Talk To My Kids: Movies Vs. Books

Books and movies and hugs. In that order, please.

That title is completely misleading, of course.  We NEVER have to choose between a book and its movie.  The answer is always, “Both, please.”

That said, now that my kids are old enough (in our world, at least) to have tried out plenty of both, I conducted a little interview with them to get their take on books that have been adapted into movies.  First their answers, then my comments.

Note: I asked them these questions separately, so no one knew anyone else’s answers.  I have no idea if this is important to my oh-so-very-scientific findings, but I thought you should know.

 1. What do you usually like better….book or movie?

Ellie: Mostly the book basically because they actually can talk about their emotion without having to act it out

Scott: both the same

Lucy: Normally the movie because I can see what’s happening

 2. What is better about a book?

Ellie: They can do a lot more details

Scott: Books generally have more details than movies do. 

Lucy: Because sometimes I imagine what it looks like and then when I watch the movie it looks totally different.

 3. What is better about a movie?

Ellie: I usually get a better idea of what people look like

Scott: I think that movies are more exciting because you actually get to see the picture.

Lucy: Because you can see what’s happening

 4. Let’s talk specific book movie combos: 

      Harry Potter 

         First, which book is your favorite? 

 Ellie: Last one…eeeeehhhh….yeah

Scott: Four

Lucy: The one where they all drink the potion that makes them look like Harry [7]

         Then, which movie is your favorite? 

Ellie: Honestly, that’s hard but my least favorite is the sixth movie. Maybe the fourth is my favorite, but I’m not sure.

Scott: Seven (Part 1)

Lucy: Eight, and my favortie part is when they go to rescue Luna and get trapped themselves [which I think may be in 7?]

         Last, books or movies?

Ellie: Books

 Scott:  Books

 Lucy: Books

 Series of Unfortunate Events (Book or movie?)

 Ellie: Books

 Scott: Books

 Lucy: Movie

 Lord of the Rings/Hobbit [Note: We have not fully read The Return of The King or watched the movie)

      Which book is best? 

Ellie: The Hobbit

Scott: The Two Towers

Lucy: I don’t know

      Which movie is best? 

Ellie: The first LOTR movie [The Fellowship of the Ring]

Scott: Second half of The Two Towers movie

Lucy: Not sure

       Book or movie?

 Ellie: Books

Scott: Books

 Lucy: Movies, because it is taking a long time for us to finish the last book

 The Hunger Games (Which book is best? Which movie is best? Book or movie?) [Note: She hasn’t quite finished Mockingjay or watched the movie.]

 Ellie: Mockingjay is the best book, but Catching Fire is a close second, Catching Fire is the best movie, I don’t know about book or movie…they’re both so good…I can’t tell

 5. What book that you’ve read would you like to see a movie of?

 Ellie: The Sisters Grimm and…Do your books count? Can I say that?

 Scott: The Phantom Tollbooth

Lucy: Not sure 

 6. Do you feel like watching the movie before reading the book ruins it? 

Ellie: Yes, but just because the book is usually a lot different from the movie

Scott: Yes

Lucy: Yes

7. Does reading the book first ruin the movie

Ellie: Not really

Scott: No

Lucy: No
There are several things of interest in their answers, and the most important of all is: I HAVE TOTALLY NERDED OUT MY CHILDREN!! I’m so proud.

What you see most of all here (other than the nerdiness) is how much the environment you raise them in, your values and opinions and how you spend your time, totally molds their own view of things.  My kids may eventually change their minds, but right now, they have totally bought in to our love of books and words and powerful stories of all kinds.

My other observations:

1. Tyranical as it often seemed to them at the time, I have succeeded in convincing them it is always the right thing to do to read the book BEFORE you watch the movie.  Victory is mine.

2. Ellie is way less decisive than her younger siblings.  Picking one favorite was very difficult for her.  A girl after my own heart.

3. It takes half of forever to read The Lord of the Rings out loud.  We have literally been working on it for a year and a half and are only on the first chapter of The Return of the King. And yet, somehow, my older kids still like the books better than the movies.  This shocked me.  I would think they were only saying that to please me, but I can’t remember the last time they expressed an opinion just because I wanted them to.  

4. My books totally count.

5. Lucy is a testament to the power of reading out loud.  She LOVES the HP movies and can’t read to herself beyond simple beginner books, but still she prefers the books over the movies.  And she is right.  Those movies are delightful, but nothing can touch the books.

6. I agree with Scott.  There should be a much better movie of The Phantom Tollbooth.  The one that exists is awful.  I didn’t even tell him about it.

