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90-Second Newbery 2017: BOSTON AREA

June 7, 2017

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Our final screening of the 2017 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival was on April 30 at the Brookline Public Library. It was our first screening in the Boston area, but it won’t be our last!

Big thanks to co-host and friend M.T. Anderson (author of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Feed, Whales on Stilts!, and his newest, the fantastic graphic novel Yvain). We’ve known each other for years, and it was a real treat to share the musical stage with him at last. Check out our opening skit and musical number at the top of this post, in which we sing the Paul-Bunyan-esque praises of John Newbery himself . . . a giant of a man who “ate every book he ever read,” who “once fashioned a pretty hat out of J.K. Rowling’s skull.” Thanks to Erin Kinney and Simas Phillips of Brookline Interactive Group for videoing the screening.

Our Brookline screening was a mix of the best 90-Second Newbery movies that I’ve received throughout the years, plus some great Boston-area-made movies that I wanted to highlight. One of the most inventive was this movie by Robert Carter and the kids of the Goodnow Library, below.

Everyone remembers Charlotte’s Web, right? But it didn’t win a Newbery Medal in 1953, just a Newbery Honor. Does anyone remember the actual Medal winner of that year, Secret of the Andes? Nobody! Or the other Honor Book, The Bears on Hemlock Mountain? Nope, no one! This movie is about the resentment the other winners from that year must feel:

On the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges said, “I love how the movie is shot in the form of a talk show. The repeated identical clips of the same audience clapping make it even more surreal. I was impressed by Wilbur’s elaborate pig costume and the way he is hot-dogging it from the moment he comes onstage, just like a too-big-for-his-britches star. It’s funny the way all the other characters react to Wilbur: the host with barely-masked impatience, Jonathan from Bears on Hemlock Mountain hilariously deadpan and weird, and Cusi from Secret of the Andes flat-out furious: ‘Where’s my movie! Where are my Snapchat followers!'”

The Brookline Interactive Group were kind enough to film the whole screening on April 30, which you can see here.. They also put on workshops in which young filmmakers could make their own 90-Second Newbery movies! For instance, here’s a movie of Matthew de la Peña’s 2016 Newbery Medal winner Last Stop on Market Street as adapted by Ofri, Dan, Maria, and Camilo:

As the 90-Second Newbery website says in its review, “Ingenious Lego stop-motion animation! Elaborate and well-done. I can tell how much care and time was put into this one. I appreciated the witty blink-and-you-miss-them subtleties, like how Darth Vader is one of the folks who come on the bus. Constructing the bus itself out cardboard and paper was resourceful. Great voiceover narration, clear and engaging. And I like how the soup kitchen pretty much serves nothing but cake!”

Last Stop on Market Street isn’t the only great video we received from Brookline Interactive Group. Actually, they made so many great videos that there isn’t room to feature all of them in this post! But you can check them out in the links below:

Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Newbery Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie adapted by Samantha and Anya

Theodore and Gregor’s 1999 Newbery Medal Winner Holes adapted by Theodore and Gregor

Neil Gaiman’s 2009 Newbery Medal Winner The Graveyard Book adapted by Minghao and Rowena

Pam Munoz Ryan’s 2016 Newbery Honor Book Echo adapted by Alex and Brian

E.B. White’s 1953 Newbery Honor Book Charlotte’s Web

Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Newbery Medal Winner The Crossover adapted by David and Andrew

Thanks to everyone who pulled together to make this screening happen. Thanks to Caroline Richardson of the Brookline Public Library for hosting us, and special thanks to Kate Gilbert for being the prime mover in making this screening happen (and for hosting me at her lovely home, and throwing not one but two parties!). Our program was part of ArtWeek Boston, sponsored by Brookline Community Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Brookline Commission for the Arts. Thanks also to Porter Square Books for handling book sales.

Let’s wrap it up with the montage we used to close out the show, below. See you next year!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your support to survive. Want us to keep doing this? Make a tax-deductible donation here.

90-Second Newbery 2017: SAN ANTONIO

May 10, 2017

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your support to survive. Want us to keep doing this? Make a tax-deductible donation here.

Excuse me for my self-indulgence, but I love that first picture above. I look like the dictator of some kind of insane cartoon wonderland. Which is, to be sure, where I rightfully belong.

In fact, the picture was taken at the very first screening of this year’s season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival—which was on January 21, 2017 in San Antonio, at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre! (I know, I know. This post is way overdue.)

