We have a saying we frequently use here at Northshire Bookstore; “the book is better”. The implication, of course, being that cinematic adaptions of classic and/or popular books, both fiction and non-fiction, usually pale by comparison in overall quality versus their source material books. There are exceptions, of course, and we all might debate on which occasions a movie adaption exceeded the artistic merit of the original book. (The fact that I can't think of a single example at the moment to the contrary notwithstanding.)
Despite what would seem to be a somewhat snobbish attitude towards movie adaptations, however, we do owe a debt of gratitude to that entity we call “Hollywood” for bringing attention back to an ongoing stream of bestselling books. Kathryn Stockett's The Help is an example that springs to mind. In an interesting sales cycle, we will see a novel such as The Help receive great reviews, rise to the bestseller list quickly in its hardcover edition, sell through the roof once it comes out in paperback, and then, just as its popularity might begin to fade, get another boost from a successful movie adaption... and then, yet another sales push once again when the dvd is released. In the case of The Help, I can actually attest to the movie adaptation being wonderfully done and powerfully acted but, and this could get me in trouble around here... I have not actually read the book, only seen the movie. Shhh- don't tell my coworkers. The Harry Potter series was another example of a successful book, the popularity of which was driven on even beyond its own, wide and wild self-created buzz by the continuing production and success of the subsequent cinematic versions.
Sometimes, though, movies- major studio productions, that is- may be based on books that the majority of folks, even bookstore staff, may not recall or even be aware of. Such is the case with the recently released movie Big Miracle , the compelling and heartwarming true story regarding the plight of a family of three whales trapped under the ice just off the coast of Barrow Alaska circa 1988. With only a single hole in the ice for them to surface and breathe, the whales are in imminent danger of drowning- keeping that one hole open is no small challenge in and of itself given the plummeting below zero temperatures at the time. (The coastal waters had frozen over early that year due to extreme temperatures, trapping the whales before they could start their annual southern migration to Baja, California.) This is a story of an oversized natural disaster in the making and the extraordinary efforts of a Greenpeace volunteer, a news reporter and the residents of Barrow Alaska including the members of the Inuit tribe who play an integral role in the story. Of course the whole world eventually gets involved once the media gets a hold of the story, but I won't spoil it by giving away too much. I recommend Big Miracle for all ages... although some may require a hankie or two, for it is an extremely moving (mostly, but not all, uplifting) true story.
The whole purpose of this post, however, is to talk about books made into movies: Big Miracle is based on the 1989 book Freeing The Whales by Tom Rose. Rose's book has, not surprisingly, been re-released (and, from what I gather, re-edited in some small instances) and retitled Big Miracle to coincide with the release of the movie. I, for one, my son for another, will be following the path that we in the book business might consider reverse- being drawn to a book after having seen a movie adaption. It's all good though. Hollywood needs book writers and book writers and bookstores obviously benefit in boosted sales when Hollywood raises the profile of a book with its big money, high profile production and marketing clout. If you've seen the cinematic Big Miracle also and Drew Barrymore and company have piqued your interest in the original story of the Barrow whales, we'd be happy to hook you up with a copy, HERE at The Northshire Bookstore.
In the meantime, your comments are always welcome. Any thoughts on books versus their movie counterparts anyone? Let us know.