I saw the awkwardly titled kid-adventure movie “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” yesterday, and though it’s not without its charms (Pierce Brosnan is surprisingly at ease as a centaur), I think many of the book’s young fans will be disappointed: The tone, and many of the events, are quite different from the book. Kids tend to be real sticklers for movie adaptations being exactly like the book — I remember getting absolutely nowhere with a group of young Harry Potter fans when trying to point out that when a book is 600 pages, a filmmaker has to cut something — and I think young critics are going to be hard on this movie, preferring instead the movie in their imaginations as they read and loved the book.
But it got me thinking about what books I loved as a kid, and whether the movies made of them were any good. I envy the kids growing up with the “Harry Potter” movies, all of which are very good (movies #1 and 2 a bit less so) and which capture the spirit of the books nicely. I remember, as a kid, that I loved the book “The Railway Children” and adored the British movie version starring Jenny Agutter, which I don’t remember ever showing in theaters but which would turn up on television with some regularity throughout the ’70s, often on Christmas night. I also read and reread “A Little Princess,” which Alfonso Cuaron made into an enchanting movie in 1995 (too late for my kid self, but my grown-up self adored it), and “Anne of Green Gables,” which became a lovely TV miniseries in the ’80s (how cute was that Gilbert Blythe?). But funny things happen when your childhood favorites come to the screen. I remember being startled by the movie of “Harriet the Spy” a few years back: specifically, that Harriet was played by a kid. I couldn’t figure out why this was so hard for me to get my head around — of course Harriet is a kid, right? — and then I remembered: In the book, Harriet is in sixth grade. When I read it, I was in fourth grade or so. So Harriet was supposed to be two years old than me. Still.
Any kid-book favorites that still make you happy? Do share.
Maybe this will make a few of you nostalgic — a clip from “The Railway Children.” I love Phyllis’s ever-present knitted hat, and the lesson learned about the usefulness of red flannel petticoats.