From Screen to Page: When Short Films Become Picture Books - Firefly Books Blog

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From Screen to Page: When Short Films Become Picture Books

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From Screen to Page: When Short Films Become Picture Books


“A film director, like an orchestra conductor, is the lord of his domain, and no director has more power than a director of animated films. He is set free from the rules of the physical universe and the limitations of human actors, and can tell any story his mind can conceive.” 
— Roger Ebert


Children’s books often take place within the realm of the imagination, with colourful characters, fantastic plots, and faraway lands. On screen, these stories can further transport young viewers by bringing their favourite characters to life.

Adapting a film to the page, on the other hand, is a unique challenge, but the filmmaker/authors whose books are part of our National Film Board of Canada Collection have risen to the challenge.

Acclaimed filmmakers Torill Kove, Andrea Dorfman, and Cordell Barker are the authors of the four picture books in the NFB Collection, each adapting their own work for a new audience of young readers to enjoy.

Firefly Books joined forces with the National Film Board of Canada in May 2017 to become their official publisher. In late 2017, the NFB Collection was launched with three literary adaptations of celebrated animated and documentary films from the NFB archives.

The first two picture books in the collection made spectacular use of imagination. The Cat Came Back by Cordell Barker is about a cat with an impressive sense of direction that keeps returning to Mr Johnson’s door despite the grumpy old man leaving it in the woods, sending it adrift at sea, and releasing it in an air balloon.

In My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts, Torill Kove tells the story of her grandmother’s involvement in the Norwegian resistance during World War II. This story begins with relative realism but quickly evolves into a tall tale about “shirt sabotage” and putting itching powder in Nazi uniforms.


The newest books in the series stay closer to reality but are no less whimsical or imaginative in their use of colour, humour, and creativity to transport readers into the worlds of their authors.

In Flawed, the graphic memoir by Andrea Dorfman, readers get to know the author as a young woman struggling with feelings of self-worth after she begins to fall in love with Dave, the “nicest guy in the world” who also just happens to be a plastic surgeon. Aimed at slightly older readers, this unique book about body positivity and self-love is already being called “a must-read for teen girls and boys” (Kirkus Reviews), with the colourful illustrations being compared to artworks by Matisse (Publishers Weekly).

Threads, the new book by Torill Kove, has been called “a master class in pared-down simplicity” (Quill & Quire) as it follows a mother and daughter and the bright red thread that connects them, a thread that grows and evolves along with their relationship. Parents beware: the Oscar®-nominated filmmaker has written a tearjerker to rival Love You Forever.

Though film to book adaptations are less conventional than the reverse, each of these books from the NFB Collection shows that new explorations of classic short films have allowed their authors to experiment in new ways.

These colourful, comical, touching stories are sure to become classics in their own right.


About the NFB:

The National Film Board of Canada was founded in 1939 and has since created over 13,000 productions and won over 5,000 awards, including 12 Oscars®.


Get the books:



 My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts

 The Cat Came Back


Watch the films:



My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts

The Cat Came Back


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