If you’re one of those families that insist their kids read the book before seeing the movie, there’s some serious page-turning in your future. And if you’re happy just to be able to go to the movies for some kid- and teen-friendly fare, you’re in luck, too. From nursery classics like Peter Rabbit and The Story of Ferdinand to tween and teen-targeted thrillers like Maze Runner and Ready Player One, kids’ books and young adult novels are getting the Hollywood treatment. And now that movie trailers, sneak peeks, and behind-the-scenes footage hit the internet months in advance of the films’ releases, kids’ excitement for big-screen adaptations of their favorite books starts early. Check out the film adaptations hitting the big screen in 2017 and 2018 to see if you’d like to read up before you step up to the box office.
Fallenby Lauren Kate (in theaters Sept. 8; targeted to teens)
Who’s in it:Addison Timlin, Joely Richardson, Lola Kirke
A teen girl is sent to spend senior year in reform school after her boyfriend dies in a suspicious fire and she’s blamed for his death. There she falls for a mysterious guy who turns out to be a fallen angel who’s loved her for centuries.
Why we’re excited: This best seller made NPR.com’slist of 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels. And like the romance in the Twilight books, the courtship in Fallen is fairly innocent. We’ll see if the movie keeps the hot stuff to to kissing and passionate dreams or if it ramps up the sex.
Wonderstruckby Brian Selznick (in theaters Oct. 20; targeted to kids)
Who’s in it:Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams
This engrossing novel tells the stories of two kids — Ben in 1977 Minnesota and Rose in 1927 New Jersey — at once. Half the story is in words, and the other is in pictures. Both kids are deaf, and they both flee to New York City, where their stories converge in the Natural History Museum.
Why we’re excited: Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) wrote the screenplay, so his creative vision should be true to the book. Director Todd Haynes, who was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for Carol, is also known for his artistic storytelling. As the the movie’s trailer reveals, the older time period is depicted in black and white to signify a contrast between the two stories.
Wonderby R.J. Palacio (in theaters Nov. 17; targeted to kids)
Who’s in it:Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Mandy Patinkin, Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay
This beloved middle-grade novel follows Auggie Pulman’s year in fifth grade. Homeschooled and facially deformed, Auggie enters a private school where he experiences mean bullies, true friendship, and an inspiring, compassionate teacher.
Why we’re excited:Wonder has clung to the best-seller list practically nonstop since it came out in 2012. As fans of Auggie’s coming-of-age adventure, we’re eager to see whether the screen version does him and the book justice. Like the book, the film appears to be going for matter-of-fact acceptance rather than sentimental clichés.
The Story of Ferdinandby Munro Leaf (in theaters asFerdinandDec. 15; targeted to kids)
Who’s in it: Voice talents of John Cena, Kate McKinnon, David Tennant, Bobby Cannavale, Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs
This classic of children’s literature is a warmhearted, charming story of a bull who prefers smelling flowers to fighting. Munro Leaf’s unforgettable words and Robert Lawson’s simple pen-and-ink illustrations show readers that they must choose their own path, despite what others may say or think.
Why we’re excited: This 3D computer-animated comedy wildly expands the simple story kids have loved for generations into a quest adventure after Ferdinand is mistaken for a dangerous beast. Captured and forced to compete in the bullfighting ring, he must get home to his loving human family with the help of a misfit team of animals. Even with the modern interpretation, the movie still looks to have the same core message that it’s OK to be who you are.
Maze Runner: The Death Cureby James Dashner (in theaters Feb. 9, 1018; targeted to teens)
Who’s in it:Nathalie Emmanuel, Dylan O’Brien, Katharine McNamara
After Thomas declines to have an operation to get his memory back, he and his friends plan an escape from WICKED (the government agency) headquarters and go to Denver, where they’ll be protected from a terrible disease. It’s not long before lawlessness reigns, and Thomas has to choose allegiance among three powerful forces.
Why we’re excited: The third and final installment in this grim dystopian series has the potential to answer lingering questions. The book left a few holes, so we’ll see if the movie does any better. In any case, there will be nail-biting suspense, exciting action, a high body count, and special effects that will be sure to impress whether you see it in 3D, 2D, or IMAX 3D.
