Lurlene McDaniel’s dying-kids books This lady has written over 40 novels about teens facing potentially fatal illnesses. As kids, we couldn’t get enough of reading about girls with leukemia and boys with AIDS (who got the illness through blood transfusions — no unprotected sex here). And despite the fact that they transformed us into hypochondriac adults, we think their heightened sense of drama would translate well on film. Who should direct? Charlie Kaufman, whose Synecdoche, New York has convinced us he knows from hypochondria.
The Hardy Boys’ Operation Phoenix trilogy The Hardy Boys have produced decades of worthy mystery novels, but we believe this series-within-a-series is especially worthy of the big screen. After all, there’s international intrigue, adventures in Africa, poachers, and big business. If that isn’t a summer blockbuster waiting to happen, we don’t know what is. Who should direct? Paul Greengrass, whose action-movie resume includes United 93 and two of the three Bourne films.
Lowis Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik books Weird middle schoolers of the world, unite! This series spanned the late ’70s through the mid-’90s and followed the adventures of a girl beginning to navigate tween social life. But these books weren’t all sugar and spice: To this day, their mentions of alcohol, smut, and suicide attract controversy in classrooms around the country. Since we don’t think it makes sense to shield kids from harsh realities, we’ll always respect Lowry (who is also the author of YA classics like The Giver trilogy) for telling it like it is. Who should direct? No one understands awkward girls like Liz Lemon herself, Mean Girls scribe Tina Fey.
The Boxcar Children What began as an elementary school teacher’s book about a family of four orphans living in — you guessed it — an abandoned boxcar has become one of the biggest, most successful kids’ series ever. Aside for their fascinating story lines, we attribute their appeal to the absence of parents — always a popular trope with children. Who should direct? We wouldn’t mind seeing Pixar animate this one.
Judy Blume’s Fudge books Even the most patient of parents gets frustrated with the slow pace and unforgivable repetition that abounds in most kids’ series. Not so the laugh-out-loud funny Fudge chronicles, beginning with Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing and continuing through Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-mania, and Double Fudge. Blume may be best known for her girls’ coming-of-age novels, but these lighter books about Peter Hatcher and his handful of a younger brother are equally worthy and have only ever seen screen time as short-lived TV series in the mid-’90s. Who should direct? Judd Apatow. He’s got a great sense of humor, and let’s face it: His average 30-something protagonist is about as mature as Fudge.
R.L. Stine’s Fear Street novels Stine may be best known for Goosebumps, the kiddie scare-fests that swept elementary classrooms in the early ’90s and have already been adapted for the screen. We’re far fonder of Fear Street, his teen series that takes place in the creepy town of Shadyside and features far more graphic tales of high-school gore. Who should direct? Wes Craven. ‘Nuff said.
The epic collaboration of Ann M. Martin and Paula Danziger Yes, friends, in case you forgot: This totally happened. The woman responsible for the life-changing Baby-Sitters Club series and the lady who brought us The Cat Ate My Gymsuit and Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? have worked together on two epistolary novels about 12-year-old pen pals. Tara*Starr and Elizabeth, based on the authors themselves, appear in P.S. Longer Letter Later and Snail Mail No More. If you missed these gems as a kid, it’s not to late to check them out. Who should direct? Nicole Holofcener, who knows a thing or two about female friendships.
Katherine Paterson‘s complete bibliography The Great Gilly Hopkins. Jacob Have I Loved. Lyddie. Bridge to Terabithia. Her books may not break down into a single specific series, and we did just see a Zooey Deschanel-helmed Bridge, but there are few kids’ writers out there as well-loved as Katherine Paterson. Her oeuvre delves into history and fantasizes about the present. And, at least in our day, it was easy to tell who your smart classmates were by who was devouring Paterson’s books. Who should direct? Someone who has a thing for period pieces and can relate to sibling rivalry. Catherine Breillat would be perfect.
Christopher Pike’s Last Vampire series How is it that the original tween vampire novels — which predated both the Buffy TV series and the current Twilight craze — haven’t yet yielded film adaptations? No matter; it seems FilmNation Entertainment has recently begun a project that’s about 15 years overdue. We’re excited for these because, if we remember correctly, their ancient star Sita is much more fascinating (and far less celibate) than her contemporary competition. Who should direct? No one who’s remotely connected to Twilight! Instead, let’s tap Alan Ball, the creator who brought us the shamelessly slutty True Blood.
Choose Your Own Adventure They were trashy. The stories were dumb. Your fourth-grade teacher wanted you to put the damn Choose Your Own Adventure books down and read some Roald Dahl. But there’s no denying how fun this interactive-before-the-Internet series could be. As interactive video technology has improved, a direct-to-DVD series seems to have emerged. Still, we think these books deserve a shot at the big screen — maybe in 3D — with audiences working collaboratively to decide what the characters should do. Who should direct? After this season’s split-reality Lost and a Star Trek reboot that made even non-nerds care about the show, we’d love to see J.J. Abrams take on the challenge.