The Little Book Adventure: Project #3- Embrace a Spineless Book

The Little Book Adventure is being run as part of National Year of Reading 2012. Project #3 is sponsored by Bright Buttons Toys.

For the purpose of this project, when we use the term ‘spineless book’, we  are referring to  film, play or television adaptations.

I don’t think we should ever look at film adaptations as replacements for books, but I do think they are fabulous tools for helping our children to begin thinking critically about stories, even from a young age.

  • Film adaptations can flesh out a story, which in turn helps children to understand the concept of character back-stories and events taking place beyond the pages of a book.
  • After reading a book, watching a film adaptation can become a great vehicle for meaningful conversations about a story. Discussions about similarities, differences, likes and dislikes can help children to consolidate their own understanding of a book and compare that to another reader’s interpretation.
  • Watching a film or a play can also be great for children who have strengths in auditory, musical and visual learning.

THE PROJECT (What’s involved?):

As part of this project we are asking you to:

  • Read a book with your child/ren which has been the inspiration for a film or play. You might like to use this list to help find a suitable book/film. (Please note, that I do believe it is important to read the book first. It will give your child/ren the opportunity to make their own interpretations and connections without being influenced by the film or play.)
  • Once you have read the book with your children, see its film adaptation or attend its play adaptation.
  • If you have younger children, you might prefer to watch a shorter television episode based on a children’s book (e.g. The Little Princess, Charlie and Lola, Angelina Ballerina) or you could perform your own puppet show for your child.

Please be on the lookout for other film and play adaptations and share your ideas on our facebook page.


Once you have read the book and watched the film with your child/ren, begin a conversation with them. Below are some questions you might want to start with, but your child/ren may make observations during the film. You can use these observations as a starting point too.

  • Did the characters look the same as in the book?
  • Did the characters speak the way you imagined?
  • What parts of the story were left out of the film?/ Were there any extra parts in the film?
  • What did you like about the film?
  • What didn’t you like about the film?
  • What did you like better- the book or the film? Why?

To cater for a range of ages, the questions above are quite general. If you’d like some more detail or if you are looking to undertake Project #3 in the classroom you might like to read this article I wrote in 2010 about using film adaptations in the classroom.

Going Further:

If your children seem to enjoy this project, you could create your own family play based on a picture book which has yet to be adapted to film. (This could also be a suitable alternative for libraries)


Bright Buttons Toys would like to offer all Project #3 participants 15% off the entire range at Bright Buttons Toys for the month of May when you spend over $40.

To receive 15% off your purchase use the following discount code at the checkout:  Bookcase

This offer is valid between 1- 31 may, 2012 and is only available to Australian residents.


This challenge will officially end on May 31, 2012

  • Once you have finished the project, leave a comment below and tell us about your experience and your children’s responses to the project.


You might have your own blog and wish to write about how you and your family approached this challenge. Feel free to write about it in a post, publish it on your blog and link up here for our readers.


Bright Buttons Toys has one Just So Stories print by Spineless Classic to giveaway to a participant of Project #3.

The Just So Stories print measures 700mm by 500mm and is valued at $79.95. It features the full text of Rudyard Kipling’s Just-So Stories on one page, while at the same time showcasing some of the stories’ characters in the design.

You can read more about the Just So Stories print here or view the other Spineless Classics available through Bright Buttons Toys.

Prize Terms and Conditions:

1. To enter for your chance to win the prize, readers must:

a) Comment on this post once the project has been completed

b) ‘Like’ the Bright Buttons Toys facebook page

c) Sign up to receive email alerts from Bright Buttons Toys.

2. Entrants must live in Australia to be eligible to win the Spineless Classic print. The print will only be sent to Australian residents.