In the second picture above, I join my co-host Nikki Loftin in congratulating Mya Prado, the grand prize winner of the San Antonio 90-Second Newbery, for her great animated adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes. More about her, and the other winners and filmmakers, below!

This is our second year in San Antonio. Thanks to Laura Cole and her team at Bibliotech, Bexar County’s Digital Library, for bringing this all together. Thanks also to Christa Aldrich and everyone at H-E-B Read 3, HEB Texas Grocery’s literacy program, for sponsoring the program. And special thanks to Judge Nelson Wolff of Bexar County for supporting the project from the beginning. Here are Christa and Laura introducing the program:

And a gigantic thanks to Nikki Loftin (author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, Wish Girl and Nightingale’s Nest—check out all of her books here). Just like last year, she sang like a diva, she danced like a dream, she cracked wise like a pro, and she generally classed up the whole show! I love co-hosting the film festival with Nikki (check out how she brought down the house with last year’s opening)!

Below is a picture of Nikki and me doing this year’s opening skit with our audience volunteer. In it, we discover a machine that creates future Newbery-winning books out of thin air . . . but at a gruesome price! Unfortunately I don’t have a good video of the skit in San Antonio, but if you’re dying to see it, you can see the same skit done at the Minneapolis screening with me, author Keir Graff, and this year’s Newbery Medal winner Kelly Barnhill here. (It’s too bad, because Nikki and our young volunteer (whose name I’ve unfortunately misplaced) really nailed it!)

This year’s 90-Second Newbery got a jolt of serious star power. Famous director Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn) taped this introduction that we showed at the top of the show. I’m so honored and grateful! Come to think of it, it makes sense that Robert Rodriguez would understand the value of the 90-Second Newbery. After all, he made his start by directing the feature El Mariachi, which he shot with a budget of $7000 (!!!), a movie that went on to make millions and indeed, his name. The kids who make 90-Second Newberys are like Robert Rodriguez: perhaps with limited resources starting out, armed with little but the love of filmmaking and the passion to tell a story. They too are finding success. (Full disclosure: I saw El Mariachi when I was in college (I think 1993?) and I remember being blown away by it even before I knew it had been made on a shoestring. I like many of Rodriguez’s movies, but the one that has a special place in my heart is his Planet Terror section of Grindhouse, an adrenaline-soaked gory thrill ride. So good.) Thanks, Robert Rodriguez, for this inspiring introduction!

And of course, thanks most of all to all the kids for the fantastic movies they made—and the audience who came out, packing the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre!

The San Antonio screening is different than all the other 90-Second Newbery screenings because, thanks to the generosity of HEB, we’re able to offer cash prizes for the best movies we received. Let’s check those out.

There was an honorable mention for this adaptation of Beverly Cleary’s 1984 Medal Winner Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Noah Cotton of Alamo Heights High School (full review on the 90-Second Newbery blog here). He won $250 for his school!

Third place and $500 went to Elijah, Vincent, Josselin, and Esteban of San Antonio ISD for their adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner Tale of Despereaux (full review here):

Second place and $750 went to this great adaptation of Jacqueline Kelly’s 2010 Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Allison Reyna of Alamo Heights High School. (full review here).

First place, and a check of $1500, went to Mya Prado of South San ISD for her animated adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes (full review on the 90-Second Newbery site here):

I’m thrilled and proud of all the great movies we’ve received from Texas this year! Here are a few more notable ones, below. (I wanted to feature them all, but you can only have so much embedded video in one blog post.)

Joshua, Tallulah, Kalea, Bryan, and Professor Floyd of Mission Academy turned in this great adaptation of Scott O’Dell, 1968 Honor Book The Black Pearl:

Here Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures gets a great adaptation from Hannah, Oluchi, Olivia, Valerie, Mykhi, Madison, Julian, and Ryan of Frances M. Rhodes Elementary:

And Pershing Elementary School did a very entertaining adaptation of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Medal Winner Shiloh here:

I’d love to show all the great local movies that we featured at the San Antonio screening, but there simply isn’t room! But you should check out all these other worthy entries:


Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White, 1953 Honor Book) adapted by Hiram and Jason

Princess Academy (Shannon Hale, 2006 Honor Book) adapted by Sofia, Karen, and Sarah by Martinez Films

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Noah, Alyssa, Adam, and Keona of Creekwood Middle School

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Camille McWhorter of Creekwood Middle School

Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson, 1978 Medal Winner) adapted by Daniella Garcia’s class of South San ISD – Kazen Middle School

The Slave Dancer (Paula Fox, 1974 Medal Winner) adapted by Aaliyah and Giselle of Scobee Middle School

