Mixed-Up Files Goes to the Movies

Hello, Mixed-Up Filers!

Welcome to my July post! How are you guys doing? Granted, it’s only been two months this time since my last column, but I don’t know, somehow I missed you. Hope everyone has been well and enjoying their summer.

Summer is about vacations, camps, beaches, pools and lots and lots of movies. Because, when you have three kids, you tend to go often. And how does that relate to this site? Well, I’m glad you asked.

You see, most of the movies we go to are for kids. And, as you might’ve guessed, many of those are adaptations from our favorite middle grade books! So, for now, I’d like to talk about those movies and call this Mixed-Up Files Goes to the Movies!

Let’s start with none other than the book our site is named after.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. As I’m sure the majority of you know, our site is named after the novel, by E. L. Konigsburg. It is a fun story about two kids who run away from home and go to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The movie for this is called The Hideaways. I have to say right off, that I only recently watched this movie. I never even heard of it as a kid, and I saw everything. First reaction? Not great. I hate to disparage any actors and especially kid ones at that, but I found it difficult to buy some of the things in the film. I just didn’t buy any of the urgency in the kids. They seemed much more like they were just out for having a fun time putting on a show and giving exposition as lines, than being in real situations. I know that there were an awful lot of schlocky 70’s movies for kids, but this one felt overly so. Not that that was the only problem. I found it very slow-paced and if I did, then kids of today stand no shot watching this. In my opinion, read the book and only see the movie for curiosity’s sake, like I did.

from the mixed up filesThe_Hideaways_DVD_cover

Our next Middle-Grade Movie entry is: The Spiderwick Chronicles. The book series, by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, is really enjoyable. One of the more recent stories I really got into. It is about the Grace children, twins Simon and Jared and their older sister Mallory. They move into the Spiderwick Estate with their mother and soon discover a secret library, using a dumbwaiter built into the house. They also stumble upon the study of the late owner of the estate, Arthur Spiderwick, and find his guide to faeries. They then encounter a brownie named Thimbletack, who warns them that the guide is dangerous and not meant to be used by humans.


As far as the movie goes, I have heard a lot of different reviews on it, but I have to say that for myself, I really enjoyed it. I found myself lost in the world of the book. It had the feeling of the series and was spooky and mysterious. The actors were all good and believable. I was disappointed that there was never a follow-up. In this case, I definitely recommend doing both, the book and the movie.

spiderwick movie

Next up on our Mixed-Up Files Movie Excursion is, the Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl. The story is about Mr. Fox, who lives underground beside a tree with his wife and children. In order to feed his family, he makes nightly visits to farms owned by three wicked, cruel and dim-witted farmers and steals their livestock. Okay, this book, I will have to be honest about, I only saw it after seeing the movie. I had been unfamiliar with it beforehand. I did like the book and found it funny and cute and featured a lot of the wit that Dahls is famous for. However, I LOVED the movie. I had many laugh out loud moments watching the film. It is an animated movie starring, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray. Not too shabby. The book and film veer off slightly and don’t exactly follow the same path, but it doesn’t matter. This is another one, where I recommend both, and I may even be hunted down for blasphemy, but I have to say that this is one of the few cases, where I enjoyed the movie more than the book.

fantastic foxfantastic fox movie

Number four on our Middle-Grade Movie list is:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

I am a huge fan of the Wimpy Kid books and when we buy them, I probably go through them faster than my kids do. The stories are about Greg Heffley and his best friend Rowley, who are entering middle school band will have to face all the dangers of having kids older, meaner and taller and also the most dangerous ones of all…girls. Besides that, we get to see Greg’s home life with his parents, younger brother Manny and worst of all, Rodrick, his older brother who looks for any opportunity to torment Greg. I know there are some who don’t like that Greg shows a mean side to his friends and looks for the short cuts instead of doing work, well, I know that because I have heard some at writing conferences say it, but honestly, THAT’S how boys are and THAT’S how boys talk to each other…as friends! I like that boys can be natural and still know that they’re best friends.


