perfect for: Kids who like classic stories.
Find James and the Giant Peach at your local library.
by: Chris Van Allsburg - (Houghton Mifflin, 1981) 32 pages.
Judy and Peter’s parents go to the opera, leaving them with instructions “to keep the house neat.” The children soon find themselves bored with their toys, after making a mess with them as soon as Mom and Dad have walked out the door. They go to the park, where they find a board game and bring it home only to discover that it is not the usual run-of-the-mill game. With a roll of the dice, a real lion may appear or an erupting volcano, and of course, let’s not forget the monkeys. Boredom is no longer an issue! Van Allsburg’s artistry is top notch as the children’s predicament gets more and more fantastic. The sculptured drawings and play between shadow and light demonstrate how a regular house can transform into a raging jungle. Jumanji was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and winner of the 1982 Caldecott Medal.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1997 film starring Robin Williams, which fleshes out the short story into a full-length feature.
Perfect for: Kids who like classic stories.
Find Jumanji at your local library.
Little House in the Big Woods
by: Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by: Garth Williams - (Harper & Bros., 1953) 256 pages.
Little House In The Big Woods is a classic reborn with great illustrations by Garth Williams. New readers and those familiar with Laura Ingalls and her family will love following along as Laura takes them through a year in the life of the little family of pioneers. This story is a straightforward, fun read with a child’s look into the life of a pioneer. It’s great to see Laura and her sisters take simple pleasure in playing with their dolls, making homemade goodies and listening to their father’s stories. Laura Ingalls is a kid who loves to help her family, is afraid of wolves and hates her “boring” brown hair. She lives in a little house in the big woods where she and her siblings work hard at their many chores, mind their ma and pa, go to school all in one room and have lots of frontier adventures.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1974 TV series, which loosely follows the storylines of all of the Little House books.
Perfect for: Kids who like classic stories.
Find Little House in the Big Woods at your local library.
by: Roald Dahl, illustrated by: Quentin Blake - (Viking Juvenile, 1988) 240 pages.
With his hallmark wit and humor, Dahl tells the tale of Matilda, a child prodigy who defends her sweet teacher against the terrible school principal, Mrs. Trunchbull. Children will love learning about Matilda and her extraordinary powers.
Want to see the movie? The 1996 film sets the action in America instead of England but stays fairly true to the book’s plot.
Perfect for: Kids who like school.
Find Matilda at your local library.
by: Wendy Orr, illustrated by: Kerry Millard - (Yearling Books, 2001) 125 pages.
Take a spunky heroine competently surviving on her own on a deserted island (the ultimate kid fantasy). Add in animal friends who seem to understand, the vaguest of villains hovering in the background and easily overcome, a smattering of scientific information effortlessly absorbed and a very satisfying conclusion. Then write it in breezy style, making the various pieces of the story fit together in a nicely coincidental, jigsaw-puzzle way. All together it makes for one delightful story.
Want to see the movie? Check out the sweetly imaginative, family-friendly 2008 film starring Jodie Foster.
Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.
Find Nim’s Island at your local library.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
by: Lemony Snicket - (HarperCollins Publishers, 2009) 188 pages.
The hook: No child has ever endured more bad luck than the three Baudelaire waifs. Over the course of the 13-book series, they endure relentless misfortune at the hands of their vile uncle, the malevolent Count Olaf. At times, it makes for almost unbearable reading, but Snicket’s tangy sense of humor and masterful command of three-dollar words keep you wanting more. Find A Series of Unfortunate Events at your local library.
Want to see the movie? Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events starring Jim Carrey comprises the first three books in the series.
Perfect for: Older kids who appreciate humor in evil adults, miserable orphans, and extravagant vocabularies.
by: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - (Simon and Schuster, 1991) 144 pages.
Nothing is simple in this taut, unforgettable drama. Kids love this edge-of-the-seat story of a boy going up against a really scary mean man to protect an abused dog.
Want to see the movie? The 1997 film changes some plot details but stays true to the spirit of the book.
Perfect for: Kids who like classic stories.
Find Shiloh at your local library.
by: E.B. White, illustrated by: Garth Williams - (Harper & Row, 1945) 131 pages.
When the Little family’s second son arrives, they are surprised to find that he looks just like a mouse! It’s tough growing up mouse-sized in a regular-sized family in New York City — hazards are everywhere. But Stuart’s pluck and humor see him through many adventures, from getting tangled up in the window blinds to racing a model sailboat in Central Park. And when his bird friend Margalo is chased away by the family cat, Stuart hits the open road in a gas-powered toy car on his greatest adventure of all. The short but dramatic chapters make this a great choice for readers making the transition from short books to novels.
Want to see the movie? Check out the live-action film from 1999, which features the voice of Michael J. Fox as Stuart.
Perfect for: Kids who want a little inspiration to be brave.
Find Stuart Little at your local library.
The Trumpet of the Swan
by: E.B. White, illustrated by: Fred Marcellino - (HarperCollins, 2001) 252 pages.
Louis the swan is born with a disability — he has no “HONK!” He learns to communicate via a brass trumpet that his father steals from a music store, then a human friend, Sam, teaches him to read and write. Uplifting, exciting tale of love and courage, with old-fashioned sepia illustrations.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2001 animated film featuring the voice talents of Carol Burnett and Reese Witherspoon.
Perfect for: Kids who have ever felt different.
Find The Trumpet of the Swan at your local library.
by: Natalie Babbitt - (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975) 40 pages.
When Winnie Foster is kidnapped she’s terrified at first, but she soon realizes her kidnappers, the Tuck family, are kind people with an astonishing secret. The Tucks will never die, which turns out to be less of a blessing than one might think. The situation — and Winnie’s choices — grows complicated when a stranger shows up, hoping to profit off of the spring water that made the Tucks immortal. A gentle but powerful reflection on mortality, and on what constitutes a meaningful life.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2002 adaptation, in which the character Winnie is 15 instead of 10.
Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.
Find Tuck Everlasting at your local library.
A Wrinkle in Time
by: Madeleine L’Engle - (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1962) 256 pages.
Meg, an awkward girl who doesn’t quite fit in, has a lot to worry about. Her beloved father has suddenly disappeared, and neighbors are beginning to gossip that he’s run off with another woman. It turns out that his disappearance is connected with his scientific work, and Meg, her brilliant little brother, and her friend Calvin set out to find him — a search that takes them on an exciting but dangerous galactic adventure.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2006 adaptation, which dramatizes the struggle between good and evil, or the new release coming spring 2018.
Perfect for: Kids who like science fiction and fantasy.
Find A Wrinkle in Time at your local library.
Harry Potter series, books 1-3
by: J.K. Rowling - (A.A. Levine Books, 1998)
The hook: In the first three books of this iconic seven-book series, we meet Harry Potter, who discovers that he is a wizard on his 11th birthday. That day, he happily departs his horrible aunt and uncle’s house in the London suburbs for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As he settles in to boarding school and the world of magic, Harry learns secrets about his past and hints about his future destiny in the company of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, professors of a variety of magical subjects, school ghosts, and Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. As Harry ages, the books’ themes and language get more complex, making this a great series for kids to grow with. We recommend the first three books (and their corresponding movies) starting in fourth grade — and waiting till sixth grade to tackle books (and movies) four through seven.
Want to see the movie? Check out the first three movies, which, like the books, get progressively scarier and more complex.
Perfect for: Kids who want to believe in magic.