Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla

Film to Book: ParaNorman

“There’s nothing wrong with being scared, as long as you don’t let it change who you are.”

When faced with a zombie apocalypse, your average child might feel defeated. But does your average child have a family legacy steeped in mystery, the ability to talk to the dead, and a sage, advice-giving (though deceased) grandmother? Luckily, Norman has all three of those things.

paranorman 1ParaNorman is a book based on a screenplay, a kidlit beast I don’t usually pay much mind to. But when this book came into our library, I was pleasantly surprised at its humor, self-awareness, and proper, zombie-induced jolts. The film was adapted in novel form by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, the author of the Suddenly Supernatural series, and her ease with supernatural formats shines through. The book, in short, is fun.

The movie is even better. I have not enjoyed an animated movie this much since Coraline – not surprisingly, ParaNorman was created by the same people. The plot centers around young Norman Babcock, the ultimate outsider. Norman is quiet, shy, and he has a strange habit of talking to people who don’t seem to be there. Norman’s ability to commune with the dead means he’s the only person in his small New England town who can stop the vengeful ghost of a wrongfully-executed witch from raising an army of zombies on the 300th anniversary of her death.

It’s a fairly scary topic for kids, pn3and the book and the film do not shy away from descriptions of slimy eye sockets, groping, green hands, and general zombie chaos, in addition to the rather realistic depictions of bullying in modern America. I would not recommend this story or film to the children who don’t like to get a little scared. The movie is rated PG, and the book hews fairly close to it in tone. One aspect which I really liked was the casual revelation that a major supporting character is gay. It was nice to see it presented so matter-of-factly.

Finally,pn2 for those librarians currently invested in Maker Culture, there are AMAZING special features available on the DVD. Some of them are even available for free on youtube. One featurette I especially enjoyed talked about how the creators made the faces- the animators decided to use a 3D printer, so that they could print literally thousands of facial expressions of for each character, giving this animated film an amazing, skewed realism. Check out a brief clip here! I think it would be fun to pair this movie with an iPad stop-motion animation program, using an app like Stop Motion Studio or others.

In conclusion, though I don’t usually enjoy books that were based on films, ParaNorman has the best of both worlds – a witty, kid-friendly zombie book and a drop-dead gorgeous movie.

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  1. Pingback: Book to Film: Anticipating Wait Till Helen Comes | ALSC Blog

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