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3×3: Kiddie Lit Authors Pick Flicks for the Young at Heart

Some grownups never lose the imagination they had as kids. Some even wind up writing books that inspire the next generation to keep dreaming. We asked three authors of books for young readers to recommend movies for the young and the young at heart.


Name: Carolyn Hennesy

Book: Pandora Gets Jealous

Read as a kid: “Greek mythology, naturally…started in on that around 11. Devoured the Brother’s Grimm…the uncensored versions. Loved horror stories…Alfred Hitchcock had a book of weird tales for kids. Fantastic. Also Caddie Woodlawn and the odd Nancy Drew story.”

Hardest part about writing for kids: “Walking the fine line between NEVER talking or writing down to them versus assuming that, even in this faster-paced, more wordly world, they know more than they really do. I just try to think about what I knew at their age. Of course, most of the time, I think I’m actually 13, anyway…so it’s not difficult.”

Top three movies for kids:

1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “The sweet, edible garden! I wanted to live there. I still want to live there. The image of Veruca Salt digging her fist into a pod of sweet goo seared itself into my brain forever.”

2. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: “‘Toot Sweet’, the dance number in the candy factory. Perfection. And the sinister, twisted child-catcher with the candy cart that morphed into a cage. Brilliantly placed danger in an otherwise delightful film. Just shy of treacly.”

3. The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes: “Sort of a Flowers For Algernon for the pre-teen set. And Kurt Russell has never been cuter.”


Name: Andrea Buchanan

Book: The Daring Book for Girls (with co-author Miriam Peskowitz)

Read as a kid: “Anything and everything. I still remember getting in trouble for reading one of the teachers’ newspapers at ‘nap time’ in kindergarten.”

Hardest part about writing for kids: “I don’t know — I’ve never done it! The Daring Book for Girls is certainly for girls, but we really wrote it for women of all ages.”

Top three movies for kids:

1. Fantasia: “I saw this when I was about eight… I felt totally transported: awed by the artwork and alternately terrified and moved by the music. I remember sketching fauns and nymphs for months afterwards.”

2. The Wizard of Oz:
“I have to include this one, because my mom basically made us watch this every year when it was on TV. This, too, was transporting: watching Dorothy’s ‘hero’s journey’ unfold through story and song felt
really profound, even when I was too young to understand it.”

3. Beauty and the Beast: “I know, I know, it’s Disney, and it’s a fairy tale, and it’s not even close to the original tale, really… But I remember seeing this in the theater as a grown-up and marveling that it was basically a Broadway musical on the big screen. Also, I just really love how in this retelling Belle is a heroine who is so exquisitely prepared for her journey.”


Name: John Hulme

Book: The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep (co-author Michael Wexler)

Read as a kid: “As a kid, I was a bit of a freak for comic books, and have about 10,000 packed into bags and boxes in my mother’s basement. But I was also heavily into Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, and The Lord of the Rings.”

Hardest part about writing for kids: “Knowing how deeply invested they get into the mythology of a fantasy series (because that’s how I was). You have to flesh out every corner of the
world you’re trying to create…its history, it’s characters and relationships, its overarching conflicts. Which is why it took us almost eleven years to write Book 1.”

Top three movies for kids:

1. The Black Stallion: “I loved the book, and I remember being very scared that the movie would be a bust. But Carrol Ballard nailed it, perfectly realizing a beautiful story about the relationship between a boy and a horse. Mickey Rooney was brilliant as the old trainer, and the cinematography is off the charts. Final race still brings tears to my eye…”

2. A Little Princess: “Before he made Harry Potter 3 or Y Tu Mama Tambien,
Alfonso Cuaron directed this little gem that totally slipped through the cracks. It’s a girl’s adventure that any boy can love, and Cuaron captures a sense of magic and wonder that no one else out there even
approaches. I have a little girl on the way, and can’t wait to watch this with her…”

3. Toy Story: “I’ve watched this about forty times in the last year with my three-year old son (on those uh, rare occasions when we let him watch TV) and the movie that introduced us to Pixar gets better every time.
Profound, ingenious and hysterical all at once, and you never look at toys the same way again.”

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