Summer book club: books vs. movies

June 24, 2011

What’s better, the book or the movie?

That question will be much discussed this summer as the final Harry Potter movie — based on the second half of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — hits movie theaters July 15.

So KidsPost decided to use that debate as the theme of our 10th annual Summer Book Club.

All the books we’ve chosen for this year’s club (you can turn the page for the list of books and how to sign up for the club) have been made into movies. We hope this book club can be a real family affair — one in which you can read the books, watch the movies as a family (don’t forget the popcorn) and talk about how the book and movie were different and why.

Because, of course, books and movies are very different.

We talked to The Post’s chief movie critic, Ann Hornaday, about the challenges that moviemakers face when they turn a beloved book into a film.

“When you’re reading a book, it’s in your imagination. You give the character his voice. In a movie, the pictures and sound are done for you. But both succeed when they create a world that you feel you can enter completely,” Hornaday said.

If you read a book and go see the movie version of it, you may well be disappointed that a favorite scene or character has been left out. But deciding what to leave in and what to take out is one of the biggest challenges of turning a book into a movie. That’s actually part of the reason why “Deathly Hallows” was turned into two movies. The filmmakers knew that they had to either make a five-hour movie (!) or leave out so much that they would have disappointed fans.

“With the Harry Potter movies, they needed to be faithful [to the books] with the details they put on the screen,” Hornaday said. But if they had put everything from the books in the movie, the films “would have been way too long, way too boring.”

Another thing to remember is that most people who see a movie based on a book have never read the book, so they don’t know the story. They are judging whether the movie tells a good story, not whether the movie tells the exact same story as the book. If you can’t understand a movie unless you have read the book, then the movie isn’t very good.

Given a choice between reading a book or seeing a movie, Suchet Taori, 11, of Herndon would prefer to read the book. “If I was going to choose, I would go with the book, because it has more details. I would read the book first and then go see the movie,” said Suchet, who just completed fifth grade. He likes the Percy Jackson series as well as sports books by Mike Lupica and Matt Christopher.

We’d love to hear from readers about where you stand on the book-vs.-movie issue. Do you feel that the book is always better? If so, why? Are there any movies that you liked better than the book? Send your thoughts to kidspost@washpost.com and put “books vs. movies” in the subject line. Include your name, age, home town and a phone number. We might publish some of your opinions over the summer. A parent must give permission before anything will be published.

And come back to KidsPost on Wednesday, when we’ll feature our first book of the summer, “The Indian in the Cupboard.” We’ll include reviews of both the book and the movie, and suggest some other books you might enjoy.

Keep reading, and have a great summer.

Tracy Grant

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