From a soul-searing work of historical fiction to an array of dystopian tales that envision the not-so-distant future, four much-lauded teen-friendly novels have been adapted for the big screen, all slated to premiere in November. Help teens make the connection between book and film by displaying, booktalking, and discussing these attention-worthy offerings.
Combining spectacular special effects with a rock-solid cast, the movie version of Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi epic (Tor, 1985), blasts into theaters and IMAX on November 1. Ender’s Game (PG-13) is set on a futuristic Earth still reeling from the effects of an invasion by hostile aliens that took place decades ago. In fact, if not for the legendary heroism of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are preparing for the next attack, seeking out and training the best children in order to forge a future leader. Brilliant and reserved, Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is recruited for Battle School, where he excels at war games that become progressively more arduous and earns the respect of his fellow students. Quickly promoted to Command School, Ender, now mentored by the great Mazer Rackham himself, is faced with the most daunting battle yet—one that will determine the fate of humanity. The official movie site (aka “The I.F. Sentinel”) provides a glimpse at Ender’s world, showcasing International Fleet documents and videos, and offering interested initiates a chance at trying their hand at a Battle Room Training game.
Tor has reissued Card’s novel (2013, Gr 7 Up), winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards and the first volume in the “Ender” series, with a slick-looking movie cover showing a suited up Ender, face enigmatically concealed by a helmet visor. Balancing fast-paced action and high-tech worldbuilding with thought-provoking moral dilemmas, this sci-fi classic is just as compelling as ever. Ender is a likable and multifaceted protagonist. Ruthlessly manipulated and isolated by the adults who surround him, his need for friendship and connections to his peers allows him to persevere despite intentional roadblocks. He is capable of viciously effective acts of violence or incredible moments of empathy, with both traits contributing to his effectiveness as leader, and his constant struggle for equanimity—and contemplation of his alien enemy—is engrossing. The book raises questions about the relationship between adults and children, the importance of compassion, the often-indistinct lines between friends and foes, and what it means to be human. A publisher’s reader’s guide provides discussion questions and extension activities.
Movie fans and graphic novel devotees will devour Marvel’s adaptation of Ender’s Game (2013; Gr 7 Up), originally published as two separate comics series, and now bound together into a single volume with a movie tie-in cover. Christopher Yost’s script presents a streamlined version of events, ending after the protagonist’s climatic combat confrontation. Similar to the novel, each chapter opens with an excerpt from Graff’s reports/conversations, making it clear to readers just who is pulling the strings. Pasqual Ferry’s dazzling artwork reveals a detailed and deftly imagined futuristic setting, and Ender and his cohorts look both vulnerably childlike and battle-hardened. Echoing the novel’s tone, the visual images do not sugarcoat moments of violence—Ender’s fist-to-fist dealings with bullies, for example, are graphic—but balances them with equally vivid renderings of the emotional consequences of his behavior. Throughout, the rapid-fire action is grounded by a thoughtful undercurrent of self-reflection and ethical quandaries.
How I Live Now
Adapted from Meg Rosoff’s novel (Random, 2004), How I Live Now (not yet rated) premieres November 8 in select theaters, On Demand, and on iTunes. Set in the very-near-future, this UK production stars Saoirse Ronan as Daisy, a troubled American teenager who is sent to spend the summer with relatives in England. At first aloof, she comes to appreciate the beauty of the sun-warmed countryside, grows closer to her likable cousins, and begins a heady romance with the eldest of the siblings, the handsome Edmund (George MacKay). Her summertime idyll is abruptly shattered when a growing conflict in Europe comes to a head and Britain is invaded. With Aunt Penn (Anna Chancellor) traveling abroad, the youngsters are left isolated and on their own. Day-to-day life disintegrates into violence and confusion, and Daisy and her youngest cousin Piper (Harley Bird) are forcibly separated from the others. Not only must Daisy fight to survive, but also to be reunited with the boy she loves.