The Upstairs Room (Johanna Reiss, 1973 Honor Book) adapted by Juanita, Yisselle, and Yuliana of Dwight Middle School, SSAISD

Last Stop On Market Street (Matt de la Peña, 2016 Medal Winner) adapted by Hannah, Ty, Victoria, Anaya, John, Francisco, Mr. Sandrin and Mr. Smith

One-Eyed Cat (Paula Fox, 1985 Honor Book) adapted by Elliott Brooks of Shepard Middle School, SSAISD

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Kyle, James, Elaon, and Adam

Last Stop On Market Street (Matt de la Peña, 2016 Medal Winner) adapted by Emelyn and Hector of Margil Elementary School

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Catherine, Skye, Austin, and Brigham

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Spencer, Kim, Rebecca, and Daniel of Green Table Productions

Want to see more pictures of the day? Dave Wilson has photos for you here.

And here’s the closing montage of all the videos we showed at the San Antonio 2017 screening. Looking forward to seeing what you all make for next year! Get working now—the deadline of January 12, 2018 is coming sooner than you think!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your support to survive. Want us to keep doing this? Make a tax-deductible donation here.

90-Second Newbery 2017: Thanks, Bay Area!

May 5, 2017

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your support to survive. Want us to keep doing this? Make a tax-deductible donation here.

On February 17 and 18, the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival had its SIXTH ANNUAL screenings in San Francisco and Oakland. I hosted them with fellow Chicago author Keir Graff (The Matchstick Castle) and San Francisco’s own Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat).

Keir gamely co-hosted many screenings with me in 2017. Marcus has co-hosted the Bay Area screenings with me the last few years. They both rip up the stage every time. The beast of Chicago and the jewel of San Francisco!

In the picture below, Marcus, Keir, and I goof off during the opening skit, assisted by our audience volunteer (whose name, I’m afraid to say, I’ve misplaced—but she did a great job!). It’s a scene in which we discover a machine that can create Newbery-winning books out of thin air, but at a grisly price:

Unfortunately the videos of the opening skit in the Bay Area didn’t turn out. But if you want to get the drift of what we were doing, the video of the opening skit in Minneapolis represents it well!

Thanks to Carla Kozak, Christy Estrovitz, Cristina Mitra, and Meghan Monahan of the San Francisco Public Library for bringing us out for yet another year. And thanks to Erica Siskind and Nina Lindsay of the Oakland Public Library for bringing us to the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library too. Special thanks to Summer Dawn Laurie and Katherine Megna-Weber of Books Inc. for doing the bookselling at both events. San Francisco is so welcoming and full of positive attitude. I love doing the film festival here!

This year we had a record number of San Francisco entries. Let’s check them out!

You may remember Felix and Taytum from last year. They did a slick, genre-bending adaptation of Jean Craighead George’s 1960 Honor Book My Side of the Mountain—with the story’s setting ingeniously shifted to outer space, so that it became My Side of the Wormhole.

Felix and Taytum’s submission this year uses Kate DiCamillo’s (non-Newbery-winning) The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as a kind of framing device to ambitiously shuttle between three different Newbery honorees: Sterling North’s 1964 Honor Book Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era, Jack Gantos’ 2012 Medal Winner Dead End in Norvelt, and in neat bit of twisty recursion, their old adaptation of My Side of the Mountain:

As the judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, (check out full review here), “Stylish and intriguing . . . pushing the boundaries of what can be done with a 90-Second Newbery . . . beautifully shot and beautifully edited . . . The music choice was propulsive and inspired . . . The rewinding reference to last year’s entry of My Side of the Mountain was totally ingenious . . . An adventurous, experimental, exhilarating entry!”

On his own, Felix also adapted Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together, with a hilarious twist: Toad isn’t a gentle swamp creature, but rather a stylish hit man in the 1990s Tarantino mold:

On the 90-Second Newbery blog, the judges said (in part), “A brilliant twist . . . Toad isn’t a bumbling, sweetly foolish amphibian who is friends with a frog, but rather a cold-hearted urban murderer-for-hire who is apparently friends with nobody! And instead of Toad crossing off from his list innocent items like ‘eat breakfast’ or ‘take walk,’ it’s a list of plants he must shoot! It was hilarious how the low stakes of targets (a flower, bush, and tree) ironically undercut the intense action-movie style of the movie.”

