Holiday break TV binging 2021

Congrats! You’ve made it to winter break. It’s time to relax, sit down with a delicious hot beverage, and crack open a good book — or maybe binge-watch all the movies and shows you couldn’t get to the rest of the year. If that last part sounds more your style, here’s a list of some of the kidlit TV and film adaptations that came out in 2021. Happy streaming!

One show I can heartily recommend is the second season of The Baby-Sitters Club, released on Netflix last summer [see also super-fan Shoshana Flax's thoughts from 2020]. As someone who loved season one but never read Ann M. Martin’s books as a kid (I know, I know), I was excited to get to know the newest members of the club, and I was not disappointed. Mallory’s intense awkwardness feels deeply relatable to my memories of being a middle schooler, and Jessi’s earnest drive for success makes her impossible not to root for.

Just like in season one, there are plenty of clever 2021 updates here that keep the show grounded in the current moment, like prominent queer relationships and a plotline about the perils of internet fame. While some threads this season perhaps needed more development — too-easily forgiven classism from side characters, or the revelation of a club member’s sexuality being afforded only a single sentence — The Baby-Sitters Club does so much right. Stacey’s diabetes is treated with the complexity it deserves, and “Claudia and the Sad Goodbye” absolutely lives up to its name (this is your official warning to emotionally prepare yourself!). At the end of the day, this is a gentle show about a loving group of friends filled with humor, diversity, and fun. Claudia’s bedroom, where the club huddles over their phone each week, continues to feel like a safe place to come home to.

The show I’m most excited to come back to over winter break is The Mysterious Benedict Society, based on the books by Trenton Lee Stewart and dropped recently on Disney+. As a big fan of the books, I wasn’t sure if a TV adaptation would be able to adeptly capture the quirkiness of their tone — but even though I’m only a few episodes into the series, I’m already all-in. The pastel sets, snazzy music, and old-fashioned cars create the perfect surreal ambiance, just different enough from our world to feel a little magical. The child actors are well-cast (Marta Kessler as Constance is particularly funny), while Tony Hale’s Mr. Benedict brings the perfect blend of nervous energy and inviting warmth. Hilarious new visual jokes — Reynie taking a realistic eternity to sharpen a pencil — round out memorable scenes from the books, such as the children’s unique, inventive strategies to pass their tests and make it into Mr. Benedict’s inner circle. I can’t wait to keep watching and find out how they’re going to solve the mystery this time!

Other 2021 series that might strike your fancy include:

  • Ada Twist, Scientist, on Netflix, based on the series by Andrea Beaty
  • The Chicken Squad, on Disney Junior, based on the series by Doreen Cronin
  • Go, Dog, Go! on Netflix, based on the book by P. D. Eastman
  • Harriet the Spy, on Apple TV+, based on the book by Louise Fitzhugh
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer, on Amazon Prime, based on the YA novel by Lois Duncan
  • One of Us Is Lying, on Peacock, based on the YA series by Karen M. McManus
  • Shadow and Bone, on Netflix, based on the YA series by Leigh Bardugo

When it comes to movies, I also enjoyed To All the Boys: Always and Forever earlier this year. The conclusion of a trilogy based on YA novels by Jenny Han, this third installment on Netflix follows Lara Jean on delightfully whirlwind trips to Korea and New York City as she attempts to figure out where she’s going to college — and where her boyfriend, Peter, fits into her future. Though the plot is fairly predictable, the bright colors and gorgeous aesthetics, as well as the sheer amount of fun in Lara Jean’s adventures, make it an entertaining watch for sure. Lara Jean’s tension between choosing romance or what’s best for her own future feels relatable and real, as does a subplot about Peter’s strained relationship with his father. Also, wedding planning! Graduation! Reconnecting with old friends! There’s something bright and fun here for everyone.

Other 2021 films for your perusal include:

  • The Boss Baby 2: Family Business, on Hulu, based on the picture-book series by Marla Frazee
  • Chaos Walking, on Hulu, based on the YA series by Patrick Ness
  • Cinderella, on Amazon Prime, based on the fairy tale
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog, on Paramont+, based on the series by Norman Bridwell
  • Cruella, on Disney+, based on the book by Dodie Smith
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid, on Disney+, based on the graphic novel series by Jeff Kinney
  • Flora & Ulysses, on Disney+, based on the book by Kate DiCamillo
  • Moxie, on Netflix, based on the YA novel by Jennifer Mathieu
  • Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, on Netflix, based on the book by Beatrix Potter

Do you have any recommendations? Something on this list you feel impassioned adoration for, or a different movie or show entirely? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

Bodie Shanis

Bodie Shanis is an editorial intern for The Horn Book, Inc., studying towards an MA in Children’s Literature and MFA in Writing for Children at Simmons University. 

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