Random House is reissuing Rosoff’s Printz-Award-winning novel (2013, Gr 8 Up) with a movie tie-in cover showing Ronan in character, set against an appropriately fire-hued backdrop. Daisy’s free-flowing first-person narrative forces readers to see events through her eyes, effectively bringing home the awful realities of facing a doomsday scenario—shortages of food medicine, frustration at not knowing what is going on (phone service, email, and news reports are erratic or non-existent), and living with constant fear. Filled with snide humor and devastating honesty—particularly about the inappropriateness and intensity of her blossoming (emotional and physical) relationship with her cousin Edmund—Daisy’s voice rings true with both innocence and insight. A more close-to-home take on dystopia, the book is believable and absorbing, and offers much to think about and discuss. Download the publisher’s thematic “World at War” teacher’s guide (Gr 7 Up) that features this title along with four others.
The Book Thief
Scheduled for release on November 15, the film adaptation of Markus Zusak’s haunting novel (Knopf, 2005) is already generating Oscar buzz. Set in World War II-era Germany, The Book Thief (not yet rated) tells the story of Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse), a young girl who is sent to live with foster parents in a working class neighborhood. She soon feels right at home with the Hubermanns, the prickly but loving Rosa (Emily Watson) and the kind-hearted Hans (Geoffrey Rush), who helps her learn to read the stolen book that she has brought along with her. As the war escalates and the family is faced with hard choices and harrowing realities, Liesel finds comfort, courage, and hope in the books she collects and shares with others. A video preview and photo gallery are available at the film’s website. Steer movie viewers toward the original work, a lyrical, satisfyingly complex, and riveting novel that speaks to the brutality, beauty, and life-changing bounty of words as well as the complexities of love in all of its different forms. Knopf is reissuing Zusak’s work (2013, Gr 9 Up) with a movie tie-in cover featuring an eye-grabbing candid of the clear-eyed protagonist.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Get ready to ignite. Catching Fire (PG-13), the eagerly anticipated film adaptation of the second installment in Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy (Scholastic), premieres in theaters and IMAX on November 22. After surviving the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) return home safe and triumphant, but must soon bid farewell to family and friends to embark on a mandatory victory tour of Panem’s districts. As crowds gather to greet them, Katniss detects rebellion in the air. However, the sinister President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is still very much in control, and in the process of planning the 75th Hunger Games—The Quarter Quell—a particularly lethal competition that once again places Katniss and Peeta in the eye of the storm. Many of the cast members from the critically acclaimed, box-office-busting first film reprise their roles, including Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, and Elizabeth Banks.
Teens can visit the official website to watch videos and browse photos, read about the cast, catch up on the latest news, and link to a plethora of fansites. And of course, check your shelves to make sure you still have plenty of copies of Collins’s series. Scholastic is reissuing Catching Fire (Gr 7 Up) with a movie poster cover showing an artfully romanticized portrait of Katniss, perched on a cliff with bow in hand, the clouds behind her forming the dramatic image of a Mockingjay. Also, be on the lookout for Kate Egan’s Catching Fire: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion (both Scholastic, 2013), a behind-the-scenes account filled with photos and interviews that will be released on the same day as the film.
CARD, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. Movie tie-in ed. Tor. Oct. 2013. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780765338211; Tr pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780765337320; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780765370624.
_____. Ender’s Game. script by Chris Yost. illus. by Pasqual Ferry. Marvel. 2013. pap. $24.99. ISBN 978-0-7851-8533-8.
ROSOFF, Meg. How I Live Now. Movie tie-in ed. Random/Ember. Oct. 2013. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780449819609.
ZUSAK, Markus. The Book Thief. Movie tie-in ed. Knopf. Oct. 2013. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780385754729.
COLLINS, Suzanne. Catching Fire. Movie tie-in ed. Scholastic. Oct. 2013. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780545603683.
EGAN, Kate. Catching Fire: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion. Scholastic. Nov. 2013. pap. $18.99. ISBN 9780545599337.