Couch Potato Pickings | Inkheart, and other movies based on children’s books

Meggie (Eliza Bennett) is a 12-year-old girl who plunges into a world of storybook adventure after discovering that her father (Brendan Fraser) can literally read the characters out of novels. When a rare title called Inkheart enters their hands, a fire juggler and an evil character known as Capricorn are released from its pages, turning their worlds upside down, but giving Meggie hope of reuniting with her estranged mother who has been trapped inside the book for years.

Packed with action and adventure, this lively movie is based on the fantasy novel Inkheart by author Cornelia Funke. The acting is great (Helen Mirren as Meggie’s great aunt is especially fun), and the tale is colourfully told, but I have to admit that there’s rather too much action for my liking.

So how well does Funke’s novel translate onto the big screen? Well, I haven’t read it, so I can’t comment I’m afraid. And, I have to confess that I feel somewhat ashamed about that fact since its the power of the written word that drives the plot of the Inkheart story.

So, I’ve been weighing up those movies based on children’s storybooks. There are loads out there, but how many of the original texts have I actually read…

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

I consumed the complete set of these CS Lewis books as a kid and loved them. The best one of all though has to be that one about the closet, the queen and the big puss.

The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is showing on Christmas Eve on BBC1 at 2.15pm

The Railway Children

I don’t ever remember reading the original E Nesbit book about the adventures of three Edwardian kids in a Yorkshire village, but I’ve been taken on a journey by that classic  1970s movie so many times, I feel like I know the story inside out.

The Railway Children

The TV remake of The Railway Children, starring an older Jenny Agutter, is showing on New Year’s Day on ITV1 at 2.50pm

Harry Potter

I did read the first three JK Rowling books (if you can call listening to Stephen Fry‘s audio books ‘reading’), but I’ve lazily relied on the movie versions to relate the later instalments of this great magic and witchcraft saga.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is showing tomorrow 13th December at 8pm on Sky Screen 2, and also on Christmas Day on Sky Movies Family at 12.30pm

Lemony Snicket

Apparently, the Snicket books are almost as popular as the Harry Potter texts but I’ve never felt the urge to read them, and I haven’t yet seen this film either. I’m afraid Jim Carrey is putting me off, but maybe I’ll give the movie a go this Christmas.

Lemony Snicket’s a series of unfortunate events

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is showing on 20th December on BBC3 at 7.25pm

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Quite possibly one of my favourite books as a kid. Despite the fact that Roald Dahl‘s stories always border on the surreal and saw my active childhood imagination running wild, both film interpretations work for me. Mel Stuart‘s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has the best brats, while Johnny Depp‘s Michael Jacksonesque Wonka is the highlight of the 2005 version.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,Johnny Depp

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is showing on New Year’s Day on ITV1 at 4.50pm

Five Children and It

Freddie Highmore, who stars as Charlie Bucket in the above movie, also stars in this adaptation of E Nesbit‘s classic tale. This Victorian novel about the quintet of kids and the wish-granting creature they befriend truly captured my imagination as a child. This movie version cleverly updates the story to World War One which adds an interesting perspective.

Five Children and It,Freddie Highmore

James and the Giant Peach

I also loved this Dahl text as a whippersnapper. The film doesn’t do it for me though. Perhaps it’s because this is the most surreal of all Dahl’s books and my imagination’s version is better.

James and the giant peach

James and the Giant Peach is showing on Channel 4 on 23rd December at 12.05pm


Surprisingly I didn’t get my hands on this Dahl book as a kid. In fact I’d never heard of it until I saw the movie. However, after enjoying Mara Wilson‘s performance as the story’s precocious poppet with Harry Potteresque abilities, I took the effort to read the original text (even though I was in my late 20s).

Matilda,mara wilson


No I haven’t read Neil Gaiman‘s Coraline novel, but then it wasn’t published until 2002. However, since this movie is the most imaginative, beautiful and wonderful animation spectacle I’ve seen in years, I can’t imagine how reading the text now would be satisfying enough.


The Wizard of Oz

Fabulous movie, never read the book (unlike the characters in Inkheart which features it heavily). I wonder how many people actually have read it.

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is showing on New Year’s Day on Five at 3.50 (and the Muppets present their version of the L Frank Baum book at 12.45)

A Little Princess

Having seen the Shirley Temple film of this Frances Hodgson Burnett book as a child, I feel that I know this story very well, but I haven’t read the novel. The later 1995 version starring Liesel Matthews is a cinematic gem – one of the most underrated movies of the 90s.

The Secret Garden

Another Frances Hodgson Burnett book. This one was read to me I’m sure.  The 1993 movie starring Maggie Smith is performed perfectly by all its cast, especially its young stars, and the growing garden scenes are cleverly woven through . Every time I watch this film, I cry enough tears to water a small allotment.

The Secret Garden

The Little White Horse

This book was read out to me when I was very young, and I continued to read it myself throughout my childhood – a real favourite. The Secret of Moonacre, the 2008 movie based on the Elizabeth Goudge novel, comes nowhere near the beauty of the story in my mind, but it’s entertaining enough.

Peter Pan

I never liked this boysy tale of swashbuckling and pirates. I tried to watch the 2003 film version recently. It looks amazing but bored me to tears.

Peter Pan

Peter Pan is showing on Bank Holiday Monday on ITV2 at 5.45pm, and  New Year’s Eve on ITV2 at 1.30pm

Black Beauty

I was never a horsey girl. In fact, when a great aunt gave me a hardback book of Pony Stories for Girls when I was about nine I quietly took offence.  Needless to say, I’ve never read Black Beauty and none of the movie versions have grabbed me either. I do quite like that Black Beauty theme tune from the 1970s TV series however.

Black Beauty (1994) is showing today 12th December on ITV1 at 12.15pm and also on 21st December on ITV3 at 9.40.

So, out of all those kids’ books, I’ve read three Harry Potters (sort of), three Roald Dahls, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Little White Horse. Is that a decent amount? I’m not sure. How many of the above have you read?

Inkheart is showing today 12 December at 10.30am and 8pm on Sky Movies Premiere, and at various times throughout the week.

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