– By Maria Andress –
Did we say five? It was almost twenty-five, as many bookworms assure us that there are countless as yet unfilmed chapter book sagas that would make excellent visual entertainment. These five were chosen because their written outline or character development or stages of story are the most readily adaptable to film. Are you ready? Here are my top five picks:
1. Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop
This book is World War II drama about children through the eyes of children. In Nazi occupied France, the lives of twenty French kids might be at stake when they and their teacher Sister Gabrielle take in ten Jewish children. Sister Gabrielle is apprehended in town while Nazis show up at the mountain retreat to interrogate the children. Twenty children that is; they have made the ten hunted disappear.
Schoolmate rivalry, candy bribery, playing mute, reenactment of Scripture pageants, and a cave meld to make a story of danger and daring that only the ingenuity of kids bereft of a guardian can hope to overcome. The Nazis worst mistake might be in treating the children as children. For the kids, Sister Gabrielle’s famous words set the standard: “The Nazis are looking for those children. If we take them we must never let on that they are here. Do you understand?”
The Red Keep: a Story of Burgundy in Year 1165 by Allen French
As the title suggests, the year is 1165 at the height of Norman culture. Be that as it may, intrigue, evilly conniving brothers, and greed make certain that at least one young girl is fighting for her family lands after the tragic death of her parents. Who more fitted but unlikely to come with a rescue plan than the lanky squire Conan? And who better for him to end up in love with than the afore-mentioned independent and redhead Lady Anne?
Author Alan French sneaks in a bit of chivalrous romantic development, but the real fun lies in assassination attempts, castle raids, secret passages, courtyard battles, and trusty friends. Quite raw and captivating for an action-adventure children’s film.
Secret Agents Four by Donald J. Sobol
This one is a spy comedy—pure, simple, and unadulterated. What could possibly happen over summer vacation to a group of four high school buddies? Hilarious acronyms, gadget geniuses, drugged lions, a secret island compound, car chases and arrests, typical teenage failures at sleuthing, pharmaceutical poisons, first brushes with death, and mind games ensue.
Sixteen-year-olds Ken Mullins (son of a government agency Mongoose assistant chief), Orv (“Dade City’s top boy inventor”), Bo (a seven foot tall athlete), Horseshoes (whose real name, Jerry, they haven’t used since eighth grade when he won the horseshoe pitching contest at the State Fair), and their friend Mary (V.A.C.U.U.M. B.A.G. — Volunteer Agents Cruising Unsteadily Under Mongoose Beautiful Assistant Gangbuster). Miami goes nuts in 1967 as they pursue a car spy who is actually a low-level Cobra agent.
Beorn the Proud by Madeleine Polland
The ultimate clash of Nordic and Irish cultures, Christian and pagan faith, hubris and humility. Visualizing the raids, feasts, slaughter, slavery, treachery, shipwrecks and ancient customs of this world might almost be too much for a children’s film. However, the detail, character development and riveting plot of this saga are too good to pass up.
Cultures are uprooted and new ones born as the stubborn and ungrateful Beorn, son of a Viking warrior, and his equally stubborn captive Ness, daughter of an Irish chieftain, navigate 9th century Europe to find their places through the unexpected twists.
The Crystal Snowstorm by Meriol Trevor
An unlikely, pale English lass by the name of Catherine Ayre is called back to her Grand Duke grandfather’s palace in Letzenstein, presumably based on the Germanic state of Liechtenstein.
The rest of 1847 Europe is reverberating with revolutions. Little does Catherine know that she is about to become a pawn in the political unrest of the small country. Stubborn aristocracy, undercover rebels like Rafael le Marre, people-thinking heirs like Constant, mobs, grand balls, assassination attempts, and spilled blood propel Catherine through a totally new world. Better yet, this the first of a four part series.
Fellow filmmakers, I call first dibs on “Beorn the Proud.” What children’s books would you like to see made into film?
About the Author
Maria Andress is a film production and acting alumna from JPCatholic (Class of ’17) who hails from the proud green and gold state of Wisconsin. She is currently working in film producing, and pursuing a career in period film production. She is also a travel enthusiast always on the lookout for a fascinating idea or historical tidbit that she can translate to story through the many mediums of art.