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Top Kids' Movies Based on Books for Ages 6-12


Whether you read the book and then see the movie or vice versa, seeing a story come to life in a movie can help motivate kids to read. Or, movies can be a fun reward for reading accomplishments. Here is a list of recent movies that are excellent adaptations of renowned books for elementary school-aged kids. Since kids' preferences and reading levels vary, some kids may also enjoy the movie/books for young children, or they may be ready for some on the list for tweens. Even if your child isn't able to read chapter books quite yet, some of these are great for parents to read aloud to younger children as well.

1. The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)

The Secret World of Arrietty
Photo © Disney
Based on the classic book The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty is a fanciful adventure with beautiful animation and a lovely soundtrack. The movie comes from Studio Ghibli and is distributed by Disney. The gentle pacing of the movie leads viewers through the multifaceted story, allowing them to take in the beautiful scenery along the way. Small children may grow restless due to the slower pace and lack of gimmicky animation tricks, but for kids about ages 6 and up, the movie is a fabulous way to contrast the slow, artistic film with other movies they have seen. (Rated G)

2. Hugo

Hugo Blu-ray
Photo © Paramount Home Entertainment
Based on the unique novel by Brian Selznick, Hugo follows the story of an orphan boy who, continuing a project he started with his late father, discovers a historical mystery that changes his life and the lives of his new friends forever. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won 5. It was cited by more than 150 critics as one of the top ten films of the year. Some moments of peril and an intense dream sequence may be frightening for young children. (Rated PG, recommended for kids 7+)

3. Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins Blu-ray
Photo © 20th Century Fox
Based on the children's chapter book by Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr. Popper's Penguins stars Jim Carrey in a live-action comedy full of boisterous fun. When Mr. Popper inherits six penguins, his life turns upside down, but in the end, he realizes that it's actually been put right side up. The movie is quite a bit different from the book, which gives kids a great opportunity to compare and contrast the stories. Parents should know that the movie contains some rude humor and mild language. (Rated PG)

4. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (2011)

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer Blu-ray
Photo © Relativity
Based on the popular children's chapter books by Megan McDonald, the Judy Moody movie is a hilarious every day adventure for kids about ages 6-12. The Judy Moody book series includes many chapter books about the life and adventures of the rambunctious, free-spirited girl, so kids can get hooked on them and have a year's worth of reading material or more. For boys who may not be as keen on reading a book about a girl character, there is also the spin-off series about Stink, Judy's younger brother.

5. Charlotte's Web (2006)

Charlotte's Web
Photo © Paramount Home Entertainment

Based on the Award-winning book by E.B. White (Compare prices), Charlotte's Web brings the inspiring and articulate story to life. The movie conveys a simple moral about friendship and loyalty that may bring a tear to the eye. While the film does deal with some heavy topics, it also points out the small miracles in life, and the profound way in which love and commitment can make a difference. (Rated G. Ages 4+). Of course, there is also the cartoon version of Charlotte's Web (Compare prices) that is a little lighter and well-loved by kids as well. Even if kids aren't at able to read the book on their own, this is an excellent chapter book to read aloud and celebrate by watching one, or both of the movies.

6. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008)

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Photo © New Line Cinema

Based on Meet Kit (Buy direct), from the wildly popular American Girl book series, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is about a young girl pursuing her dream of becoming a journalist. But the story is more than that: it is also a story about surviving during the Great Depression. In addition to entertaining kids, this heart-warming tale will tug at their heart strings and educate them a bit about a distant time in American history. Rated G. Ages 5+.

7. Nim's Island (2008)

Nim's Island
Photo © Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

After losing her mother at sea, Nim and her father Jack found a remote island and settled there to live together. Alone, away from all civilization, daddy and daughter live off the land and study nature, but when her father gets lost at sea, Nim relies on her friendship with author Alex Rover to help her get through. Rated PG. The movie is based on the wonderful novel (Compare prices) by Australian author Wendy Orr. The book is recommended for kids 8-12, and according to the book cover, Wendy wrote the first draft of Nim's Island when she was only nine!

8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Photo © Warner Bros.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is truly one of the funnest books we've ever read with our kids. The book is an excellent read aloud for younger children as well. As far as movies go, we are partial to the newer Johnny Depp version (pictured), but some parents found this movie to be too dark and weird for young kids, so there is always the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie (Compare prices), starring Gene Wilder, as well. And, while we are on the subject of Roald Dahl, many more of his kids' books have been made into movies as well, including Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda.

9. Hotel for Dogs

Hotel for Dogs
Photo © DreamWorks
Based on the book by Lois Duncan, Hotel for Dogs is a real winner with kids, both because of the dogs and the because of the "kids save the day" plot. When their new guardians forbid 16-year-old Andi (Emma Roberts) and her younger brother, Bruce (Jake T. Austin) to have a pet, they have to find a new home for their dog, Friday. Having learned to be resourceful from their time in foster care, the kids use their street smarts and talents to turn an abandoned hotel into the ultimate doggy destination for Friday, and many others. (PG)
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10. Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew
Photo © Warner Bros.
Numerous Nancy Drew books are available, including the classic mystery series and new, updated series. These books are perfect for kids, especially girls, who are ready to dive into their first mysteries. Suspense and intrigue abound, but the stories are geared toward readers about the ages of 9-12. The movie, starring Emma Roberts, is an updated Nancy Drew story with a Nance who is fun, preppy, sweet, and comfortable in her own skin. (Rated PG, ages 8+)
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