7. Narnia!  I knew there was something I was forgetting to ask them about.  Ah well.  Another day.

I Still Believe in Mr. Click

I told you last week that we would be doing our annual “write a Christmas story” day.  I was bracing myself a little bit.  I always worry that one year they’ll open the advent paper for that day and let out a loud groan.  Not this year!  They were excited!  I breathed a sigh of relief, handed them a pile of stickers and a few writing prompts and went to make dinner for a crowd while they got to work.


Ellie immediately went for the mysterious lump in the Christmas stocking idea.  She says the part with the blue scratch is “because I needed to cross something out and then I decided to use that as part of the story.”  That’s a kind of flexibility and resourcefulness I can get behind.

Her story:

December 14

I walk downstairs but something isn’t right.  I look at my stocking.  It is December 14th and there is a lump in my stocking.  I am about to open it when… “Honey, breakfast time.”

Later I go down and there is a blue scratch on the stocking.  I run my finger over it.  I’m about to open it when… “Time to go to Grandma’s.”

I get home and see a second gash.  I don’t bother to open it.  Later that night I wake up at 11:55.  I walk downstairs.  11:59.  I open it.  12:00, and…

The end.

It’s possible the girl has watched too many Twilight Zones.

Scott was interested in the shrinking Christmas tree.  He also decided to shoot for a rhyming story.  Sort of.

One day at night, I heard a thump down through the chimney – but it wasn’t Saint Nick, but Mr. Click!  Through the smell of his lotion, I could smell shrinking potion!  He ran to our Christmas tree with much glee, poured Christmas shrinking potion on our tree and it shrunk!  I ran to my trunk and got my lotion and growing potion!  So that night no one knew that I had faced a fright!  But they had some of their own…

Apparently he plans a few prequels, about the frights that the rest of the family faced.  The beauty of the rhyming part is that now we have Mr. Click!  He’s now totally a thing, like Festivus and the two moose that top our Christmas tree.

And yes, I might need to talk to my kids about how irritating cliff hangers can be.  But at least they write with glee!  And include our family! With punctuation they are free!

Seriously, I love love love reading the stories they write.

And please don’t hear me leaving out Lu, who is not quite ready to write out her own story, but who makes up the most thrilling tales anyway.  I recorded her telling a story in front of the Christmas tree the next day.  It is long and rambles because,  five-year-old.  But I’m proud to say that it’s about a monster who only comes out on Christmas Eve and that idea was all her own.  If you have some serious patience (and ability to interpret five-year-old speak), you can watch the video below. You’ll be rewarded with moments of very dramatic acting, so there’s that.

If not, Merry Christmas anyway!  May you receive no visits from Mr. Click and find no blue scratches on your stocking.  (Unless your holidays are getting boring, in which case, bring it on.)


Inside and Out

This morning Lucy started to tell me a story and then decided halfway through that I should finish it for her. I thought her premise was so quirky and perfectly expressive of her brain that it was worth a Lucy-esque ending. Here’s what we came up with together. Because nothing is more fun that making stuff up with my kids.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who lived in a big castle. She lived there all alone because everyone else had died.

One day a huge giant came to her castle. “I’m going to eat you!” he said to the princess.

(Now, don’t worry. He isn’t going to…well, he IS going to eat her, but it will be okay.)

So then he ate her in one big bite, but she didn’t die. She went inside him. You know. And inside him she went to a beautiful land.

And the thing is that he was a bad giant, but he used to be a good giant, only all his niceness was down inside him now, and the badness was on the outside. So down inside him, she was in his niceness.

I want you to finish the story.


So inside his belly, all his niceness had made this beautiful land, and the princess wandered the beautiful land looking at rainbows and flowers and everything happy and nice, and there, under an apple tree she saw a boy. When she got closer, she realized that it was her brother!

She ran up and gave him a hug. “I thought you were dead!” she said.

Her brother laughed. “Well, I WAS eaten by a giant, but instead of dying I found myself here in the beautiful land. Ad guess what else I found?”

Then her brother took her by the hand and showed her where her mother and father and grandmother and aunts and uncles and cousins were all living among the rainbows and flowers. Every single one of them had been eaten by the giant!

Her mother hugged her. “We’ve missed you so much! We wanted to see you, but we couldn’t figure out how to get out of this giant. Now that you are here, though, we can stay here happy forever.”

The princess knew that was a bad idea, though. The people in the kingdom were counting on the royal family to protect them, and on the outside, the giant was still very bad and very likely to keep eating people. Then their families would be so sad, just like she had been when she thought her family was dead.