What other Bay Area entries were shown? How about Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes, here adapted by Armando, Alexi, Chloe, Jazmin, Arianna, Reina, Raymond, and Jaime of Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond, CA:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said (read whole review here), “I like how this movie included the material about the stuff that happened in the past that caused the curse to fall on Stanley Yelnats—too many 90-Second Newbery videos skip that important backstory! The green screen was resourcefully deployed and the background music pulled the whole video together and made it feel of one piece. There were many great moments, like the whirling transformation of Katherine Barlow into Kissin’ Kate, and the exaggerated double-take when Stanley finds out Zero’s name is short for Zeroni, and when the ‘lizard’ bites Kissin’ Kate.”

Here is Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner Tale of Desperaux as adapted by Aarav P., Astrid M., Steven L., and Vanessa B. of Commodore Sloat Elementary:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery praised the movie (full review here), saying, “I loved how everyone raps their lines in verse . . . The way that Roscuro sings ‘Soup and the baaaaanquet haaallll’ was particularly fun. All of the performers were charismatic and committed and fun to watch, and many of the verses were ingenious!”

Here’s another Kate DiCamillo adaptation! It’s her 2014 Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, as done by Omara Rosenfeld, Karina Anders, and Lilah Anders:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog (full review here) claimed it was “ingenious to have ‘Ulysses’ be not a squirrel, but an astronaut! (Or a ‘squirrel-astronaut.’) The performances of all the characters were so fun—I especially liked it when Tootie said, ‘I just sucked up a space squirrel!’ . . . The slow-motion credits sequence of whipping hair around over ‘Space Oddity’ was a perfect way to end it.”

I’m always up for some good stop-motion. Atom Glover does not disappoint with his adaptation of Ellen Raskin’s 1979 Medal Winner The Westing Game:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog (full review here) called this a “fantastic movie, very stylish and impressive to watch! I like how the movie deploys so many tools to get the story across: through live action, voice over, subtitles, and of course elaborate stop-motion Legos . . . I love how sprawling and elaborate the car crash scene is! The movie took an unwieldy, complex mystery and boiled it down to its essence while staying true to its spirit.”

Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street is actually set in San Francisco, so of course we got an adaptation of it from San Francisco! It’s by D’Arion Curry-Matthews at TheMIX@SFPL:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog (full review here) called this “stylish, with beautiful cinematography! Great establishing shots around San Francisco at the beginning, and evocative music choice. I appreciated the unforced, natural performances from the actors, and the movie is leisurely in a good way . . . A true pro entry.”

Every year Allison Halla of St. Andrews Episcopal in Saratoga has her students make movies for the film festival. This year St. Andrews really came through, with a record thirteen videos! It was hard to make a choice about which movies to screen from this excellent haul. Let’s check out the three that we showed at the Bay Area screenings, but you can see all of the St. Andrews videos here.

First up, how about Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Harry and Som:

The judges said (full review here), “Good use of stock footage, stock photos, background music and sound effects to enhance the movie. I appreciate that you took the time to get the right props for costumes (the headsets for the pilots, the sunglasses, etc.) I like the way the movie meticulously builds its story, step by step, giving this momentous historical event the sober treatment it deserves. ”

Have you ever seen the viral video of the bottle flipping trick? Here’s another, rather stranger version of Bomb this time by Ben, Ethan, Ian, and Anthony that takes its inspiration from that video:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, “The twist behind this movie is one of the most bizarre I’ve ever seen for a 90-Second Newbery—replacing the idea of inventing the atomic bomb with inventing the water-bottle flipping trick . . . I especially loved the scene that was like a Rube Goldberg machine, the chain reaction of one thing smacking into the next (even with a Newton’s cradle!) leading to the bottle plopping on just the right spot . . . Creative and resourceful.”

There’s just one more movie I’d like to feature today, and it’s an adaptation of Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Medal Winner The Crossover by Sina, Tyler, Tristan, and Quinn of St. Andrews Episcopal:

As the judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said (in part), “There was really good acting throughout this, especially by the two brothers . . . a chemistry that feels like family. I like the way the music comes in when JB makes his move on Sweet Tea, especially the Katy Perry bit . . . I really love the doctor who keeps changing his mind on the diagnosis: ‘He’s gonna die! He’s alive! He’s dead!’ . . . Great work!”

And that’s it for the Bay Area screenings for this year! Thanks for making it happen, I can’t wait for next year! (Remember: the deadline for entries is January 12, 2018!)

Here’s the closing montage of all the movies that were shown at the San Francisco screening:

And here’s the closing montage at the Oakland screening:

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your support to survive. Want us to keep doing this? Make a tax-deductible donation here.

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