Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Cinema Spinoffs: Toy Story 3 and Marmaduke

If movie makers can take children's books and make them into movies, why not try going the other direction with the product? Well, book publishers have wasted no time moving into summer hit movie spinoffs, and Random House's Toy to Toy (Disney/Pixar Toy Story 3) (Step into Reading) is a good example.

With text by Tennant Redbank set at the lowest (Level 1) beginning reader format and illustrations faithful to the characters in the Pixar movie, this book briefly sketches out the first third of the movie as loyal toys Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie the Cowgirl, and the rest watch their beloved Andy packing up to go to college and find themselves recycled into a questionable home at Sunnyside Daycare. There they are introduced to the powers-that-be, Lotso the boss teddy bear, Sparks, the electronic action figure, Big Baby, and the rest. "Will Andy's toys like their new home?" the text reads as this segment of the story concludes. This one and its follow-up sequels in the Toy Story 3 sequence offer the youngest a chance to reminisce about a favorite movie as they hone their emergent reading skills.

I saw the movie with another adult, a three-year-old, a five-year-old, and a sophisticated eleven-year old, and all of us found something to like. The youngest ones loved the fantasy action, the older child got the humor aimed at adults and older viewers, and I myself responded to the familiar pathos of the empty nest syndrome. The book should prove popular with kids who have seen all the movies and those just moving into the age to enjoy them.

Not to be outdone by Random, Harper has their own entry into the easy-reader spinoff market, based on this summer's Marmaduke movie, Taking a page from the premise of Susan Meddaugh's successful Martha Speaks PBS cartoon series, this venerable magazine cartoon character has been reborn as a talking dog in the movie and its Level 1 emergent reader titled Marmaduke: Meet Marmaduke (I Can Read Book 1) (Harper, 2010).

In this entry into their classic I-Can-Read, series, the gigantic Great Dane ("Call me Duke"), cast here as the lonely guy shunned because of his enormous size, seeks friends at the dog park. There he is rescued from Bosco the bully and a trio of turf-guarding Dobermans by a sympathetic pack led by the thoughtful Maizie and her sidekicks Raisin and Guiseppe. Invited over to party with them, right away Marmaduke knows that he has at last found his own buddies to hang with at the dog park daily.

Both of these short and easy books for the earliest readers make use of the incentive that a popular movie offers for kids who need to keep their skills up during the summer. And if you are among the three or four families in the country who haven't already seen these popular movies, you can also work that popular parental ploy, "Read the book first and then we'll take in the movie!"

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