'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 29 November 2010

Blog Tour - My Little Bookcase

KBR is delighted to welcome friend and all round clever gal Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase - who is launching a fabulous, new-look site dedicated to all things kid lit. Enjoy this wonderful guest piece on Film Adaptations of Books.

‘Hurry Sickness’. Have you heard of it? Sufferers of Hurry Sickness regularly feel rushed as they work frantically to fill their day with tasks and activities. They are always searching for a way to complete tasks more quickly and regularly get frustrated with any type of delay.
Although it has probably always existed, Hurry Sickness has become a common ailment of the twenty-first century.

Children and teenagers are not immune to the sickness either. They have been born into a world where there is almost always a piece of technology or an electronic gadget to help themachieve tasks more quickly. Instant access to information, services and products has never been easier, and there’s a worry among teachers and parents that reading books is an endangered activity for children, as they perceive it to be a laborious and lengthy process. Filmson the other hand are appealing to children because they receive the instant gratification to which they have become accustomed.
As a mother and a teacher, I am of the opinion that it is fruitless to try to dissuade our children from watching films. Instead I think they can be used to enhance the enjoyment of reading.
Reading books and watching films share some benefits such as provoking thought and discussion, providing inspiration,and developing an appreciation for art and writing. But for me, books offer other qualities that films can’t provide; reading provides individuals with a time for quiet and calmness and it stimulates the imagination as one interprets the words selected by the author to portray their story. So, we need to find ways to foster an interest in reading and the use of film is one option.
I find conversations and critiques of film adaptations so fascinating. Opinions are always varied and diverse, which I think explain sthe passion people have for books and the impact they can have on individuals. Readers invest so much of their emotion and imagination into a book, and another reader’s interpretation of the book will always be slightly different. For this reason, I don’t think reading can ever be replaced. 
Films are often used by teachers as a reward for hard work in the last week of the school year, however, they also have a use and a place during the school year. Film adaptations can be used to extend the study of a book. They allow students to compare, analyse and evaluate the adaptation of the text. In my experience as a teacher, this has led to a rich and meaningful exploration of the text and is very much enjoyed by students who love to discuss and philosophise.
The year before I took family leave from my teacher position, I was teaching a class of 24 students, 18 of which were boys. Although the boys were capable readers, they were unenthusiastic about reading. The majority of them were visual and kinaesthetic learners and avid computer users. They were active boys who were hesitant to partake in sustained reading.
As teachers do, I was compelled to modify the curriculum to suit the learning styles of my students. My first task was to choose a text that would gain the interest of my students. I then decided to use film to enhance our study of the chosen text.
Based on my experience, I’ve listed a few tips and general activity ideas for a comparative study between book and film in the classroom:
Choose a book and film that will capture the interest of your students. Feel free to add to the list.
I chose The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke because it is a mystery with themes of belonging, family, friendship, trust and youth. The story, about a group of runaway children who have become quite skilled at out-smarting adults, is full of adventure and deception. It is set in the magical city of Venice which adds to the story’s intrigue.
  Read the book before watching the film. It will enable your students to construct their own understanding and meaning from the text rather than being influenced by the film director’s vision.
  Spend some time exploring the plot, characters, setting and themes before watching the film, as this will help your students to ascertain what they have interpreted from the book before comparing it to another interpretation. Some ideas (which you could undertake during or after reading the book) include:
a)   List the most important events that you believe must appear in the film version (Depending on the book and your time constraints, you might set a minimum number of events)

b)   Draw up a story-board to visually show each of the scenes you would include in your own film adaptation.
a)   Choose well-known actors to play the roles of the main characters in your film adaptation. Find images of the actors and describe/justify why they would be great to cast as the characters of the book based on their personalities and physical appearances.
a)   Draw a map including all the places that are described or mentioned in the book

b)   Take a virtual tour of the location in which the book is set.
The Thief Lord was clearly set in the city of Venice and even included a map of Venice and a glossary of Italian words in the book. Instead of drawing a map of Venice we used the internet to take a virtual tour of Venice based on the places mentioned in the book.

c)   Make a diorama of one of the locations described in the book
For The Thief Lord, I asked students to make a diorama of The Stella Cinema which was an abandoned and dilapidated cinema that became home for the group of runaway children in the story.

d)  Choose 5 scenes from the book and choose 5 pieces of music you would play during those scenes in the film to convey how the scene makes you feel
a)  As a class decide on the main theme and message of the book. Brainstorm some symbols or objects that could be used in the film to represent the theme.
For example, my class chose homelessness as a theme and the students decided that a suitcase would be a suitable symbol, as the children in the story needed somewhere to store the items of importance that they collected as they moved from place to place.
a)  Choose a number of scenes from the book, and discuss how they make you feel.
For example, The Thief Lord regularly conveyed feelings of adventure, anticipation, deceit and nervousness
After watching the film:
a)  Use a Venn Diagram to analyse the similarities and differences between the film and the book.

b)  Have an epic class discussion. (This is the part I loved. Just writing this article is giving me itchy feet to get back into the classroom).

Some questions to prompt the discussion could include:

Was the casting of actors accurate? Why or why not? (You may work through each character at a time.)
After watching the film, do you prefer your own casting or the director’s?
What scenes/events were left out of the film? Why?
What extra scenes/events were added to the film?
Were any of our symbols used in the film?
What other symbols were used?
Which were the predominant themes in the film?
What camera shots or sound effects did the director use to convey a sense of feeling? (Eg. to make us feel nervous)
Did you prefer the book or the film? Justify.
What were your likes and dislikes of the film? Explain.
            What would you have done differently if you directed the film?
Other extension activities:
a)  To further extend the study, if you have access to the technology and facilities, your students could prepare and film one scene from the book. They would be required to write a screen play for the scene, create setting props, develop characters with the use costumes and symbols, choose music for scene ambience and finally film and edit their work.
 Have fun with the study. It may allow your students to see books in another light. There is no need to complete all of the listed activities. They are simply suggestions. We don’t want to overdo it and kill the book either.
 The activities have been discussed in the context of the classroom, although they could be adopted more casually in a family setting.

Jackie is a mum and teacher, currently on family leave. She most recently taught in a primary school, but has also worked in a range of leadership roles, co-authored four secondary school text books and has been involved in many curriculum development projects.
Be sure to check out Jackie's amazing new space: My Little Bookcase - an online resource for parents where they can find and share a wealth of information to encourage a love of reading in their homes.
Jackie will be contributing to KBR with more wonderful posts and you can learn more about her here.