Any day now, my littlest sister should get her travel dates to come home permanently! I’m super excited to have four younger sisters at last. Having little girls in the house (the youngest being nine and eleven) gives me a very heightened sense when it comes to books and movies. I always have my eye out for a good book to read to or recommend to them and the same goes for movies. Not only do I look for good, clean entertainment, but I also try to read the message of the story before tossing it in their direction. Almost every book and movie has some sort of agenda, good or bad, and I want to know what that agenda is before introducing them to a new philosophy!
Though Meggie is only just learning to read English, Jubilee has become quite the bookworm and, consequently, some of their favorite movies are based on books. I’ve composed a list of twelve book-inspired movies for courageous, kind-hearted, young ladies.
1. Nancy Drew (2007)
Though this may come as quite a blow for diehard Nancy Drew fans, this modernized version of her character and new spin on an old story is cute, funny and inspiring. My sister (now nineteen) definitely “channeled Nancy” for a while after this came out, complete with the super blunt haircut! Nancy is fearless, polite, tenderhearted and definitely true to herself. Of course, she completely disobeys her father, but it kind of turns out to be in the name of the greater good? Don’t think too hard on that.
2. Madeline (1998)
This is a classic in my family! When this came out, we recorded it on a tape and kept it at my grandparents’ house next door. I think it was the only movie we watched there for a couple of years and we still love it! Madeline is closely based on the picture books by Ludwig Behelmans and follows the tale of a young, French orphan (with a British accent) who laughs at the face of danger, makes friends, and goes on a thrilling adventure. Madeline really shows some strong character traits, especially in regard to a dying elderly woman and her bitter husband. This movie is both light and sweet with a good message. Leaves you feeling happy. “I see trees of green, red roses too…”
3. A Little Princess (1995)
Based on the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett book, A Little Princess follows young Sara Crewe who is left in at an upstanding boarding school while her single father fights for the Queen. Though she starts off very wealthy and naive, she learns that there is more to life than pretty things when her father is reported MIA and her funds run out. Sara exhibits a wonderful imagination, a strong sense of friendship and above all else, hope.
4. Ramona and Beezus (2010)
I was very pleasantly surprised by this movie! John Corbett as Mr. Quimby has to be one of my favorite TV/Movie-dads ever. I enjoyed watching this right along with my little siblings. Ramona’s antics are hilarious, horrible and completely well-intended. She deals with feeling left out, trying to get along with an almost-grown up Beezus, “losing” her dear aunt to romance and loving her enemies. Great flick.
5. Kit Kitteredge (2008)
Again-I was surprised by how good this one is. Based on the American Girl series, Kit Kitteredge follows the story of a young, depression-era heroine who wants to be a journalist. The cast of character is marvelous, along with the big names chosen to play them (including Joan Cusack, Julia Ormond, Stanely Tucci, Willow Smith, Colin Mochrie, Wallace Shawn and more!) When times get tough, Mr. Kitteredge goes to Chicago to look for work and Kit and her mom open up their home to boarders. The adventure, mystery and comedy that ensue is worth watching! So adorable.
6. Anne of Green Gables (1985) (and “The Sequel” 1987)
You saw this coming, didn’t you? The first two movies are sublime. Cheesy? Yes. Sentimental? For sure. Required? Oh yeah. I love the classic series by L. M. Montgomery and the movies do not disappoint. These are great for adolescents (may lose the attention of wee ones) and deal gently with “coming of age” issues. These are so funny and always make me choke up. I want to be Anne.
7. Ella Enchanted (2004)
Anne Hathaway rocks the princess thing, yes? This is a retelling of Cinderella…with a big twist. And a touch of 70’s flair too! Ella is cursed with the inability to disobey, even when she’s told, for example, to “hop along”! I love this movie because it’s still funny now that I’m an adult and ends in a dance party. Not to spoil anything, but Ella bravely breaks her own curse and saves the kingdom. It rocks.
8. National Velvet (1944)
This may be slightly lesser known to today’s young movie watchers, but it’s a classic here. Elizabeth Taylor debuts alongside Mickey Rooney in this adaptation of the classic book. Young Velvet is obsessed with horses and dreams of having one of her own. When, by chance, she wins the frisky troublemaker dubbed “Pie” in a raffle, she is determined to have it race. Rooney plays a tramp with a mysterious past who reluctantly helps Velvet train Pie for the races while her English Channel-swimming mother inspires her to pursue her biggest dreams. You’ll be rooting for Velvet and Pie all the way through!
9. Little Women (1994)
Based on my all-time favorite novel, this movie attempts to tell the story of Louisa May Alcott’s famous March sisters…and does a pretty good job of it! My sisters and I traditionally watch this every winter (AFTER it gets cold) and laugh and cry along with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Nothing beats this real-life-inspired story of family, courage, growing up, poverty, dreams, romance, disappointment and perseverance. Enough said.
10. Pollyanna (1960)
First of all, if you haven’t read the book, it was much better than I expected it to be. Well-written and interesting. Of course, the Hayley Mills adaptation is a classic in it’s own right. I haven’t seen this in a long time because we only have it on VHS (or, as Jubilee would say, “fat movie”,) but I’ve always loved it. Pollyanna hasn’t had an easy life, but she has a cheerful disposition that cannot be snuffed out! She goes to show that our attitudes change everything, including the people around us.
11. Felicity (2005)
Another movie based on an American Girl series (and my favorite one, at that,) Felicity is the story of a Revolutionary War-era young patriot. Felicity has an awesome adventure (you will have an urge to sneak out in britches to care for an abused horse after you watch it) and learns so much about friendship, loyalty, selflessness and courage. This film isn’t made in the same quality as Kit Kitteredge, but you’ll get to see a young Shailene Woodley show of her budding acting skills and, if you’re like me, feel your heart burst a little as the credits roll.
12. The Secret Garden (1993)
Another movie based on a Burnett novel, this is a strange and wonderful movie. Maggie Smith plays the uptight head of housekeeping at the gloomy mansion where the recently orphaned Mary is sent to stay in the care of her distant uncle. The unique thing about this story is that Mary does not start of charming and delightful…at all. She is spoiled and lonely and angry and dull. But the transformation of the neglected garden she discovers is reflected in her very heart, and the unusual friendships she develops along the way are magnificent. The feeling of the movie is somewhat reminiscent of Jane Eyre for children. Very English and suspicious. The story itself is wonderful for anyone who will take the time to really listen to it.
That’s 12 Book-Inspired Movies for Girls! What would add to the list?