Fantasy series devotees, we know these are distressing times. You’re about to finish the last Harry Potter book, you’ve seen the fifth movie twice, and there are no Narnia films until next May. But take heart: Three of our favorites from the kids-who-save-the-world genre are about to get the big-screen treatment. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you tell your Gobblers from your goblins.
The Dark Is Rising (October 5)
PLOT Fourteen-year-old Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) discovers he’s connected to the immortal ”Old Ones,” meaning he has Potter-like powers and must lead a battle against dark forces.
SOURCE MATERIAL The second tome in Susan Cooper’s semi-obscure five-book series from the ’60s and ’70s, which involves a race-against-the-clock search for mystical objects.
FANTASTIC FOREBEAR With its youthful protagonist and epic, good-versus-evil story line, Dark is clearly trying to position itself as Harry’s heir.
TARGET AUDIENCENerdy teen outcasts looking for a giant dose of wish fulfillment. And Potter fans going through withdrawal. Which means all but about 12 people.
The Golden Compass (December 7)
PLOT Eleven-year-old Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) has to keep an Alethiometer (fantasy-speak for ”all-knowing golden compass”) away from icy Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) and save her best friend from the ”Gobblers,” who use kids in sinister experiments.
SOURCE MATERIAL Philip Pullman’s dense 1995 novel, the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy.
FANTASTIC FOREBEAR Sprawling new world, epic conflict, talking animals, titular magical instrument…it may sound like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it’s a tad closer in spirit to Pan’s Labyrinth.
TARGET AUDIENCE Fantasy buffs will be pulled in by Pullman’s grand-scale imaginings, while the all-star cast (featuring Daniel Craig) could bring the rest.
The Spiderwick Chronicles (February 15, 2008)
PLOT When the 9-year-old Grace twins (Freddie Highmore, in both roles) and their older sister (Sarah Bolger) move into the spooky Spiderwick estate, they find a field guide to a fairy-filled world. (Oddly enough, it looks like The Secret.) Soon, they’re fending off a pesky horde of goblins who want the book for themselves.
SOURCE MATERIAL Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi’s best-selling The Spiderwick Chronicles, an illustrated series that began in 2003.
FANTASTIC FOREBEAR Kids unleash a menagerie’s worth of exotic creatures on a quiet suburb? Uh-oh! Jumanji flashbacks!
TARGET AUDIENCE This one’s aimed squarely at the elementary school set.