This list of books that inspired Disney movies is perfect for the ultimate fan. They’re some of the best books for middle school.
While many families have seen a large number of Walt Disney movies, most haven’t read the books that the movies were based on. Believe it or not, most stories we attribute to Disney aren’t Walt Disney books at all. They were actually well-known titles from other authors long before being made into movies.
Like many other books that became films, most of the original stories on this list are quite different from their famous movie counterparts. My tweens LOVED discussing the similarities and differences with each other.
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Books That Inspired Disney Movies
If your middle schooler loves all things Disney, make sure some of these middle grade books make it onto their reading list this year.
Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights retold by N. J. Dawood
These eleven exotic tales have been passed down for generations. Aladdin, one of the short stories included, focuses on a poor boy, a devious magician, and a powerful genie.
Aladdin meets a magician, who promises him great wealth. All he has to do is head into a dark and dangerous cave to obtain an oil lamp. He does grab the lamp but keeps it for himself. He and his mother rub the lamp to release a genie, who grants them many wishes.
Aladdin is finally wealthy, but far from satisfied. His greed pushes him to demand more and more. Although he is ultimately very lucky, Aladdin’s unchecked desires negatively impact others, as well as landing him in plenty of trouble.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice, tired of sitting, reading her storybook, decides instead to follow a white rabbit down into his rabbit hole. Once underground, she is lead into a strange, yet magical world where she meets one crazy creature after another.
Within these pages, readers will discover many of their favorite characters: The Queen of Hearts, Tweedledum, and Tweedledee, the Cheshire Cat, Mock Turtle, as well as the Mad Hatter.
Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key
Tony and Tia are twin teenagers who have supernatural powers that neither one understands. After the woman raising them dies, they are sent to the city orphanage. One day, a man shows up, claiming to be their uncle. They don’t know who he is, but as they begin to remember part of their past, it’s clear he is not their actual uncle. They escape together and run to the mountains in search of their real family.
Readers are taken on a fantastical journey full of nail-biting chases and personal discovery.
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
While staying with a family friend, three house pets (a Labrador retriever, bull terrier, and a Siamese cat) decide to head back to their home together, despite the fact that they’re miles away. They cross the Canadian wilderness, using their instincts, and relying on each other, while encountering many trials along the way.
Will they overcome possible starvation, wild creatures, and harsh elements and find their way back home safely?
The Rescuers by Margery Sharp
By all appearances, Miss Bianca is a pampered mouse, living a life of luxury. She seems like an odd choice to send on a challenging and possibly dangerous mission. However, she is the one chosen and she sets off to rescue a Norwegian poet held captive in the Black Castle.
Along the way, she teams up with Nils, a very brave mouse, and Bernard, who becomes a very faithful companion.
Will they survive rough seas, mean cats, and perilous tasks to save the poet as well as themselves?
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
Tweens will recognize this classic tale if they’re fans of Frozen or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because both were inspired by this original story.
An evil troll created a magic mirror in order to distort the reflection of everything. Instead of showing the good in people and things, it only highlighted the bad. One day, the mirror fell, breaking into a “million billion splinters,” getting into the hearts and eyes of people. This made them hard and jaded, only seeing things distorted from how they were. Their hearts became like ice; cold and unyielding.
Readers also meet Kay and Gerda, a young boy and girl who are neighbors and best friends. Kay’s grandmom is always telling stories about the Snow Queen who rules over the “snow bees ” snowflakes that resemble bees. One day, the queen tries to get Kay to come to her, but he is scared and stays inside.
When spring arrives, Kay feels pain in his eye and heart and realized that one of the enchanted splinters has infected him. His behavior changes and he becomes very aggressive. When the Snow Queen arrives again, she takes Kay to her ice palace. Gerda, in spite of being treated harshly by Kay, goes on an epic journey to save him from the queen, and to restore him back to the boy she knows he still is inside.
*Just a note, there are strong Christian undertones in this book.
Were you surprised to learn that these stories were from authors other than Walt Disney? Make sure that after your tween reads the book, you spend some time discussing which they liked better, the book or the movie.
Additional Books for Middle School
Aside from these tales that inspired movies, encourage your tweens to read some Newbery Medal winners, fantasy books, awesome books about animals, and thrilling mystery novels that are sure to keep them guessing.
Books make amazing gifts, so share your favorite story with a friend and make one of these awesome bookmarks for kids to put into the book as part of the gift.
Using Technology to Support Reading
It’s easy to use technology to support both struggling and voracious readers. If it’s a challenge getting your tween to sit down to read a book, consider switching over to audiobooks. They’re a lifesaver for some families because they enable kids to listen on their devices, they’re perfect for auditory learners, and you can play the books in the car as you travel together.
If you haven’t ventured into electronic books with your tween yet (like a Kindle), I encourage you to consider it, especially if he is constantly reading. Lots of books can be downloaded for free or cheap from Amazon and many can be borrowed directly from your public library.
When you embrace the format that fits your children best, ultimately, it will help them get caught up in a great story.
Which of the books that inspired Disney movies surprised you?