Mara Jade
by Mara Jade

The beauty of turning books into films is seeing how the colourful descriptions in the pages get translated onscreen. And the beauty of turning children’s books into movies is how the wildly imaginative descriptions appear larger than life on the big screen. There has been great success in turning stories meant for kids into films, capturing not just the hearts of the little ones, but the adults as well, None do it better than these five children’s book adaptations.

5. Shrek (USD484.4 million)


Yes! Did you know Shrek (Mike Myers) is actually based on a children’s book written by author William Steig, a cartoonist, sculptor, and children’s books illustrator and writer? He wrote the picture book Shrek! In 1990, and Dreamworks used the book as the foundation upon which the animated movie Shrek was based on.

In the book, Shrek was everyone’s favourite ogre before his parents kicked him out of the house. He meets a witch who tells him of his fortune of meeting a donkey (Eddie Murphy) and marrying a princess (Cameron Diaz).

The movie successfully expands on these characters and created a phenomenal franchise that expands beyond these characters, bringing in other storybook characters such as Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) and Gingerbread Man. The first movie scored USD484.4 million, and created characters that are built to last. 

4. Dr. Seuss' The Grinch (USD509.8 million)

Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

He’s someone we bring up every year at Christmas- Dr. Seuss' The Grinch. Jim Carrey brought him to live action, as Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas by ruining it for the citizens of Whoville. In 2018, Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the animated character, a grumpy grouch who also plots to take away Christmas for the Whoville village. Its colourful green skin, the vibrant setting, you can’t help falling in love with this grouch, who despite being a grump, is just a lonely fella craving for companionship.

The world fell in love with Grinch last year, letting it earn USD509.8 million in the box office. Or maybe we all just love the voice of Cumberbatch.

3. The Chronicles of Narnia (USD745 million)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The Chronicles of Narnia brings us on a journey with four orphaned children into a world where they were fearless kings and queens, bring order to a world where animals talk, a wise lion (Liam Neeson) gives sage advice and the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) is bent on taking over the world. How did the wardrobe lead to Narnia? How does a lion interact with humans intellectually? With movie magic of course. And it did it so perfectly, winning over kids and adults.

The first Chronicles of Narnia movie- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe made USD745 million at the box office. We can never forget how magnificent Swinton looks as the white queen, or how Neeson brought to life the wizened Aslan the Lion.

2. Alice in Wonderland (USD1.02 billion)

The story is one that most of us have read at least once in our childhood. There were numerous iterations of the story brought to life on TV and movies, but none made it as wacky and surreal than the king of quirkiness- Tim Burton himself. Burton’s version sees Alice as a 19-year old, making her return to Wonderland where she used to visit when she was young, reuniting with her old friends.

Through the eyes of Burton, characters are odder from before- the mad hatter (Johnny Depp) has a deranged glint in his eye while the Red Queen, portrayed hilariously by Helena Bonham Carter is more out of this world. And then there is the White Witch (Anne Hathaway), all pure and innocent, except that she isn’t all that innocent. The movie made USD1.02 billion, and why not? Burton takes us on a wild and wonderful ride with Alice in her Wonderland.

1. Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2- USD1.34 billion)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

JK Rowling’s creations are arguably the highest grossing children’s book-turned movies. Back when Rowling was a single mother, struggling to make ends meet to feed her family, it was also a time where desperation churns a highly creative machine in the writer. She wrote the Harry Potter books in various cafes in Edinburgh in Scotland, dreaming up of a less-than-fortunate boy wizard whose destiny is to be the one who’d bring magic from the brink of darkness into the light.

Rowling conjured up characters that set readers’ imagination wild and painted a wizarding world so colourful that it’s almost impossible to see it being translated on screen, until it was. The highest grossing children’s book adaptation is the last movie in the Harry Potter series- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, where we joined Harry and his friends to confront Voldemort’s dark legion.

The film grossed a staggering USD1.34 billion. The rest of the Harry Potter movies are in the top 15, making it the most successful movie series. Rowling’s gripping stories are built upon layers and captured our imagination like no other.