Does watching the movie version really help your child learn? Yes. Really! In sixth grade, comparing the experience of reading a story to the experience of watching or listening to an audio, video, or staged version is a key reading skill under the Common Core Standards. After your child has read a book and seen the movie, talk about how the two compare. For example, Are the characters in the movie different than you imagined while reading the book? What parts of the book did the filmmaker omit and why? If you were reviewing this movie for a magazine, what would you write?
6th grade books so great, they made a movie
Eragon: The Inheritance Cycle, Book 1
by: Christopher Paolini - (Knopf, 2003) 528 pages.
The hook: On a hunting trip on the foreboding mountain range known as the Spine, 15-year-old Eragon finds a mysterious blue stone that turns out to be a dragon egg. The dragon hatches and brands his palm with the silver mark that signifies that the two are a bonded pair, the last dragon and dragon rider in all of Alagaesia. When terrifying visitors destroy Eragon’s farm, Eragon and Saphira set out with the town storyteller, Brom, to pursue their destiny — to defeat the evil king, Galbatorix. This is the first book in the four-book Inheritance Cycle series, which is reminiscent of Tolkien and full of ancient magic, elves, dwarves, and dragon lore. A map and glossary help kids keep track of the exotic place names and words in fantasy languages. And the fact that the author was 15 when he began writing the series may inspire young readers to get writing themselves.
Want to see the movie? The 2007 adaptation, Eragon, may help readers visualize creatures and events in the book.
Perfect for: Readers (and budding writers) of epic fantasy fiction.
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book 1
by: Philip Pullman - (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996) 432 pages.
Like everyone in her world, 10-year-old Lyra’s soul exists outside of her body in the form of an animal companion, or daemon. Lyra and her fierce, mischievous daemon, Pantalaimon, have been raised at Oxford college, where they’ve been left to do mostly as they please by the elderly scholars who are Lyra’s guardians. When Lyra’s friend Roger is kidnapped by the mysterious child-snatching Gobblers, Lyra sets off to find him with the dazzling Mrs. Coulter and a magical compass which foretells the future — but only to one who can read it. This dramatic tale of armored polar bears, witch clans, and hot air balloon rides interweaves science, theology, and magic. And the adventure continues in two more books.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2007 adaptation starring Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, which follows the plot of the first book in the series.
Perfect for: Kids who like brainy fantasy with an edge.
Find The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book 1 at your local library.
by: J.R.R. Tolkien - (Houghton Mifflin, 1966) 300 pages.
Bilbo Baggins wasn’t looking for adventure — it arrived on his doorstep in the form of 13 dwarves and the wizard Gandalf, who ask him to join their quest to reclaim a stolen treasure. The reluctant hobbit goes on a thrilling journey to confront the dragon Smaug, and in the process encounters hungry trolls, killer spiders, and an ancient magical ring. Readers may recognize some of the characters from The Lord of the Rings trilogy in this prequel, which is a more approachable read for tweens.
Want to see the movie? Try the live-action trilogy inspired by the book, beginning with The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey from 2012.
Perfect for: Kids who like epic adventure stories.
Find The Hobbit at your local library.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
by: C.S. Lewis, illustrated by: Pauline Baynes - (HarperCollins Children's Books, 1950) 208 pages.
Classic fantasy story for kids. Parents need to know that the plot and writing, although superior, are somewhat dated, and the art is small and simplistic. The language is simple but precise, and the main characters act valiantly to help save Narnia from the White Queen’s enchantment (though one is initially caught under her sway). Contains bits of British culture and Christian allegory.
Want to see the movie? The lavish 2005 adaptation stays fairly true to the book.
Perfect for: Kids who like classic stories.
Find The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at your local library.
My Dog Skip
by: Willie Morris - (Random House, 1995) 122 pages.
Willie Morris is 9 years old when he meets his best friend — a spunky fox terrier puppy named Skip. This is the true story of an intense bond formed between a boy and his dog as they grow up together in rural Mississippi in the 1940s. More a series of vignettes than a full novel, this short read is a good introduction to memoir for tween readers.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2000 adaptation, which adds a lot of details to flesh out the plot.
Perfect for: Kids who love dogs.
Find My Dog Skip at your local library.
My Friend Flicka
by: Mary O’Hara - (Lippincott, 1941) 352 pages.
Ten-year-old Ken McLaughlin is a daydreamer. He can’t concentrate on school and is desperate for the chance to train his own colt on his family’s horse farm in Wyoming. When he finally gets his chance, the bond that develops between Ken and the fiery mustang, Flicka, is intense and life changing.
Want to see the movie? Fans of classic movies might enjoy the 1943 version, which closely follows the book, but readers looking for a modern remake should check out the 2006 film Flicka, which reimagines the story with a girl protagonist.
Perfect for: Kids who dream of having their own horse.
Find My Friend Flicka at your local library.
The Neverending Story
by: Michael Ende - (Doubleday, 1983) 448 pages.
Shy, bookish Bastian Bux is ignored by his father and picked on by other kids. One day he ducks into an antique bookstore to escape bullies and impulsively picks up a copy of The Neverending Story. Bastian starts reading about the young warrior Atreyu and the plight of the Childlike Empress and soon finds himself not just immersed, but literally pulled into the action of the story. His character and his own story change as a result.
