How to read your way to the silver screen:


Some of the best movies of all time originated as books.  So one summer several years ago we skipped recording minutes spent reading for cheap prizes at the library and created our own summer reading program. We call it “The Book vs. The Movie Party!”  Because it really was a party. I gave the boys many classics to chose from, so I knew they were getting quality literature, and they felt in charge.  We read at bedtime and afternoons that were too hot or rainy. Audio books worked too, as we traveled to and from swim practice daily.

Our summer reading was a blockbuster hit! And we have continued it every summer since.

Yes, figuratively and technically.  Face it. One of your kids’ best friends has a screen for a face.    Whether they have a tablet, phone or good old fashioned television, kids crave screen time.

So when we were done with a book, we had a themed movie-party complete with snacks or special dinners, sometimes costumes, skits and art projects. We kept a voting chart of their thumbs-up choice, the book or the movie, on our classroom door with pictures of the book covers and thumbs-up stickers.  We had a blast and are excited to get started again this summer!

Our first Summer’s Blockbuster Line-up!

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Jules Verne’s classic took us on a nightly bedtime adventure through the mysterious depths of the earth’s crust and past waterfalls and epic geodes to a land defying all known facts on extinction.  We read a condensed version for young readers, so that lil D didn’t get lost in the caves.  His favorite part involved a rapid escape via volcano.  When it was time for movie night we decorated the table with dinosaurs, binoculars and toys we had already. The boys donned their favorite safari and spelunking gear. We watched the original 1959 film, which is based closely to the original story.  We dined on Avalanche Pasta (i.e spaghetti and meatballs).  And molten Lava never tasted so good!

War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells was the boy’s favorite.  Alien Invader cookies and UFO Popcorn (unidentified foreign objects like sour worms), what’s not to love!  The book kept them on the edge of their seats more than the movie, but they got a kick out of the 1953 special effects from the original movie adaptation. Each made their own vintage movie poster which they still have hanging in their rooms.  And don’t forget to listen to the 1938 live radio broadcast by the author that scared hundreds of local listeners, who believed they were hearing the beginning of an apocalypse.  Antennas and old Halloween masks made for extra fun! 

The Tale of Despereaux

A culinary masterpiece is hidden in the pages of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo!  And a big hero is hidden inside the tiniest character.  This is not your average fairy tale of knights in shining armor.  The pages are filled with eccentric characters and we enjoyed coming up with the right voices for each character as we read.  The story is all about soup, and how it can destroy an entire kingdom.  Okay, so that is not the whole point, but it made for a delicious hearty soup du jour, which we served (cautiously) in our best dishes on a royally set table.  We added cheese and crackers and fruit in honor of the little hero.  And though he wasn’t a character in the book, the magic vegetable-man chef, Boldo, that appears in the animated movie, made for an extra fun dessert!   We used berries, whip cream, and donut holes to create our own culinary characters.

Because of Winn Dixie

My personal favorite book of the summer was Because of Winn Dixie, also by Kate Dicamillo.  It is a beautiful story about how friends  come in all ages, sizes, shapes, and colors (sounds kind of homeschool-esque, huh?) And those friends can get us through the loneliest of hard times. This one was a tear jerker if you’ve ever loved a dog or missed your momma. Winn Dixie is the smartest, funniest dog to walk the pages of a children’s book, and he has a skill for bringing people together at the precise moment they need each other.  And since the book culminates into a motley crew at a backyard picnic, we recreated each of the foods India Opal Buloni prepares for her new friends and snacked through a movie that was very true to the book.  Don’t forget the pickles for Otis and Gloria’s Dump Punch!

The Time Machine

The idea of time travel has always sparked the creativity in my boys.  The Time Machine by H.G. Wells left us in deep discussion after every chapter.  We watched the original 1960 film, which displayed the travel throughout history with changing clothing fashions.  The morlocks were certainly less scary in this version than the remake that might scare younger kids.  After the book and movies were completed, we made a collage using old watch and jewelry parts to illustrate our favorite parts of the story. We started with a board and painted it to looked aged, and created a mini replica of the time machine from the Victorian era. The boys put together other creations using left over parts.  Our collage plaque hangs on the wall in our classroom still today!

Got a suggestion for a great book vs. movie for this summer? Leave a comment below!

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