What Makes a Children’s Book Great for Film Adaptation
Ben Everard | The Children’s Book Review | March 11, 2020
Husband, father, lawyer, writer, film producer, and author of the children’s book Oh, the Places You’ve Been, Ben Everard shares his insight into what makes a children’s book great for film adaption.
There are a myriad of factors that come into consideration for any producer or studio when it comes to adapting a children’s book into a major motion picture. Most recently, I produced an upcoming film called YES DAY, starring Jennifer Garner, which will be an original Netflix film. The movie stars Jennifer Garner, Edgar Ramirez, and Jenna Ortega, and is directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Justin Malen. It all started with a children’s book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, also called YES DAY.
With that experience in mind, here are a few key factors I would identify as paramount to a book’s potential for feature film adaptation: (i) concept, (ii) character, (iii) the “world” created by the author, and (iv) the quality of the writing and illustrations.
Concept (think YES DAY)
Concept, concept, concept! In three words (albeit all the same word), this is undeniably the most important aspect of writing a book that has the potential for film adaptation. YES DAY, which we are adapting into a feature film with Jennifer Garner, has at its core a brilliantly simple, yet incredibly high concept premise. What if, one day a year, parents could only answer “Yes” to their children’s requests for a full 24 hours? In a single sentence, an infinite number of creative directions could be contemplated in terms of adapting that premise into a full-length feature film. The “elevator pitch” version of the movie is simple to understand, relatable, and could be taken in many different directions by screenwriters and studios. Parenting, at its core, requires the implementation of boundaries for the benefit of the children, but the direct result of those limitations or rules means that parents are forced to say “No” quite often. The premise of Yes Day presents a wish-fulfillment opportunity for children, but also a cathartic moment for parents to embrace their inner “yes.” The highest levels in Hollywood embraced the brilliance of this premise, and a feature film adaptation of it is underway.
Character (think Winnie The Pooh)
If the concept is king, second in importance to writing a children’s book with the potential for film adaptation would be the characters themselves. Every great story at its heart contains characters we yearn to be with for a two hour stretch on screen. Audiences love to root for the underdog or dive into the multi-layered complexities of the characters’ journey. We love to laugh and cry with our heroes and witness them triumph over adversity. A great concept combined with a fascinating character at its heart makes a book imminently ripe for adaptation into a movie.
The World (think Harry Potter)
After concept and character, the “world” of a story is also critically important. Beyond the premise, and the characters within it, the world built around the character should also be complex and layered. The Harry Potter series is a brilliant representation of creating an incredibly imaginative world that is ripe for feature film adaptation. Within this world, what obstacles are there in the way of our hero’s journey? Who are the key people surrounding his or her life? Is there a love or romantic interest pushing the story forward? What villains (whether literal or metaphorical) stand in the way of our hero completing his journey? Deep and meaningful answers to these questions help create characters we fall in love with, and the better the “world” around our hero, the better our underlying story is and the more likely for potential film adaptation.
The Writing & Illustrations (think Dr. Seuss)
Last but certainly not least, the writing itself, along with the illustrations of a children’s book, is incredibly meaningful. Dr. Seuss is probably the paragon of brilliant prose for children’s books, and he combines poetry with unique illustrations that bring the story to life in incredible ways. One can flip through a Dr. Seuss book and imagine the film version playing straight from the pages themselves. Although books should never be entirely judged based on their cover alone, there is no doubting the importance of imaginative illustrations that capture the reader’s attention.
Written by Ben Everard with Mary Everard
Publisher’s Synopsis: Where has your penny been? Oh, the Places You’ve Been is a delightful picture book following the life of a small penny. From city sidewalks to snowy mountaintops, fields full of fireflies and all the way to the Moon, a young girl learns this little coin has traveled far and wide to end up in her pocket. But how can something so small have traveled so far? This playful rhyming tribute to Dr. Seuss explores how even small, long-forgotten things have amazing stories to tell.
Ages 5-6 | Publisher: Mascot Books | February 4, 2020 | ISBN-13: 978-1643072661
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About the Authors
In addition to being an author, Ben Everard is also a Hollywood movie producer, who is currently filming Yes Day (starring Jennifer Garner), based on a children’s book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
The article What Makes a Children’s Book Great for Film Adaptation was written by Ben Everard. Discover more articles like this one by following along with our posts tagged with Books About Movies, Creative Writing, Dr. Seuss Books, Writing Tips, and Picture Books.
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