“We need to find a way out of here,” she said. And she came up with the perfect idea. She and her family picked thousands of leaves and flowers and wove them together into a giant hot air balloon. Then they built a little fire and puffed up the balloon and floated up, up, up, the giant’s throat and right out of his mouth!

The giant was so surprised when a beautiful hot air balloon came out of his mouth that for just a minute he forgot to be bad. “What is this? Where did you come from?” he asked.

“We came from inside you!” the princess answered. “All these beautiful flowers were right down in your belly. You are still very, very nice in there!”

The giant was amazed, and he loved the balloon, and he remembered when he used to feel all those nice things all the time, so he decided that he would be a nice giant again, and let all that niceness back out.

So the princess and her family went back to live together in their castle, and the very nice giant helped them make their land the most beautiful land in the world.

(Image above courtesy of twobee/

Adventure Diary, Part 2

June 13, 2013…later

We found a way into the abandoned house across the street.  We can’t stay here long, but no one will look here for a bit.

I don’t even know how to start to explain these last couple of days.  N left three days ago for a business trip to the east coast.  He’ll be gone two days more unless they notify him about the house.  Don’t know what to do about that.

Yesterday the letter came in the mail.  No return address.  The letter is here in this book, but we took out our name in case anyone finds this.  We didn’t know anything about the letter.  Who on earth is P. Q.?  We figured it was a joke and we didn’t think much of it.  I let the kids play with it and they stuck it in this old book in their playhouse outside.  Good thing.  That’s how it escaped the fire.

The fire was this morning.  We were downstairs watching TV.  All of a sudden Leaf started screaming.  We turned around.  My desk was on fire.  I couldn’t even think.  I just opened the window, pushed out the screen, and started lifting kids out.  Thank God the dog was in the yard.  I don’t think I could have lifted him that high.

Once we were all outside, we went next door to call 911.  I didn’t even have my phone.  By that time the whole house was in flames.  The firemen came, but before they even got there, we saw strange men across the street staring at the house.

Then Sugar remembered the letter.  Frogo went around through the woods into the playhouse and got the letter and this book.  We couldn’t hlp but see that the fire and the letter were connected.  I was so afraid.  I still am.  I have to keep these kids safe.

We stayed at the neighbors for a bit.  I was watching the men across the street and then a car passed and they were gone.  It gave me the weirdest feeling.  I knew we needed to hide.

We told everyone we were going to our grandma’s house, but instead we hid here.  We need to find a way to leave a message for N.  Then we need to see if we can follow the clues to find out what this is all about.


Adventure Diary

So Summer is here, and yes, we’re spelling that with a capital letter on purpose.  Whew.  My kids are a little bigger now, and I’ve managed to work it out that they give me a little free time in the afternoons to write, but for some reason I keep falling asleep instead.  Maybe it’s all the swimming/reading/museums/chores/ball games/gardening.  Maybe the afternoon just isn’t my prime time.  Maybe I just need to stop making excuses.  (That would be no fun.)  Instead I’m going with the old stand-by: Get the kids involved!  (This is questionable advice when the task is chopping vegetables but truly excellent when what you need is imagination.)  For a few weeks, then, I’m going to post the results of one of our summer projects instead of my usual stories and poems.  I think I can go ahead and promise that it won’t be any less entertaining.


When my parents gave me this journal for Christmas, I knew it was way too awesome to be filled up with ordinary real life adventures.  (Though when real life involves birds committing suicide on your back windows and kids mapping time, it can hardly be called ordinary.)  No, this journal needs something more fantastical, so the kids and I decided that when summer came and we had more time (HA!) we would have an imaginary journey and record a bit of it each day in true ‘there and back again’ style.  Code names have been invented, everyone pitches in ideas, and I record what we come up with.

We decided that our journey would be spurred by a mysterious letter and the incineration of our house.  Inside the front cover is a copy of the letter (we redacted our name to throw off evil pursuers), and our first entry is brief and panicked.  Just wait until you see where it takes us! 

Dunlevy Family,

By the time you receive this letter I will be long dead.  For your protection I made sure it would take a long time to arrive.  Hopefully by now those who follow me will have given up.

My treasure is yours.  You only have to retrieve it.  The key is buried with me.

       Beyond the ice
In shadows deep
The water waits
Companions sleep

Your past actions have proven that you alone have the courage and wisdom to do what must be done.


P.S.   Be careful.  The road is filled with dangers.

June 13, 2013

Not much time.  The house is gone, but we are all alive.  Thankful for that much.  N was away on a trip when it happened.  Must find a way to contact him, but we are not safe.  More later.