The movie follows the same tone. Greg is a good kid, but says mean jokes to Rowley, looks for shortcuts to hard work and makes things up to get out of trouble. I love the depiction of boys. The sequels aren’t as good as the first one, but still fun. Definitely read the books and I recommend the movies too. At least watch the first one.

diary wimpy kid

For my fifth and final stop on the Mixed-Up Movie Express, and the one my son would be annoyed about if I left it off, is How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell.

how to dragon

The books follow the adventures of Hiccup, the Viking, as he captures a dragon and names him Toothless. All the Vikings, in his village of Berk, are expected to know how to defeat and train dragons. The film does not fully base itself on the novel, but takes the basic premise and still gives a fun story where the Vikings and dragons have to work together to defeat a bigger enemy. Plus, the movie is one of my son’s favorites. Definitely read the book and see the movie. As my son will attest, both are good!

how to dragon movie

There are many, many more good movies based on great middle-grade books, including a certain boy wizard, who has received enough exposure on his own without me including him. Well, that’s it for my time! I didn’t include the movie Home, from this year, which was based on the novel, The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex. I happened to enjoy both book and movie on that one.


I had fun looking these over and I hope you enjoy all of them. In the comments, let me know what some of your favorite movies based on middle-grade books are!

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Serafina Winner

The winner of our Serafina and the Black Cloak giveaway is


Many thanks to all who entered. 

Love for the Kidlit Community

Writing can be a lonely sort of business. It’s just you, a computer (or pen and paper, ink and quill, hammer and rock… ), and the vast array of imaginary people who have taken up residence in your head. No co-workers to meet around the water cooler to discuss last night’s episode of The Bachlorette. No one in the next cubicle to commiserate with over coffee. It’s just…

You. And the story you’re trying to tell.

Which is why I’m so grateful for the kidlit community. It can be easy to forget sometimes (when you’re struggling through revision #1,567,321… or another rejection… or a tough critique) that you are not alone. I really loved this recent Facebook post that perfectly illustrates this point by Newbery Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo:

I usually rewrite a book a total of eight or nine times. Sometimes more. When I’m done, I take all of those drafts…

Posted by The Official Kate DiCamillo Page on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kate’s post was also a reminder of the other thing I love about the kidlit community–the incredible camaraderie and generosity found here. A simple Google search turns up countless sites where authors/agents/editors gladly share their expertise and advice. (I shudder to think how many rookie errors I would have made back in my querying days–besides requerying Mr. Awesome Agent with Awesome Book #2 immediately after he politely declined Awesome Book #1, oops… and sorry!–had it not been for the Blue Boards, SCBWI, Absolute Write, etc.) Not to mention, I’ve made some really amazing friends both on and offline, via this blog, on Twitter and through my agency. Incredible people who inspire and motivate me every day–even if we’re not working cubicle-to-cubicle. Even if we rarely see each other face to face.

Of course, there’s still nothing quite like meeting up with your peeps in real life–like a bunch of us did the other night outside DC (thanks to Mixed-Up Filer Amie Borst for organizing!). Much laughter was had, some delicious Italian food was consumed, stories were swapped… and I was reminded yet again: writing may be a solitary occupation, but none of us are really in it alone.

Author Headshot, from L to R: Wendy Shang, Natalie Dias Lorenzi, yours truly, Rose Cooper, Leah Henderson, Sue Douglass Fliess and Amie Borst.

Author Headshot, from L to R: Wendy Shang, Natalie Dias Lorenzi, yours truly, Rose Cooper, Leah Henderson, Sue Douglass Fliess and Amie Borst.

Jan Gangsei is the author of several Middle Grade series for Working Partners Ltd., publishing in the US, UK and Germany. Her YA debut, ZERO DAY, publishes with Disney-Hyperion on January 12, 2016.