In Children's Books on the Big Screen, author Meghann Meeusen goes beyond the traditional adaptation approach of comparing and contrasting the similarities of film and book versions of a text. By tracing a pattern across films for young viewers, Meeusen proposes a consistent trend can be found in movies adapted from children's and young adult books: that representations of binaries such as male/female, self/other, and adult/child become more strongly contrasted and more diametrically opposed in the film versions. The book describes this as binary polarization, suggesting that starker opposition between concepts leads to shifts in the messages that texts send, particularly when it comes to representations of gender, race, and childhood.
After introducing why critics need a new way of thinking about children's adapted texts, Children's Books on the Big Screen uses middle-grade fantasy adaptations to explore the reason for binary polarization and looks at the results of polarized binaries in adolescent films and movies adapted from picture books. Meeusen also digs into instances when multiple films are adapted from a single source such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and ends with pragmatic classroom application, suggesting teachers might utilize this theory to help students think critically about movies created by the Walt Disney corporation. Drawing from numerous popular contemporary examples, Children's Books on the Big Screen posits a theory that can begin to explain what happens--and what is at stake--when children's and young adult books are made into movies.