With the success young adult books are having at the box office — The Hunger Games series, The Fault In Our Stars — it was only a matter of time before television stepped up its game and started to adapt more children’s and young adult books into TV series. There have already been some great successes (Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl), and there are a few other book-to-TV projects in the works (Wondrous Strange and The Clan of the Cave Bear), but as far as I’m concerned, there can never be too many. Here are ten book series that deserve TV adaptations — or a second chance at one.
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.