If you were a young girl in the mid-’90s, there is a good chance that you once sobbed your eyes out while reading a Dear America book. The book series — 36 volumes in total — consisted of fictional diaries “written” by girls during a variety of historical events/eras: Pearl Harbor, slavery, the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, etc. It would make a great anthology series, with every season tackling a different book and its new plot and characters.
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
The Face on the Milk Carton was already adapted into a TV movie, but the most interesting and heart-wrenching action happens in the later books — especially What Happened to Janie?, in which the protagonist finds herself stuck between two families. MTV’s Finding Carter deals with similar material — a teenage girl discovers she was kidnapped as a child, and her biological family is still looking for her — but gets bogged down in too many typical teen drama tropes. Put the Janie Johnson series in the hands of a more capable network, like ABC Family, and it’ll be a hit.
Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar
This delightfully weird series about an elementary school with supernatural elements was one of my favorites as a child, and I always wondered why it wasn’t also a TV show. It actually was adapted for Canadian television back in 2007, but the series deviated too much from the book. Wayside School definitely deserves a second chance to be a surrealistic animated sitcom about elementary school life, providing a new generation with their version of ABC’s Recess.
The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey
In the Bailey School Kids series, a group of kids encounter people from their everyday lives (teachers, camp counselors, bus drivers) who may actually be mythical creatures. It would be a series similar to Goosebumps, with each episode focusing on one of the books — Werewolves Don’t Go to Summer Camp, Mermaids Don’t Run Track — and its supernatural element would make it a great pairing with Wayside School. Maybe it’s time ABC brings back the Saturday morning cartoon block.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
This incredibly clever and darkly charming book series didn’t work too well as a movie — it crammed the first three books into one film that, as a result, felt bloated. But if each season in a television adaptation explored a single book, a Lemony Snicket show could be great, not to mention a nice fit for a network going after the YA demographic.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Sure, nothing can top the wonderful 1996 movie, but the timeless story of Harriet’s curiosity, a kid’s life in the city, and friendship would lend itself well to a serialized story about the character’s day-to-day misadventures. Just don’t add the Internet, like Disney’s awful Harriet The Spy: Blog Wars did.
Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter
The Gallagher Girls series follows a group of students at a school where girls learn the art of spying and study subjects like martial arts and chemical warfare. The books aren’t exactly high-quality (and they suffer from hilariously bad titles like Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy and Only the Good Spy Young), but if done well, a show based on the series would fill the “ass-kicking teen girls” void on television — and fit perfectly on The CW.
Animorphs by K.A. Applegate
Animorphs already had a television adaptation on Nickelodeon in 1998, but let’s be honest: it was so awful that I forgot all about it until it popped up on Netflix this month. It’s a shame, because Animorphs is a fun science-fiction series that doubles as a story about teenagers growing up and losing their innocence. It’s been long enough since the original that the time seems right for a great reboot — this time, hopefully, with a bigger budget and better writers.
There are so many Sherlock Holmes adaptations, but where are the girl detectives? There hasn’t been a great series centered around this kind of character since Veronica Mars went off the air. It’s time for Nancy Drew to anchor her own show — and no, not a joint one with The Hardy Boys, like ABC tried in the ’70s. She can handle it.
Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald
The Judy Moody series, a collection of funny books about a feisty third-grader, would be right at home on Nickelodeon as a weekly sitcom. Instead, it was adapted into a terrible movie that critics panned. Yet the books are still great, and Judy’s adventures — such as her quest to become famous and her stint as a maybe-psychic — would make a great children’s show.