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Children's Books Spawn Movie Box Office Hits


The Dr. Seuss story, "Horton Hears a Who!" is the latest box office hit for children in American movie theaters. Many other favorite children's stories also have been adapted for the large screen. But do kids prefer the movie or the book? VOA's Penelope Poulou takes a look.

Like in the book, in the animated movie "Horton Hears a Who," an elephant discovers that there is life on a little fluffy speck that sits on a flower in the jungle. No one believes him. But Horton will do anything to save the precarious existence of tiny Whoville -- as it is called.

This movie is one of many box office hits that have been adapted from kids' popular stories. Others are Tony DiTerlizzi's "The Spiderwick Chronicles," about a magical book that contains all the mysteries of life; Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass," about a heroic young girl who defies the dark government of the "Magisterium" and brings truth to the world; and of course J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series.

But what is the most popular? The movie or the book? Andrew Getman is manager of Olsson's Books and Records in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington.

"When a book becomes popular because of the movie we do see an increase in the interest on the children coming in looking for the book," says Mr. Gordon. "Parents are more inclined to choose that book, to share with their children because they become more familiar [with the story.] "

That does not necessarily mean the movie is more marketable than the book. J.K. Rowling's successful series of "Harry Potter" books has spawned films, video games and merchandise based on the books. As of April 2007, the first six books in the seven book series had sold more than 400 million copies.

But what do children have to say about the books and movies they love?

Seven-year-old Phoebe Tomsu says she likes both movies and books, each in its own way.

"A movie, you just lie back and look at the pictures and relax and eat popcorn," says Phoebe. "But if you want to do it by yourself [read it] and you don't want to watch somebody famous and you want to pretend you're famous, you read a book, then you look at the words and you think that the pictures are actually showing up."

Phoebe's 12- year-old sister Chloe says that books and movies compliment each other. She says good cinematography, acting and special effects can enhance the narrative.

"You read the book and you can imagine it and you see it the way you want to see it," she explains. "But it's also very nice to 'see' it from the writers' point of view. For example, J.K. Rowling will probably tell the (movie) director how she imagined it for the movie so they can pick up specific actors, how they looked [to her], how they sound."

Whether children choose the book or the movie, one thing is certain: Each medium boosts the popularity of the other. Box office hits based on books will draw kids into the bookstore and good books turned-movies will entice them into the fanciful world on the large screen.

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