Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Which book character would you like to bring to life?

Posted on | June 27, 2011 | 8 Comments

Illustration by Hungarian artist Emy Róna

Having watched Eleanor’s secret (which, don’t forget you can win a copy of here) I got to thinking about other films which are about reading, the power of stories and/or storybook characters coming to life. With the help of friends on Twitter I came up with this list:

  • Inkheart
  • The Neverending Story
  • Stanley and Iris
  • The Princess Bride
  • Bedtime Stories
  • Akeelah and the bee
  • Nim’s Island
  • Veritas, The Prince of Truth
  • Who Would Kill Jessie?
  • Rampo
  • The Deadlines
  • Precious


  • I haven’t watched all of these so can’t vouch for their quality. Several are not suitable for kids, but I’ve included them here for the grown-ups amongst us to explore! If you’ve seen any of them, do leave me a comment so I and others can find out more :-)

    As well as feature length films, I came across a whole slew of animations from the 1930s and 1940s which feature book characters which come to life. It seems to have been quite a popular theme in the inter-war years! Here’s my list of animated shorts, just bear in mind you might wish to view these without kids first to check whether you’re happy for your kids to see them – some of them contain racist characterizations.

  • Beauty and the Beast – A gem of an animation – very funny, good quality copy, great singing, and a cheeky bare bottom or two!


  • Three’s a crowd – Jekyll tries to kidnap Alice in Wonderland but Tarzan and others rescue her.


  • Loony Tunes Have You Got Any Castles? Look out for Heidi – she made me laugh!


  • Good Little Monkeys Rather unpleasant interpretation of Black Beauty, but great fun to see the Devil using peanuts as maracas.


  • Speaking of the weather The version here is in Russian, but is perfectly enjoyable even if you don’t understand Russian. Rather than characters from books coming to life, in this fun animation images in magazines come to life. Look out for the tongue sandwiches!


  • I Like Mountain Music Again, characters from magazines rather than books come to life in this animation. Look out for the iceskating on a mirror with talc snow, and the blowing of raspberries! We thought this one was lots of fun.


  • A Coy Decoy Some groan-worthy jokes in this one, and again Black Beauty is depicted a buxom black woman (this animation is also available here in black and white rather than a sort of sepia).


  • Shake, Mr. Shakespeare This is a little different as it is not an animation, but rather a film with actors. You can see an excerpt here.

  • Sniffles and the Bookworm I can’t embed this video – you can see it here. Definitely worth watching for the great Epstein-esque Frankenstein and the lovely song “Mother Goose is on the Loose”.

  • The Bookworm A fun animation, but again some racism.


  • The Bookworm Turns – a follow up The Bookworm above, but I haven’t been able to find a copy online to view.

  • Loony Tunes Book Revue an excerpt can be seen here


  • Thanks to twobecomefour, humanb3an, melwillerth, AbieLongstaff, librarymice, smgrady, Keris, Jules_Lucas, NatashaWorswick, liveotherwise and sakuralulu for their suggestions, comments and general help with compiling this list of films today.

    If you could conjure up any character from a book you’ve read, invite them round to tea or out to play, who would you bring to life? And what do you think about holding a film festival with all of these – wouldn’t it be a fun addition to a book festival such as Hay or Edinburgh?

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    Comments

    8 Responses to “Which book character would you like to bring to life?”

    1. choxbox
      June 27th, 2011 @ 3:14 am

      What a lovely post Zoe! Am sharing this with the kids as soon as they wake up!

    2. sandhya
      June 27th, 2011 @ 3:43 am

      This is a lovely post, Zoe. I never fail to be amazed at everything that you bring to us.

      We have both read the book and watched the movie Nim’s island, and it is perfect stuff for preteens, with shades of Robinson Crusoe on an island with friendly animals and an internet connection to boot! A loved it.

      The discussions online about the process of writing between Nim and her favourite writer Alex Rover were very interesting. There was also this very relevant message about environmental consciousness at the end.

    3. Jackie@My Little Bookcase
      June 27th, 2011 @ 4:09 am

      Oh delightful post. I’m going to have to revisit it later this evening so I can watch some of those adorable vintage clips.

      I wrote an article for Kids’ Book Review last year about how using film adaptations in the classroom can help enhance an interest in books and inspire some thoughtful discussions. It also inspired me to put a list together. I’ve included the link below. There are a few extras for you on that list.

      http://www.mylittlebookcase.com.au/books/film-inspired-books-for-children/

      I am actually a huge fan of film adaptations. I have only recently seen The Gruffalo animation and loved it.

      I’m not sure if you’ve seen the new picture book by Australian author/illustrator, The Aunties Three. It is absolutely hilarious. As soon as I read it with my daughter I was wishing to see it brought to life on the big screen or, even better, on stage.
      Jackie@My Little Bookcase recently posted..Happy Birthday Eric Carle: A few of our favourite caterpillar things

    4. Zoe
      June 27th, 2011 @ 6:42 am

      Thanks Jackie, I’m looking forward to reading your article as I’ve been wary of showing M book adaptations (of books she’s actually read/listened to) – when she saw Fantastic Mr Fox she was so disappointed that it wasn’t exactly the same as the book that since then I’ve been much more “protective” – if she’s enjoyed the book I haven’t encouraged her to see the film. But using films to encourage reading of books – that sounds great. Actually that’s how we got into Cressida Cowell’s Hiccup books – we saw how to train your dragon and then got hooked (and the film is really quite different from the book!)

    5. Zoe
      June 27th, 2011 @ 6:43 am

      Hi Sandhya, it’s on my list of films to look for at the video shop – thanks for the encouragement!

    6. Zoe
      June 27th, 2011 @ 6:44 am

      Be warned Choxbox! You might get stuck here for a while ;-) I had so much fun researching this post – spend ages and ages watching cartoons!

    7. Alex Baugh
      June 27th, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

      We just awarded you the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award
      http://thechildrenswar.blogspot.com
      Alex Baugh recently posted..An Award – Wow!

    8. Video Sunday: It’s the Robinson Crusoe bit, in case you were wondering « A Fuse #8 Production
      July 3rd, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

      [...] By the Book also recently put together what I consider an almost definitive collections of old cartoons in which literary characters come to life.  The videos are fascinating, partly because [...]

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