Newbery Winners Adapted to Film

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Newbery Winners Adapted to Film

The John Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association to the best children’s book published the previous year. Since its first awarding in 1922, numerous beloved books have been Newbery Medal winners or honor books, many have influenced children’s lives for the better, and several have been adapted to film. 

These six books won the Newbery Medal and have since been adapted to film, either previously released or slated to release late this year. Read these excellent books, see why they were the best children’s book of the year, then watch the movie adaptation to see how it compares. 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The One and Only Ivan won the 2013 Newbery Medal. The Silverback gorilla Ivan has lived his life in a cage at a mall off the highway, but when a new animal joins the crew, he decides he must use his painting, his art, to find a way out for them both. This is a sweet, emotional read perfect for elementary or middle school readers, especially animal lovers, and offers a great insight into how we view compassion and friendship through a unique POV.  The book is being adapted to film by Disney with a slated release of Aug. 2020. 

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game won the 1979 Newbery Medal. Imagine a murder mystery party, with a whole apartment building involved, and a cash prize. Sixteen residents of Sunset Towers learn they are heirs named in businessman Samuel Westing’s will. Whoever solves the clues will win his fortune. Our protagonist, Turtle Wexler, is determined to get to the bottom of things, and her child-like interest in everything around her as well as her stubbornness make her a beloved literary character for many generations. It was adapted into the 1997 movie Get a Clue

Holes by Louis Sachar
Holes won the 1999 Newbery Medal. Stanley Yelnats is unlucky, cursed you might even say. A series of unfortunate events lands him at a juvenile correction facility in the desert, where he spends day after day digging holes. As Stanley’s story unfolds, and he tries to discover the meaning behind the holes and get out, we also learn the story of the people who came before Stanley, including those who cursed him. Interwoven narratives offer insight into why the warden is so interested in digging holes, and offer Stanley a way out. It was adapted into a 2003 film of the same name

The Giver  by Lois Lowry
Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal. The protagonist, Jonas, lives in a dystopian society where all pain and suffering has been taken away. But soon after his twelfth birthday, Jonas learns he has been selected to be the new Receiver of Memory, a position of much power but also much pain. As he learns about life before “sameness” where there was emotion, color and pain, Jonas must learn from the Giver and decide if he is able to take on the position on his own. It was adapted into a 2014 film of the same name. There is also a graphic novel adaptation in the DC Public Library collection. 

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia won the 1978 Newbery Medal. The novel recounts the childhood of two young outcasts who create a magical world in the nearby woods. Jessee comes from a poor, rural family, but Leslie’s wealthy family moves in next door and his life is changed. As they run together and adventure into the magical, imaginary land of Terabithia, Jesse finds his voice and a way to go forward after a terrible tragedy. It was adapted into a 2007 film of the same name

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbery Medal. Meg Murray and her precocious brother Charles receive a surprise visit from a neighbor, Mrs. Whatsit, that leads them on a journey to find their missing scientist father. As they travel through time and space, seeking their father and the answers to the scientific question he was asking, they meet an array of fascinating characters, both good and bad, and they learn that sometimes children can do what a parent cannot. The book was adapted into a 2018 film of the same name, and there is also a graphic novel adaptation.