Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer: Book to Big Screen, or How to Kill a Book

Here we go again. Let me just say for the record that I am always leery when I hear of yet another book heading for the big screen. “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” is only slightly different than some of the other new movies based on a children’s book since Megan McDonald, Judy Moody’s author, wrote a new story specifically for the film, instead of reenacting one of the books in the popular series. McDonald pulled elements from all the books to build “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.”

Although the movie officially debuts June 10th, early reviews have not been flattering. I take that with a grain of salt. If you have read a Judy Moody book, then you will know the character will not appeal to everyone. The main character is a moody third-grader. Adults may not appreciate her childish sense of humor, but kids have embraced Judy Moody worldwide. There is no doubt to the popularity. Since the collection debuted back in 2000, it has sold 14 million copies.

One thing most kids, parents and educators can agree upon is that the series has a way of captivating reluctant young readers. I will add, that since this movie is not an exact replication of a book, the release will not take away from the attraction of the series.

Unfortunately this is not the case with other books turned into movies. Once a child has seen the movie, many won’t bother with the book. The following have become, “why bother” literature for many kids. When I see a new release based on a favorite children’s book, either from my childhood, or a favorite of my kids, I cringe. Even if the director does a wonderful job, the book loses much of it’s magic.

Why bother reading- I saw the movie examples:

Alice in Wonderland. After many adaptations over the years, the latest in 2010 with Johnny Dep, the actual Alice in Wonderland books are rarely read. When teaching a high school creative writing class, I was surprised that not one student had ever read the original.

Wizard of Oz is an old example, but when my youngest sister started reading the entire series of Oz books, even I was surprised. How many kids know there even is an Oz book series?

Spiderwick Chronicles, while this was a good movie, the collection of books are made less important. Same with these books to movies; Holes, Matilda and Eloise. All good movies for kids, but those are three more books pushed to the back of the shelf.

Where the Wild Things Are is a decent stand alone movie and won’t take away from the very short picture book it was adapted from. The movie was a bit dark and when asked if it is too scary for kids, the author himself told parents to, “Go to hell.” Okay then.

Cat in the Hat and the Grinch were huge disappointments in my opinion. Why add all the adult themes to classic Dr. Seuss?

Erogon was, according to my teenage children, a huge disappointment. This is a book I did not read before seeing it on the big screen, but to hear my kids reactions, few kids who saw the movie will ever bother with the book now.

Diary of the Wimpy Kid, Ramona and Beezus and now Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer all make it clear that this is the direction most books will eventually take. Before the big screen moves in to kill another favorite book, you have to decide for yourself what your plan will be.

For my kids, I make them read the book first. This strategy even worked with Lord of the Rings. My two oldest had to read the books before I’d let them see the movie. My son loved it and was surprised how much they left out of the movie, while my daughter decided half way through the book, that she no longer cared to see it. Try it, at the very least, your kids will be reading and have the background to make up their own minds about a new movie adaptation.

More by Sylvie Branch:
Where the Wild Things Are Author Tells Parents to Go to Hell
Rango: A Philosophical Review of the Movie
Hair care ideas for girls who love the movie Tangled