Once upon a time

I bought this felt board at a thrift store the other day.  Literally a felt board, with little felt figures for telling felt stories.  Does anyone else remember Sunday School flannel graph?  Like that…but, you know, with princesses and ballerinas instead of John the Baptist and baskets of bread and fish.

At first I just thought it would be some car ride entertainment.  Then I started thinking about the storytelling possibilities.

Visual aids to telling stories are the best.  The best.  And I totally suck at them.  If you’ve read this blog for a while (Congratulations!  You are the one!) you know that it is massively lacking in the visual.  I love photography and painting and drawing and paper mache and murals.  I stalk them on the internet, and they make me very happy.  But my brain just doesn’t produce on that level.  I close my eyes to think of a picture and all that comes up are a thousand words.

So this seemed like it might be fun to try.  I used it to tell one little short story to my kids.  I wasn’t sure if they would even want to listen to it.  They hung on my every word.  Then something even more awesome happened.  They took over.

They took turns, 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and 2-year-old telling stories with the felt figures.  They all listened to the others’ stories.  Well, until the littlest got carried away and refused to have an ending to her story.

Then a couple of days later, they got it out again when I wasn’t even paying attention and made up more stories.  Then they got it out again tonight and told more stories.  This time, my five-year-old helped my two-year-old with her turn and they told a story interactively.

“So where did they go next?”

“I no know!”

“To a cave or to the castle?”

“A cave!”

“And then what happened?”

“Da witches came!”

You guys, I have never heard…or seen… anything so awesome.  It went on for 10 minutes and only ended because I said it was time for pajamas.  (I know, buzz-kill, but reality is reality.  Story time may be magical, but not as magical as bedtime.)

So here’s the thing about stories for kids.  They can be the simplest things.  Really.  Just wanted to show you the story I told them, just to show you how little effort I put into it.  Not that I’m proud of being lazy.  It’s just that if you wait until you have the energy to put a lot of effort into it, you’ll never tell stories.  And you don’t need to wait for that.  Story magic is pretty strong even without much help from you.

Once upon a time there was a little baby princess.  She was little and sweet and everyone loved her.

She lived in a castle, of course.

As the princess grew up she got sweeter and smarter, and everyone loved her more than ever.  But they did not love her pet.

Because her pet was a dragon.

“A dragon is a very dangerous pet for a little girl,” they all said.

But she loved her pet dragon, and she wouldn’t let anyone take him away.

Then one day a beautiful lady appeared in the kingdom.  She was so beautiful that no one knew she was an evil ice witch.

She cast a spell that covered the whole kingdom with snow.  The castle was covered and the people were covered.  Even the dragon was covered in snow.

“Don’t worry,” said the princess.  “My dragon will take care of it.”

And he did.  He breathed fire on the ground, and melted all of that snow.

He cleared all the snow off the castle.

Then he very carefully melted all the snow and ice off of the princess and her people.

When all the snow was gone, everyone was so happy.  “Hooray for the dragon!” they all yelled.  And no one ever suggested getting rid of him again.

The End.

Told you it was lame.  But it worked.  It got the ball rolling.  My kids stories were much, much better.

Behind the Curtain

My kids and I are going to write a story about this picture. This is a challenge I’m hoping to do every week with a different picture. This week’s picture is from my good friend Tara over at The View Finder. She’ll probably be giving me a lot of them. I love the possibilities in pictures. I can’t take good ones to save my life, but I still love them. I won’t put you through the long (boring?) process every week, but this time I thought I’d get my kids in on the action and record our brainstorming session. Final story to come tomorrow.

What could these be?

apples with popcorn
bombs disguised as apples
cherries in the snow
little children that a witch changed into apples

Who could have put them there?
We did
a witch
a princess
a prince
an alligator

What could someone do with them?
eat them
play with the sticks
throw them at someone
use them to stick to the wall and climb it
hit people over the head with them
feed them to someone else

What happens if you eat them?
you turn into an apple
you turn into a popcorn
you turn into popsicle stick
you turn into cherries in the snow
you die
you get sick
you get mad
you get sad
you turn red
you become invisible
you become invincible
you can fly
you can run really slow, then really fast, over and over

I have about four possible stories brewing in brain from all these ideas.  We’ll see which one comes out when I sit down to write tonight.

A Story from Scott, age 3

Once upon a time there was a mean old woman.

And there was a guy.  He was a superhero.  His name was Sawazi.  His power was shooting candy out of his hands!  And everyone ate it!

And he was fighting the mean old woman.  And he made a candy monster.  But don’t worry.  It was a good monster.  And the candy monster ate up the mean old woman.