3. All entries must be received by midnight (AEST) on May 31, 2012 to be eligible

4. One participant will be chosen randomly to receive the Spineless Classic print

5. The winner will be notified via email and will also be announced on, facebook and Twitter

6. The winner is asked to send a reply email with their delivery address.

7. The print will be sent directly from Bright Buttons Toys.

The Little Book Adventure: Project #3- Embrace a Spineless Book


  1. Nabeela said: On May 3, 2012

    Can’t wait to get started on this. Some of the movies that came to mind that would suit a diverse range of age groups:
    Harry Potter Series
    The Chronicles of Narnia Series
    Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
    Dr Seuss, Horton Hears a Who!
    Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs
    Charlotte’s Web
    Where The Wild Things Are
    The Gruffalo
    The Gruffalo’s Child
    The Secret Garden
    James and the Giant Peach
    Diary of A Wimpy Kid Series
    How to Train Your Dragon
    Fantastic Mr. Fox
    Alice in Wonderland

    Maybe we can add more to give parents/children an idea of which ones they might want to choose?

  2. My students are so excited for this one! I am going to eitehr find a play to a popular childrens book or write one for them to perform! As you can imagine they are all itching to go!!

    • jackie said: On May 7, 2012

      Oh Jennifer, that sounds so amazing! How wonderful would it be if you wrote your own play for the children.
      Your comments make me miss the classroom. The last class I taught before having my daughter was Grade 4. They were an enthusiastic bunch too, much like the wonderful kids you are teaching this year. Enjoy. I honestly can’t wait to hear how it all goes.

  3. Jackie, it was lovely to get a reply! I read the book of the Pied Piper today with my students and I have tweaked a play I found online (was a mission finding a play with the opportunity for 22parts!!) and they can’t wait! They all want to be the Pied Piper, btu stressing the importance of the smaller parts has got them all excited! I’m also putting in a musical number too! I want to be in the play!!! I’ll let you know how it goes! We’ll start rehearsal next week

  4. As Sam is 14 months old, he obviously has a limited concentration span. I had planned on reading / watching ‘Hairy McLary’ with him, but the story was to long.
    He loves reading ‘Dear Zoo’ at the moment. I found on You Tube a wonderful version of this story. There are also other stories on the site as well, which you might be interested in, which can be found at We will definately be watching a few more.

  5. We used a PlaySchool book and then TV episode for this challenge :)

  6. Our Year 3 and Year 4 classes are reading Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. We started by looking at the size of the book and wondering how we were going to finish it in one school term! As I revealed the wonderful drawings that make up this wonderful story, the students stared in wonder at the images and a lot of discussion happens during and after storytime. We are unable to watch the whole movie so I am showing them little snippets that highlight parts of the story. They are loving it!

  7. Here’s a few more ideas for project 3#!
    -Harry and his bucketful of dinosaurs.
    -Round the twist.
    -A series of unfortunate events.
    -The witches.
    -Curious George.
    -The world of Peter Rabbit and friends.

  8. We have finished reading Horton hears a who and have watched the movie several times. Thomas really enjoyed watching the characters come alive on the screen and has really enjoyed the movie. His favourite character is Jo-Jo (he has a friend at preschool with the same name) and he likes the movie better than the book. I found this movie to be quite a true adaptation of the book. Much more so than The Lorax which although I thought was great, didn’t seem as Dr Suess-like as it could’ve been. Horton Hears a Who however uses lots of the text out of the book which is great and you can really see the link from page to screen. Thank you for creating this challenge. It has been wonderful to ‘study’ the two with Thomas and think about different aspects. Something we may not have normally done. Thomas is loving looking at the specks of dust around the house still but is using his imagination about what might be ‘living’ on them!

  9. Jodie said: On May 23, 2012

    OK – we chose Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers because we love both the movie and the book (well we love all of Oliver’s books and apps) and because a young boy and an adventure is a story that resonates with most 4 year olds, and certainly does with mine. First we read the book (before bed) and enjoyed the beautiful illustrations, then the next day watched the film adaptation. I started with the last question first – and my son (4.5) stated that he likes the film more than the book so we began to explore why.

    I used your questions as prompts and we focused on the extra parts of the story that feature more prominently in the film. Mostly it was about additional details which filled out the story and there were some totally new bits like the Giant Octopus that rights their boat and sets them on their way after the storm. My son loved that Giant Octopus (who wouldn’t) but also noticed other scenes like the sea full of rubber ducks that is not in the movie but links to the page in the book where the character is in the bath with his rubber duck. Then when we read the book again he noticed that there is no scene in the movie with the boy in his bath. He also commented that he liked the whales in the movie – which feature in the book but only on the last page. He didn’t articulate this so well but the visuals and the movement of these scenes in the film gave a greater depth and feeling of being part of it. We live near the sea so whales and octopus and the like are things he can really relate to (though no penguins).