Want to see the movie? The 1984 adaptation is a cult classic, but only covers part of the book’s plot.
Perfect for: Any kid who has ever gotten lost in a good book.
Find The Neverending Story at your local library.
by: S.E. Hinton - (Viking Press, 1967) 224 pages.
Ponyboy, a proud Greaser from the wrong side of the tracks, is always up for a rumble against the rich Socs (short for “Socials”). But when his best friend, Johnny, accidentally kills one of the Socs gang, 14-year old Ponyboy must confront the violent reality of his life and make choices that will determine his future. The Outsiders was written by a high school student in 1967, and the story’s themes about class, violence, and teen coming-of-age still resonate with tweens and teens today.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1983 adaptation directed by Francis Ford Coppola, though parents should note that the movie features violence and underage drinking.
Perfect for: Kids who like gritty realistic fiction.
Find The Outsiders at your local library.
by: Robert Louis Stevenson - (Cassell and Company, 1883) 160 pages.
After a pirate dies at his family’s inn, young Jim Hawkins finds a map to a secret buried treasure. Jim shows the map to the local squire, and the two, along with the town doctor, decide to outfit a ship and go in search of the treasure. But when the trio hire on the scheming pirate Long John Silver to be the ship’s cook, their treasure hunt takes a murderous turn. Compelling characters and lots of suspense help kids tackle this classic book, which is a great vocabulary builder.
Want to see the movie? There are lots of adaptations. Readers looking for a classic take might enjoy the 1950 Disney version, but those looking for something silly might like Muppet Treasure Island (1995) or the animated Treasure Planet (2002), which sets the story in space.
Perfect for: Kids who like seafaring adventure.
Find Treasure Island at your local library.
by: Michael Morpurgo - (Scholastic Press, 1982) 176 pages.
Joey, a beautiful foal with distinctive markings on his nose, and Albert, the boy who raised him on an English farm, share a special bond. In the midst of World War I, Albert’s father sells Joey to the army to help pay his debts, and the boy and his horse are separated. What follows is an account of the horrors of war told from Joey’s point of view, even as Albert never gives up hope of finding his beloved friend again. Kids who love animals will connect with Joey, whose story offers an unusual perspective on the impact of war.
Want to see the movie? Check out the Steven Spielberg adaptation from 2011 starring Benedict Cumberbatch, though parents should note this PG-13 film has some intense violence.
Perfect for: Animal lovers and anyone who’s ever wanted a horse.
Find War Horse at your local library.
by: Richard Adams - (Macmillan, 1972) 476 pages.
When the rabbit Fiver has a terrible premonition about his warren, he and his brother Hazel gather a group of young rabbits to seek a new home in the English countryside. They evade predators and farmers’ snares and eventually make it to the safety of Watership Down. But before they can settle in, they discover that their search is not over. Well-developed characters and engaging details make this a great introduction to allegory for young readers. And a helpful glossary will help readers who struggle with the “rabbitese.”
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1978 animated adaptation, which will appeal to older kids and adults alike.
Perfect for: Kids who love animal tales.
Find Watership Down at your local library.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by: L. Frank Baum, illustrated by: W.W. Denslow - (George M. Hill Company, 1900) 76 pages.
A cyclone sweeps Dorothy away from her ordinary life in Kansas, along with her house and her dog Toto. When she crash-lands in Oz, Dorothy discovers that her house has unintentionally taken out the Wicked Witch of the East, freeing the Munchkins from her reign. With a magical pair of silver shoes given to her by the Good Witch of the North, and her new friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy seeks the Wizard of Oz to help her return home to her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. Kids who know the story from watching the film version may be surprised at how the original book’s plot differs from that of the movie.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1939 classic starring Judy Garland.
Perfect for: Kids who appreciate the fantastic.
Find The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at your local library.
by: Jack London - (Macmillan Publishers, 1906) 128 pages.
White Fang, half wolf and half dog, is mistreated by a string of cruel owners. Aggressive and angry, the wolf-dog learns to hate humans and animals alike, until he’s rescued by mining expert Weedon Scott. Through gentle treatment and patience, Scott eventually tames the wild wolf-dog, and the two form an unbreakable bond. Written partially from White Fang’s point of view, this story examines how environment shapes the behavior of men and other animals and offers objective observations about the harsh beauty of the natural world.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1991 adaptation starring Ethan Hawke, which loosely follows the plot of the book.
Perfect for: Nature lovers.
Find White Fang at your local library.
Harry Potter series, books 4-7
by: J.K. Rowling - (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2002) 752 pages.
The hook: Starting with the fourth book, Harry Potter (and hopefully his fans) have matured a bit as Harry enters his fourth year at Hogwarts. While Harry and his friends have been aware of He-who-must-not-be-named, aka Lord Voldemort, for a few years, this second part of the series is when the battle between good magic and the dark arts really begins. Lord Voldemort is gaining strength and returns in human form. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione work to keep up in school and build their magical abilities to fight Voldemort, they’re also facing the dances, crushes, and first loves that come with adolescence.
Want to see the movie? Check out movies four through seven, which, like the books, now reflect the open battle against Voldemort and his followers.
Perfect for: Fan of the first three Harry Potter books who are ready to grow up with the characters.