Newbery Books Turned Into Films
In case you were wondering, I think that Holes is the best adapted Newbery award winner, though it was fun to try to think up the others. Here, in order from best to worst, are the Newbery-to-film adaptations and how well I feel they did their job. If I've left anything out (and feel free to add some more if you think of them) lemme know.
The Ones I've Seen
1999 Award Winner: Holes: Loving me my Holes. Holes is so good. The great American children's novel is Holes. And with the exception of a thin Stanley (who we will forgive because he could act) the movie was pitch-perfect and faithful as can be. I'm not saying I'd object to seeing another version of it done (wouldn't it be great if the BBC did one?) but this is as good as it gets for now. Now about that television show version...
1978 Award Winner: Bridge to Terabithia - See review. For the purposes of simplicity we'll ignore the 1985 TV version (though I am amused by the recent rerelease you can find these days).
1986 Award Winner: Sarah, Plain and Tall - First off, you can forgive it some of its ills if only because the book itself is so very slight. Still, Christopher Walken does his nice-not-creepy-dad thing, and almost pulls it off. And are you going to look Glen Close in the face and tell her she didn't do a good job? Are you?
1936 Award Winner: Caddie Woodlawn - Yeah well. I've seen worse. Sure, the wig on that Carrie's head looked like it'd been sculpted with a Wendys in mind, but the acting wasn't bad. I'm lukewarm on this one.
1992 Award Winner: Shiloh - Again, not bad. Plus, how can you resist an adorable beagle pup? Huh? Huh?
1944 Award Winner: Johnny Tremain - And here we take a turn for the worse. Anyone remember that song about the Sons of Liberty they sing at the end? I'm trying to conjure it up but nothing's coming. Plus I was convinced until about 5 minutes ago that this was a Disney film starring Tommy Kirk. I cannot fully express the depth of my shock right now.
1972 Award Winner: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Yeah. Well. Which is to say The Secret of NIMH. I sure hope the filmmakers of this one had the decency to wait until author Robert O'Brien was good and dead before they churned out this monstrosity. You know what a cool sci-fi Newbery winner like this one really needs? A magic stone! Oh! Oh! And let's kill off Nicodemus in a kind of Obi Wan Kenobi fashion so that Mrs. Brisby (why the name change?) can use the rodentia equivalent of "the force" for no particular reason.
1963 Award Winner: A Wrinkle in Time - Why, Alfre Woodard? Why? Your excuse must be somewhere along the lines of, "They backed a dumptruck full of money to my front door. I'm not made of stone!"
And just for giggles, here are the other Newbery adaptations that exist but that I have never seen.
1981 Award Winner: Jacob Have I Loved - Bridget Fonda? Well, I'll be damned.
1977 Award Winner: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - A TV movie from 1978, as it happens. I suspect that with Roots getting as much attention as it did in 1977, the time had never been better for this film to get made. We have an ancient creaky VHS tape circulating in our collection. You'd think it'd just collect dust, but watch that puppy fly off the shelf whenever the kids are assigned this one to read for school.
1970 Award Winner: Sounder - Two versions here! A 1972 and a 2003. The 1972 version had bigger names.
1968 Award Winner: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Again with the two versions. One in 1973 and one in 1995. Now what I love about these two films is that in each of them, the part of Mrs. Frankweiler was taken by an old-time movie goddess of one sort or another. Do you prefer to watch Lauren Bacall? Or are you more an Ingrid Bergman type? I, personally, was unaware that the film The Hideaways was based on From the Mixed Up Files. That explains why my library's circ copies (and we have about 7) keep going out. Huh!
2000 Award Winner: Bud, Not Buddy - Actually it doesn't exist. To which the masses should all yell together in chorus: WHY THE HELL NOT?