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Just For Fun

6 Children’s and YA Books That Would Make Great Netflix Series

by Tom Burns


As if my family didn’t spend enough time on Netflix already, over the past year the powerhouse streaming service has begun to develop programming based on some of the best children’s and YA series in recent memory. Their first offerings sound fantastic: a miniseries of Jay Asher’s powerful 13 Reasons Why starring Selena Gomez, AND a 13-episode adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books — with Neil Patrick Harris as the sinister Count Olaf and Patrick Warburton as the mysterious Snicket himself.

While we revel in this embarrassment of streaming riches, it gets us thinking about all the other titles that also deserve a really excellent Netflix series. Here are some of our choices…

  • The Spiderwick Chronicles series

    by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

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    There already was a pretty decent Spiderwick Chronicles movie released in 2008, but we want more of the curious Grace siblings (twins Jared and Simon and their kick-butt older sister Mallory) and their discovery of Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, a catalog of all the strange, magical, and occasionally sinister creatures that lurk in the shadows. Also: if Netflix really wants to make the world fall in love with a Spiderwick series, they need to cast Jacob Tremblay — the young star of last year’s “Room” who made us all say “Aww” with his increasingly adorable award-season pictures — in the dual role of Jared and Simon. He’s the same age as the Grace twins in the books and would be PERFECT for the role.

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  • Little Women

    by Louisa May Alcott

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    Here’s the thing: Amy Sherman-Palladino is shooting four new “Gilmore Girls” movies for Netflix right now. Someone needs to head over to the Stars Hollow set and say “Hey Amy, we’ve got your next series all ready to go.” I would LOVE to hear Sherman-Palladino’s take on Jo, Beth, Meg, and Amy March. Yes, they’d probably all talk fast and be hilarious, but there are also some lovely thematic parallels between “Gilmore Girls” and Little Women — the way that they both focus on young women coming into their own, and the constantly shifting emotional relationships between mothers and daughters. It could be a period piece, but it’d also make for an awesome contemporary adaptation. Octavia Spencer or Sutton Foster as a 21st century Marmee, perhaps? And Kiersey Clemons from "Dope" would make a great Jo too. I just want to see this happen.

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  • Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

    by John Grisham

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    Police and lawyer procedurals are among the most popular shows on network television. So why can’t kids have their own procedural show? Why do adults get to have all the courtroom fun? An easy solution would be greenlighting a series based on John Grisham’s excellent Theodore Boone books, which follow a 13-year-old aspiring lawyer who finds himself drawn into a high-profile murder case WAY sooner than he ever expected. My choice for young Boone would be Hays Wellford, one of the young stars of the nail-biting thriller “Cop Car” who more than held his own against the corrupt sheriff played by Kevin Bacon.

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  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School

    by Louis Sachar

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    The Wayside School series represents some of the hands-down funniest books kids get to read in elementary and middle school. Kids go nuts for Louis Sachar’s insane educational environment where angry teachers can turn kids into apples and the students have no concept of numbers. For a Netflix series you’d want to find a creator with the same anarchic spirit as the books, so what about Australian comedian/musician Tim Minchin? He co-created the wildly popular Matilda musical — also set in a crazy school — and his skewed sense of education humor would align with Sachar nicely. And how about casting Lauren Lapkus, the amazing comedienne from Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and “The Characters,” as Mrs. Jewls?

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  • The Once and Future King

    by T. H. White

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    Okay, this would be an expensive one — but having previously created shows like “House of Cards” and “Marco Polo,” why can’t Netflix also helm a definitive retelling of the King Arthur legend? T. H. White did a remarkable job humanizing Arthur and his knights in OAFK; the popular Disney movie “The Sword in the Stone” was actually based on the early sections of White’s book. Merlin is the truly groundbreaking character in this series, characterized as a wizard unstuck in time who is constantly citing the similarities between Arthur’s time and our modern world. It’s a fun plot device that gives the myth a surprising amount of contemporary relevance. Maybe we could even get someone exciting like Simon Pegg or Hugh Laurie to step into the role of Merlin and let them run wild in Camelot for a bit.

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  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone

    by Laini Taylor

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    There are SO many paranormal young adult action/romance/adventure series on the market today, but Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy is a cut above the rest. Maybe it’s just the way Taylor’s prose makes you want to go hang out in Prague for a year (FYI, Netflix: the series would HAVE to shoot in Prague) but the story itself is equally compelling. Karou is a 17-year-old art student who runs errands for her strange adopted family, which largely involves collecting teeth (ew). Karou soon finds out that her surrogate family is involved in a war across dimensions with some seriously angry angels, and she has to pick a side. There’s love, betrayal, twists, and turns. It will easily become your new weekly TV addiction, particularly if they nail the casting of Karou — Amandla Stenberg (who broke our hearts as Rue in “The Hunger Games”) would be awesome.

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What do you think about our choices? Did we miss some obvious contenders? Do you really want to see Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series on Netflix? Let us know in the comments below.