    The films is lovely as the characters visually resemble the book and they don’t speak – it is narrated, although that narration goes beyond the simple (though lovely) text of the book. We didn’t get too far with this discussion but we did have a good chat about the music and how sometimes it is fast and sometimes slower and relaxed and how they makes us feel as we watch. Just writing this now it strikes me as a bit funny that he didn’t question the possibility of a penguin just turning up on your doorstep and how you might become best friends – I am very happy about that as I want his imagination to stay pure and wild as long as possible before the realities of the real world take it all away…

    It was a lovely experience undertaking this challenge – it prompted a whole new level of discussion and comparison about books and films. We then went on to do some art work based on the story – we made a cardboard boat and painted it just like in the story, a cardboard penguin (because sadly the 1 year old sister was not a willing participant) and some other props including oars, a radio, rubber duckie and south pole sign to act out the story. We were going to try and do this for another of Oliver Jeffers stories but at the time of writing we haven’t yet got there. I like the idea of making a rocket so he can fly to the moon like in The Way Back Home. Didn’t think we had better try The Incredible Book Eating Boy!

    The Boat has been a big hit for play time at our place! (will try to get a photo up on your site – if they sit still long enough).

  10. So far we have done this with a few books, Charlie and Lola, Alice in wonderland (although I read a few pages only), Spot. Then we also did a few other spineless reading things like 3 puzzles that were – Goldilocks and the three bears, the three little pigs and jack and the beanstalk. They were shaped as a bowl, a house and a beanstalk with the story at the bottom and pictures. We also did a little puppet act just the two of us with little red riding hood, humpty dumpty, grandma and a crocodile. (It was a modern twist on Revolting rhymes). lol.

  11. I took my 5 year old and 2 year old to Peter rabbit the stage show. We have listened to audio recordings watched you tube clips, put on a puppet show ourselves and read the books. A rabbit is now on the (very early) christmas list. Goes to show oldie but a goodie! ;D

  12. We loved doing Harry and his bucketful of dinosaurs as well as Curious George! We hope to do more if we have the time! I’d particularly like to do Miffy, Spot, Angelina Ballerina, the tale of Peter Rabbit, Charlie and Lola and The Babysitters Club (that one especially for me! As I was addicted to the Babysitters Club books growing up!) This project is such a great activity to keep on doing as it is useful in engaging reluctant readers/listeners! :-)

  13. We read ‘In the Night Kitchen’ by Maurice Sendak. It was our little tribute to his passing earlier this month. We then watched an adaptation we found on YouTube. My 21 month old loved The book and the animation. Thank you for another great challenge.

  14. So far we’ve watched:
    - The Gruffalo
    - The Gruffalo’s Child
    - Guess How Much I Love You
    - James & The Giant Peach
    - Where the Wild Things Are (old version)
    - In the Night Kitchen (old version)

    Hoping to squeeze some more in before the end of the month.

  15. We were a bit slow getting on to this challenge, mainly because I had to find a short movie which would suit the attention spans of my little ones. We finally settled on The Gruffalo as we’d been reading our copy of it quite a lot lately. I found a version on you tube, which was actually a play put on by a group of kids.
    It was very cute, with each of the kids dressed up in character and putting on voices. My daughter loved watching it and kept pointing out the characters and things they were saying and laughing. It was wonderful to see her reaction. At one point she was jumping around the computer too!
    After we watched it (and then re-watched it…numerous times) we pretended we were the different characters and stomped and slithered around the loungeroom. It was great fun. Thanks for such a wonderful challenge. We’ll definitely try to keep up watching some spineless versions of books and doing some related activites.

  16. We based our project on the delightful story ‘The Gruffalo’. After reading the story book together, we had fun planning a movie night to see the theatrical version. We created movie tickets, popcorn boxes and even a ‘Now Showing’ poster! Both kids were so excited by it all and even insisted that Daddy join us – movie ticket, popcorn box and all – which he happily did.

