You don't have to visit Grauman's Chinese Theater to shout "hooray for Hollywood!"
These children's books which celebrate the glitz and glamour of La-la land make great reading gifts for your young master thespian or aspiring American Idol. Audition them to find out which ones can star in your entertainment-themed book collection. Read aloud with expression, dahhling, sparkle, sparkle! Please note: feather boa and sunglasses sold separately.
Annabel the Actress Starring In Gorilla My Dreams by Ellen Conford
Curious George Goes to the Movies by H.A. Rey
Film: Eyewitness Books by Richard Platt
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff
Judy Moody Gets Famous! By Megan McDonald
Lights! Camera! Action! How a Movie is Made by Gail Gibbons
Made You Look by Diane Roberts
Max in Hollywood, Baby by Maira Kalman
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Mouse TV by Matt Novak
Really Rosie by Maurice Sendak
Ruby Electric by Theresa Nelson
Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy by Wendelin Van Draanen
Silent Movie by Avi
The Bionic Bunny Show by Laurie Kransky Brown and Marc Brown
The Boy of a Thousand Faces by Brian Selznick
The Saturday Kid by Edward Sorel
Where's Waldo? in Hollywood by Martin Hanford
Start a Cinema Club!
When I became a public school teacher, I made reference to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and was met with blank stares and the sound of crickets. I asked how many children had seen The Wizard of Oz, and only half of the class raised a hand. I began to realize I was dealing with a lot of kids who thought Peter Pan was a brand of peanut butter and that The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Tarzan were written by Walt Disney. I decided that since they didn't know history, I would doom them to repeat it, and started a Cinema Club. Friday afternoons the classroom was transformed into a movie theater, complete with popcorn. We sent tickets to other classrooms and teachers gave them to deserving students who came as our special guests. Permission slips were signed so children could stay until the end of the movie, which sometimes ran close to two hours past the last school bell. We always had a full house, and many parents joined us. Start your own cinema club and visualize a summer of blockbuster books with their filmic follow-ups
and visualize some air-conditioning, too, while youčre at it!
Hints for Cinema Club
1. Have tickets, serve popcorn.
2. Expand horizons by showing movies that the children may be less likely to see or choose on their own.
3. Watch the move yourself first, to anticipate ways you may support your audience and to determine appropriateness for your particular group.
4. Offer incentives for itchy kids to make it through movies; for instance, get your ticket stub punched at the end of the show, and turn in five stubs for a homemade award/t-shirt/gift certificate to the local movie theater (would they donate?).
5. Discuss historical context every time.
6. Point out and discuss racial and gender stereotypes every time.
7. If you show the film in a school, take care to notify families beforehand what movies are going to be shown and what their ratings are, and get signed permission slips so you are less likely to get an earful about content later.
Children live in an increasingly visual society, so it's only fair that we prepare them to be media literate; the books and movies below pass the screen test and will make stars out of all your summer school students. A sampling of Cinema Club picks (and read-aloud tie-ins):
Treasure Island (I like the 1934 version with Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper)
(Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, I like the editions illustrated by Robert Ingpen or N.C. Wyeth)
Anne of Green Gables (1987)
(Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery)
(Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith)
The Borrowers (1998) (My students and I liked the newer one with John Goodman,
despite shameless and distracting brand-name plugs at the beginning, which should be pointed out)
(The Borrowers by Mary Norton)
(Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; an especially beautiful edition is illustrated by Don Freeman)
(Dinotopia by James Gurney)
The Iron Giant (1999)
(The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes)
The Princess Bride (1987)
(The Princess Bride by William Goldman)
(Matilda by Roald Dahl)
The Little Princess (Shirley Temple did the 1939 original, which is terrific, but the one produced in 1995 starring Eleanor Bron is actually even more exciting and beautiful!)
(A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett; picture book version illustrated by Barbara McClintock)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahlbe sure to pass out chocolate to eat while you view the movie. Maybe one of them can have a golden ticket, with the licky winner receiving their own copy of the book?)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
(The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum; make sure you look at the 100th anniversary commemorative pop-up illustrated by Robert Sabuda)
The Black Stallion (1979)
(The Black Stallion by Walter Farley)
(King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table edited by Sidney Lanier, from Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur; also, try The World of King Arthur and His Court : People, Places, Legend, and Lore by Kevin Crossley-Holland and the picture books about young Genevieve, Arthur, Lancelot and Merlin by Robert San Souci)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
(Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming)
Where to Find Great Movies
If you are not located near a good video store, you can still rent classics via post through what I consider the greatest movie store in the world, Facets Multimedia, 1-800-331-6197. Ask about receiving a complete video catalog, with about 35,000 tapes in the collection, including many beautiful foreign films that are suitable for children. Subtitles count as reading!
A great selection of hard-to-find children's videos can also be purchased through Library Video Company, 1-800-843-3620. They put movie rental places to shame, offering hundreds of quality productions as well as wonderful children's shorts that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else, including the celebrated Weston Woods award-winning animation productions of picture books. Many of the children's videos have shorter playing times which may prove more manageable for younger audiences. Library Video Company also offers children's programming from PBS and cable on video. Most of the selections have the potential for literature tie-ins, and the catalog is arranged thematically. The company is also an excellent source for literature-based computer games.
And finally, take your class on the ultimate field trip to Chicago, Illlinois for the Cannes for kids! The International Children's Film Festival takes place every fall at Facets Multimedia Center and is every young movie-lover's dream come true. Visit their site or call 1-800-331-6197 to sign up for the festival mailing list and to find out how your favorite children can audition as a critics.
Roll Out the Red Carpet! Screen Actors in the Schools
Whether through streaming video, sizzling phone lines or in-the-flesh visits, real live actors can come to your classroom and share favorite stories! Explore The BookPALS program to check out this very exciting initiative that adds a whole new level of glam to storytime.
Many more recommendations can be found in the "Cinema Club" section of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading. You'll be president of the AV club yet!