Before they were movie stars, Shrek, Rapunzel and others enthralled young readers

This holiday season, the hottest movies for children are based on great children's literature. For example, Tangled, Disney's new film, is based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Rapunzel. And, of course, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is adapted from C.S. Lewis' Narnia adventure by the same name.

Stop by the library to pick up some of these great books that have inspired equally great children's movies.


by Paul O. Zelinsky

Dutton Children's Books, 1997

This fairy tale has been retold many times, but the most beautiful and critically acclaimed version may be this picture book by Paul O. Zelinsky, a lushly illustrated masterpiece that won the 1998 Caldecott Medal. Each exquisitely detailed oil painting draws the reader into sumptuous Renaissance scenes where Rapunzel's hair flows in patterns so intricate that one can fully believe a man could climb her tresses. However, Zelinsky's retelling of this tale is not for the faint of heart; the witch who has imprisoned Rapunzel forces her out of the tower when she becomes pregnant, and when the prince arrives, the witch blinds him. However, true love eventually triumphs. This visually dazzling masterpiece will continue to be treasured long after other versions have been forgotten.


by William Steig

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990

On the silver screen, Shrek is a grumpy, lovable ogre that rescues the human girl of his dreams with true love's kiss, turning her into a charming, winsome ogress who gives him lots of delightful ogre babies. The original picture-book version presents a far more monstrous Shrek, an uproariously noxious creature who terrifies everyone he encounters as he goes searching for a bride as brutal and repulsive as himself. His most horrifying moment comes when he falls asleep and dreams that he is lying in a field of flowers as little children hug and kiss him. William Steig's picture book presents Shrek as a refreshingly original anti-hero and is a satire on conventional fairy tales, as the evil monsters conquer the human hero, fall in love with each other's ugliness and live horribly, and hilariously, ever after.

How To Train Your Dragon

by Cressida Cowell

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2004

Before it became a lushly animated 3-D movie, this was a hysterically funny book about a geeky youth who becomes one of the most unlikely Viking heroes ever. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, undersized son of chief Stoick the Vast, is ordered to tame a dragon or face exile. After a harrowing trip into the dragon's cave, Hiccup gets his dragon -- a creature he appropriately names "Toothless." He also finds an instruction book on how to tame the dragon, which says only: "Yell at it. The louder, the better." Hiccup finds this advice to be inadequate, and chooses instead to befriend his dragon, with results that amaze the brutish knuckleheads that surround him. This witty book is filled with delightfully over-the-top characters and crude drawings that might have been drawn by the book's 10-year-old hero.

Beezus and Ramona

by Beverly Cleary

William Morris, 1995

Beatrice Quimby wants to be a good big sister, but that's not always easy. Her 4-year-old sister, Ramona, who calls her "Beezus," can be very exasperating! She scribbles in Beezus' library book and disrupts her painting lesson, and when Beezus' friend Henry comes to play checkers, Ramona locks his dog in the bathroom. When Ramona destroys Beezus' birthday cake twice in the same day, Beezus explodes. Then she is surprised and relieved to learn that her mother and beloved aunt also argued when they were growing up, and that conflict is a normal part of being sisters. The movie version of this book differs significantly from the book in several ways: In the film, both girls are several years older, Ramona gets top billing, and several scenes are taken from other books from the series. Read the original for a delightfully humorous, gently believable look at childhood sibling rivalry.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

by C.S. Lewis

HarperTrophy, 1952

Edmund and Lucy are enduring a tedious summer at the house of their unpleasant cousin Eustace. Then a painting of a ship called the Dawn Treader comes to life, and soon Edmund, Lucy and Eustace find themselves traveling with King Caspian and battling sea serpents, escaping from slave traders and triumphing over a variety of harrowing dangers. Eustace, who spends much of the journey complaining, is turned into a dragon. He is later returned to human form by the great lion Aslan, underscoring the book's themes of redemption and spiritual growth.

The Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan

Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children, 2005

Percy Jackson knows he's not like other kids, but he thinks it's because he's dyslexic. Little does he know that his very existence has sparked a war among the immortals. His friend Grover, a satyr who has protected him since birth, takes Percy to Camp Half-Blood, and he learns that he is the son of the Greek god Poseidon. He also learns that Zeus believes Percy has stolen his master lightning bolt. Percy must travel to the Underworld to get back the bolt and save his human mother, held captive by Hades. This exciting, fast-paced novel launched not only a successful movie but also a five-part series of supernatural adventures. The nonstop action makes this an especially appealing book for teen and pre-teen boys.

Claire Abraham is a children's librarian at the Fort Worth Public Library. These books are available at most library branches.