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The book is always better than the film

PUBLISHED: 14:31 03 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:15 03 December 2017

Children's author Enid Blyton in 1957. Her  novel The Magic Faraway Tree is being adapted for the big screen. Picture: PA/PA Wire

Children's author Enid Blyton in 1957. Her novel The Magic Faraway Tree is being adapted for the big screen. Picture: PA/PA Wire

Archant

Book or film? Book version of film or film version of book? Which do you prefer?

It’s an issue that divides people: between those who are right (book first) and those who are wrong (film first).

You can probably have a wild stab in the dark at where my affections lie – I’m all about the tome.

So it is with enormous anxiety that I receive the news that Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree series is being made into a film.

Blyton was blighted by her fondness for gollies and children being spanked with a shoe, but she was a woman of her time.

She couldn’t half tell a story, though, and the Faraway Tree books were my favourite.

I was enchanted by the idea of a tree populated by odd characters, leading to a ladder at the top that took you into whichever land was passing by at the time of your climb.

Moonface, Saucepan Man, Silky the fairy and Dame Washalot – who poured her used water down the tree in a clear health-and-safety breach – kept me company in my childhood as I imagined visiting lands themed around Norwich City FC and Matchbox cars.

How on Earth can anyone make a film that gets close to the images conjured by millions of children who read Blyton’s books?

Experience tells me that they will, at best, fall just short.

I read, re-read, re-re-read and literally devoured (I had a habit of tearing bits from the pages and eating them) every children’s book by Roald Dahl.

The consummate creator of characters blew images into my brain like the BFG using his long trumpet to dish out dreams.

Once there, they grew, developed, becoming friends, foes, family.

Movies have been made of many of his books, but none can quite match the pictures I produced for myself.

The Witches was the closest, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory versions one and two were downright sinister, while James and the Giant Peach went all sing-songy (movies with music = turn-off time).

The Lord of the Rings trilogy affected me deeply when I read it at age 14. It was utterly bewitching, evocative and at times traumatising.

Peter Jackson did a tremendous job with the films, but the actors didn’t look like my characters and the very act of visualising imposed limits that my mind did not when I was reading the books.

Books are a medium without walls, while films can only ever be what you see.

That’s not to say that adaptations should not be produced. Sometimes the film or the TV series is the trigger for somebody to read the book.

That is, hopefully, what will happen with the Magic Faraway Tree.

It’s not aimed at me and the many others who read the books generations ago. We are closed books when it comes to having our dreams reshaped.

Instead, it should reach a new audience of children who may have missed Blyton’s books. If they are prompted to read them, they will at least benefit from the redaction of the racism and violence against children.

Most of all, though, they will experience the joy of an imagination unleashed, which is the very best thing about being a child.

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