But the old woman’s magic made a wooden monster!  And the candy monster and wooden monster fighted each other.  And wooden monster’s moves were this: (makes punching moves).  And the candy monster’s moves were this:  (makes kicking moves).  And the candy monster kicked that wooden monster!  And the candy monster killed the wooden monster!

But then there was a fire monster!  And another one!  And another one!  And another one!  And another one! And another one!  And the guy ran away because there were too many monsters!  But the candy monster fighted them.   And he tried to eat them, but his mouth went like this:  (makes spitting out noises).

And then he killed the monster.  And it was very sad.  Because the monster was dead.  And they all lived happily ever after.  The end.

A Story About a Parrot…Who Can Talk

Once upon a time there was a parrot who could talk like a person. He didn’t just imitate human sounds like some parrots can, but he actually talked and said whatever he wanted to say. This, of course, made him very famous. People would come from miles around to see the talking parrot, and everyone who came paid him a little money to hear him say something funny. It didn’t take long for the talking parrot to get quite rich. He also got quite proud.

He used his money to build himself a big house in the mountains, and next to the house, he had the workmen build a giant statue of himself. The thirty foot statue of a parrot soon became just as famous as the talking parrot himself, so he made more money than ever and was prouder than ever of himself.

Then one day some scientists came to the parrots door. The didn’t want to pay money to hear the parrot talk. They wanted to do the talking. They told the parrot that one of the nearby mountains was a volcano and that it was about to erupt. If it did, it would destroy his house, statue and all. He just laughed because he didn’t believe them. The scientists showed him all their instruments and studies. He didn’t understand what any of it meant, so he still didn’t believe them. Finally, they told him that if he flew to the top of his statue, he’d be able to see the top of the volcano and see the smoke rising. They told him to hurry, since it could explode at any moment.

When the scientists left, the parrot went outside and tried to fly to the top of the statue. He couldn’t. He hadn’t flown in so long that he had forgotten how to do it. Instead, he had to slowly and painfully climb to the top of the statue. It was very hard work, and the parrot wasn’t used to working hard. He huffed and puffed and wished very much that he hadn’t made the statue so tall. Finally, he made it to the top. The first thing he saw when he got there was the smoking volcano. He began to feel very afraid.

The second thing he saw when he got to the top was a nest with a family of parrots living in it. They were as surprised to see him as he was to see them. The parrot soon forgot his surprise, though, when he saw a little bit of lava escape the top of the volcano. He turned to the family and said, “Hurry! The volcano is exploding! We all need to get out of here! Fly to safety!”

The parrot family replied, “Squawk?”

The parrot had forgotten that other parrots didn’t speak people language. He tried again, “Bok-bok!”

The parrot family replied, “Squawk?”

The parrot had forgotten how to speak parrot language! He tried and he tried, but everything came out wrong. The volcano glowed brighter and brighter and the parrot was getting desperate. Finally, he grabbed the littlest baby parrot out of the nest and jumped off the edge of the statue. He fell about halfway down before he finally got his wings to work right and fly. Naturally, the parrot parents followed angrily after him, wanting their baby back. The parrot flew toward the volcano, hoping that the parrot parents would notice how hot it was. It worked. Just when the talking parrot got very tired and turned back for the statue, the daddy parrot saw the lava.

“Squawk!” he said.

When they all got back to the statue, the mommy and daddy parrot gathered up their babies. There was a loud BOOM! and a big cloud of ash and smoke rose into the air. The talking parrot and his new friends flew to safety just in time.

After that, the talking parrot returned to the jungle to live with the other parrots. He learned again how to speak parrot language and he practiced his flying every day. He didn’t ever want to be that helpless again. And to this day, if you are walking in the jungle, you may hear a strange voice saying, “Hello, there!” But you’ll never see anything but some bright tail feathers as they fly away.

Time Out Tuesday – My Kids help invent a story

When I get really tired of trying to make things up, I have two options. I can either tell them no and live with all the whining or I can make them do the work. Put like that, it’s not really much of a choice. Here’s how our last attempt went:

Me: Okay, what do you want the story to be about? Um…pick an animal, Ellie.

Ellie: (looking around the room and seeing a red balloon parrot) A parrot!

Me: Okay, Scott, where should the parrot live?

Scott: Next to a giant statue.

Okay, then.

Me: Ellie, what do you think would be the weirdest thing a parrot could do?

Ellie: Talk!

Apparently they don’t want to put much effort into this either.

Me: Right…okay…um…who should he talk to?

Scott: Other parrots!

Seriously? Aren’t kids supposed to be endlessly creative?

Me: Okay. What else should he do?

Them: Nothing else.

Yeah, maybe enduring the whining would have been less work.

Tune in tomorrow for the resulting story.