    The kids were both enthralled by the movie, and I was very pleased at how true to the story it was. My daughter even recited lines from the story book during the movie.. “Silly old Owl! Doesn’t he know? There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo!”

    After the movie finished, my daughter enjoyed answering a few easy questions from the trivia quiz that I compiled for her.

    Overall, it was a very enjoyable project… and it is something we will certainly do again and again from now on.

  17. We’ve had lots of fun with this – not only have we been re-enacting books ourselves including Goldilocks and the Three Bears which has to be one of our favourites so far. But we’ve also been reading and watching Octonauts, In The Night Garden and Charlie and Lola. It was interesting J (3 in August) is much more interested in the books than the programmes – he gets distracted with the TV and won’t watch an episode whereas he will sit and read the books over and over again. With T (14 months) both appeal to her – she will sit and point and “talk” to me about what is going on, on the TV and with a book will sit and point at the pages.

  18. My 4 year old son recently came home from the school library with Astro Boy and promptly spent the next 2 weeks running around the house with one arm raised and rockets on his feet!
    It brought back memories of coming home from school and seeing the cartoon on TV when I was a child. We have borrowed the DVD from the library and all settled in together one rainy Sunday afternoon. Animated conversation followed, excitedly discussing the merits of blue and red core energy, and how it perhaps wasn’t a very good thing to throw out all the robot junk when they no longer worked.
    I think reading the book first then watching the movie encouraged imagination, and then going back to the book after the movie clarified some things and made keeping up with the longer book easier
    Interesingly, the discussion led back to The Lorax, and the impact we have on our world (from a 4 yo and 6 yo perspective). We have read the Lorax and seen the movie, but was before this challenge.

    Another great challenge, thanks :)

  19. The How to Train your Dragon books have been a huge part of our lives for the past 12 months. We started with an audio book, borrowed the next few from the school library, bought a couple more audio books, convinced the school library to buy more books and eventually bought them ourselves, when we didn’t get the series finished before he moved to his new school. So we were very reluctant to introduce the movie to our 5 (now 6)yo Munchkin. He just received the DVD for his birthday and sat down with his Dad to watch. (I haven’t seen it yet!) We knew the story was very different, so we weren’t sure how he’d react. He loved it, but his first comment said it all – there was no “Dogsbreath the Duhbrain” in the movie! Seemed he coped just fine!

  20. We read and watched The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan! While we had fun doing craft activities around the story I think the most rewarding part of this project was the conversation I had with my four year old son about the book and movie. It gave me a real insight into how he understands the concepts covered in the story and also his observation skills too. Another great project Jackie and I am itching to find out what June has in store for us. Thank you!

  21. This project has been lots of fun! To start with we went to the cinema for the first time with Monkey 2.5years and Mini 6.5mths and saw The Lorax. Monkey was very interested in the movie as well as theatre, as he kept looking about in between eating handfuls of popcorn! We read the recently, but I think it was a bit much for him to take. Monkey and Mini both really loved doing Curious George because the book we bought was about George going to the movies, just like us! Everyone also really enjoyed Harry and his bucketful of dinosaurs, especially because the book came with a matching bucketful of dinosaurs that the kiddies could play with alongside Harry! And lastly we also did Charlie and Lola. There are so many more we would like to Do, so we’ll keep doing them until we’re done! We are really looking forward to Project 4#! Good luck everyone!

  22. Kirsty said: On May 31, 2012

    Oh, we’re so slow this month! I hope we’ve made it in time..
    We read and watched The Gruffalo this month. Our Miss 3 is not a great one for concentrating when watching TV, anything beyond Playschool is a bit too much for her, so I was wondering how this would go. I was pleasantly surprised! She watched with the book on her lap, turning the page when the scene changed. She was a bit confused by the ‘extra’ scene in the film where the animals realised they have been tricked, but this gave us something to discuss afterwards. She loved both the traditional and spineless book and asked to repeat the whole exercise! We’ve got The Gruffalo’s Child all ready to go next..!
    Thanks for encouraging us to make use of this type of literature.

  23. My class has made their own spineless book! We read Pied Piper then I organised a play for them, including a dance number, which we have filmed to make a ‘movie’. They LOVED it! They are asking me already what the next competition is in hope they can do another dance or play!!!

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