The Tale of Peter Rabbitby Beatrix Potter (in theaters asPeter RabbitFeb. 9, 1018; targeted to kids)
Who’s in it: Voice talents of James Corden, Kevin Hart, Steve Buscemi; live actors include Margot Robbie, Rose Byrne, Daisy Ridley
Who doesn’t love rebellious Peter Rabbit, who, despite his mother’s warning, explores the garden of Mr. McGregor and gets chased out with a rake? Frightened and out of breath, Peter finally sees the gate and slips back home. He’s put to bed with a dose of chamomile tea while his three well-behaved sisters enjoy blackberries and milk.
Why we’re excited: Only a few weeks after Ferdinand, we get yet another movie adaptation of one of the most popular animals in children’s literature, and this one looks sweeter than blackberries. Potter’s classic book is being reimagined as an adventure comedy using a combo of live action and CGI animation. James Corden brings his signature charm and humor as the voice of Peter.
A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle (in theaters March 9, 2018; targeted to tweens)
Who’s in it:Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis
This classic from 1962 has been many middle-grade readers’ intro to science fiction. But the story of a scientifically minded girl’s quest through time and space to find and rescue her physicist father has lots of heart, too.
Why we’re excited: Though it was made into a TV movie in 2003, the new feature film promises to be a full-blown fantasy whirlwind. We expect great things from director Ava DuVernay, who was the first African-American woman to get a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director, for Selma (2014). Plus, it has Oprah — need we say more?
Ready Player Oneby Ernest Cline (in theaters March 30, 2018; targeted to teens)
Who’s in it:Hannah John-Kamen, Mark Rylance, T.J. Miller
This smart, funny science-fiction thriller deals with a high-stakes online contest that mixes puzzles with video game violence. Set in a depressed future United States, where most people escape into virtual reality, it features a bunch of tough-talking teens fighting to keep their online playground out of the hands of an evil corporation.
Why we’re excited: The provocative book both celebrates and critiques online culture. It’ll be interesting to see whether the movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, strikes that same balance. There’s plenty of action on the page, and we know Spielberg’s skill at climactic face-offs and special-effects wizardry.
The Jungle Bookby Rudyard Kipling (in theaters Oct. 19, 2018; targeted to kids)
Who’s in it: Live-action actors Rohan Chand, Matthew Rhys, Freida Pinto; motion-capture performances of animals by Andy Serkis, Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett
There’s loads of action and adventure in this century-old collection of short stories. From Mowgli’s battle of wits with Shere Khan the tiger to Rikki Tikki Tavi’s duel with cobras, the colorful characters never fail to inspire. The Jungle Book also includes positive messages about respecting the laws of nature and how compassion triumphs over brute strength.
Why we’re excited: Even though we liked the 2016 live-action/computer-generated Disney version, that film was based on Disney’s own animated feature. This new Warner Bros. version is based on Kipling’s classic text, so it could be darker — but it has more genuine live action. First-time director Andy Serkis, known for his performance-capture acting and voice work for computer-generated characters like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has his work cut out for him. But if his madcap Twitter feed is any indication, we’re in for a wild ride.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmasby Dr. Seuss (in theaters Nov. 9, 2018; targeted to kids)
Who’s in it: Voice talents of Benedict Cumberbatch, Kaitlyn Maher
This classic Christmas read-aloud features one of the funniest scoundrels in children’s literature: the mean, green Grinch, who aims to stop Christmas by impersonating Santa and stealing every last possession from the Whos of Whoville. Seuss subtly exposes greed and commercialism, while promoting the values of love and community with wit, humor, and flawlessly constructed rhymes.
Why we’re excited: Fans disagree on which screen version of the Grinch is best: the animated 1962 TV special or the 2000 live-action versionwith Jim Carrey. This new version should make the debate even more interesting. This adaptation stretches the story to feature-film length but uses cutting-edge CGI. Could it be the best of both worlds?
Mary Poppins(in theaters asMary Poppins ReturnsDec. 25, 2018; targeted to kids)
Who’s in it:Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Lin-Manuel Miranda
P.L. Travers’ classic children’s novel about a quirky nanny who transforms the Banks family of London is charming and magical — if a bit old-fashioned. It offers timeless lessons about good manners and understanding other points of view.
Why we’re excited: Set in Depression-era London, with Jane and Michael Banks all grown up, Mary Poppins Returns is a sequel to the original Mary Poppins starring Julie Andrews. Plus, it’ll be fun to see Hamilton star/creator Lin-Manuel Miranda as Mary’s lamplighter friend Jack in a venue we can afford! Rob Marshall (Into the Woods, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) directs. And Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the team behind Hairspray, wrote the songs, so you know they’ll be catchy.
— By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media book editor
Frannie Ucciferri, catalog data coordinator, contributed to this article.