When Children’s Books Become Television Shows

Whenever a book is adapted for film, my initial reaction is disappointment. Can’t it just stay a book? More often than not, I watch the movie. More often than not, the book is better than the film. To be fair, I think novelizations of film are rarely as good as the movie. Movies should be movies and books should be books. My least favourite film adaptations are when children’s books become television shows, especially when the show is based on an illustrated series of children’s books.

Every night my wife and I read with our kids. Some books are read once and others are read until the pages corners are worn and the spines begin to deteriorate. Our term for these worn out books is well-loved. The words and images in these books are enough to capture our attention and spark our imagination. We love them just the way they are. They don’t need to be brought to life in any place other than our minds. Animation not necessary. Not everyone feels the same way. Certainly not Treehouse or Nickelodeon.

If a children’s book is commercially successful it seems inevitable that it is destined for television. Some books become shows so quickly it makes me wonder if the concept was ever meant to be a book alone. It never stops at just a television show. Games. Clothing. Toys. Maybe budding authors and illustrators of children’s books are hoping their work will eventually turn into a mini-empire of tv shows, movies, games, and toys. Is that the end game? For some, maybe. Riches and fame do have their perks. For all, I truly hope not – for the sake of the art.

Not all television adaptations of children’s book are terrible. There were several episodes of Franklin, before it went CG, that were quite good. I really enjoy watching first season Curious George episodes with my son and the first movie is still on regular rotation at our house. For some of these shows the first season isn’t just a toy commercial with a plot. For the majority, the beloved characters, whimsical illustration and engaging storylines are watered down in order to spread them into as many episodes as possible before the rating go down and toy sales drop off. Olivia. Need I say more?

What’s my point? I wish we could create a list of hands-off books. A selection of books that get to remain forever books so they may be experienced and cherished in their natural state. I know it’s too late for many but if for a moment I’d like to believe we could go back in time and retroactively create this list.

Let’s make that list.Which children’s books should never or should never have become television shows? Share your choices in the comments.



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About James Hudyma

Dad. Husband. Teacher. Canadian. Guitar Picker. Songwriter.

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This is what I think...