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90-Second Newbery Film Festival 2015: New York City and Brooklyn!

March 18, 2015

nyc movies 2015 90sn collage exported

The 90-Second Newbery relies on donations to keep going. Be a peach and make a tax-deductible donation to the 90-Second Newbery here.

We finally wrapped all the screenings of the FOURTH ANNUAL 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Our last shows of the year were in New York City, back-to-back at the New York Public Library (March 7) and the Brooklyn Public Library (March 8).

First, the NYPL! Thanks to Anna Taylor and Gretchen Kolderup for setting everything up, and to Glenn and Zach for taking care of the audiovisual side. Big eternal gratitude to superlibrarian Betsy Bird, who helped get this off the ground at the NYPL in the first place—and a few days ago she also blogged about some notable 90-Second Newbery entries here. Also thanks to Publishers Weekly for doing a nifty article about the film festival!

And of course tremendous thanks to my talented, enthusiastic, and fantastically dressed co-host, author Ame Dyckman (Wolfie the Bunny, Boy + Bot, Tea Party Rules) who really brought her A-game for the opening song-and-dance, in which the 90-Second Newbery gets shortened to a 7-second Newbery Vines . . . and then to 1-second Newbery movies . . . and then a negative 6-second Newbery, until space-time is broken and we hurtle through a singularity, retroactively obliterating the Newbery medal itself and all the books to which it has been rewarded, only to confront John Newbery himself, who teaches us how to save the Newbery from the space-time wormhole we’ve created, by singing and dancing in a thoroughly silly way:

One of the best things about hosting the live 90-Second Newbery screenings is that I get to meet the filmmakers themselves! Here I am with multi-year 90-Second Newbery veterans Madison and Ella Ross and their friends from Rochester, New York:

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The Ross’ idea this year? To do Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Medal winner The Whipping Boy in a unique style: they challenged themselves to write the script such that every line of dialogue is a question. Does it work? It does! Extra points for the appropriate “Who’s Crying Now” background music:

I loved that question mark after the “aahhhhhh!”

Madison helps out as a counselor at Rochester Community Television’s summer moviemaking camp, which every year makes really amazing 90-Second Newberys. Here’s one of the few we showed in New York, a rather snarky and funny take on Katherine Paterson’s 1978 Medal winner Bridge to Terabithia. Were you surprised, when you first read the book, that Leslie died? What, you were? Didn’t you notice all the OMINOUS FORESHADOWING?

Very, very funny. Great job!

There are many other movies I showed at the New York screening, such as the Tredyffrin Library’s humans-dressed-as-Legos version of Tomie dePaolo’s 2000 Honor Book 26 Fairmount Avenue, Haverhill, Massachusetts’ Consentino School’s “gangsta” version of Lois Lowry’s 1995 Medal winner The Giver as well as Mineola, New York’s Jillian Parrino’s stop-motion version of the same book, and RCTV’s cowboy version of Ellen Raskin’s 1979 Medal winner The Westing Game, known of course as “The Wild Wild Westing Game.” And let’s not forget multi-year veteran Mohana Buckley’s stop-motion version of Elizabeth Enright’s 1939 Medal winner Thimble Summer.

On to the screening at the Brooklyn Public Library! Thanks to Paquita Campoverde and Jennifer Thompson for setting it all up, and Brandon and Marissa for helping me the day of the event.

And special thanks to bestselling author Peter Larengis (The 39 Clues, the Seven Wonders of the World series) who took time out of his busy touring schedule to co-host the screening with me:

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Look at that groovy robe! Peter says it’s from mid-20th century Japan. Stylish! It turns out that Peter is also an experienced actor and song-and-dance man, and he and I rehearsed and rehearsed the opening number until it SHONE LIKE A DIAMOND. Naturally, no video exists. But trust me, it was great!

It was the Brooklyn Public Library who did this very entertaining movie of Christopher Paul Curtis’ 2000 Medal Winner Bud, Not Buddy, in the style of a Depression-era movie:

Impressive! I like the sepia-toned, old-tymey look of it, and the music choices were spot-on. The sped-up footage of Bud running when on the lam and going to Grand Rapids were funny, and I was particularly amused by that fight scene—those two kids really didn’t want to hit each other! And of course solid acting all the way through, from the exasperation of Herman Calloway to the fierce tenacity of Bud to the craziness of Lefty.

We also screened this one by Jess and Sacha Williams, Polly Horvath’s 2002 Honor Book Everything on a Waffle in the style of a cooking show:

What a perfect idea to do that recipe-laden book in the style of a cooking show! The costumes and acting were great—I especially liked the daffy way Miss Perfidy says “I’m making tea biscuits!” and how Uncle Jack and the truck driver looked delightfully insane. And “these look like toes” made me laugh too!

Thanks so much for all the young filmmakers who came out to the screenings at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. Heck, thanks to all the kids who participated in the 90-Second Newbery this year, and the adults who helped them and cheered them on. It’s never to early to get cracking on next year’s entry! Deadline is December 14, 2015 but you can submit anytime! You can find all the rules and details at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival website.

And finally, let’s wrap it up with one last montage of the New York screenings:

See you next year!

90-Second Newbery Film Festival 2015: Minneapolis!

March 11, 2015

minneapolis movies 2015 export

The 90-Second Newbery relies on donations to keep going. Make a tax-deductible donation to the 90-Second Newbery here.

Phew! Last weekend we put on the final screenings of our fourth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. I’ll blog about those later. But first I’m overdue in blogging about the raucous, joyous, first-ever 90-Second Newbery screening in MINNEAPOLIS on Saturday, February 28!

Thanks so much to Jennifer Verbrugge and Jen Nelson at Minnesota Department of Education’s State Library Services for doing the heavy lifting to make this happen (and Janet Piehl of the Wilmette Library for putting us in touch). They arranged for me to visit schools all around the Minneapolis area to promote the festival, and worked hard to put the word out themselves. As a result we had a bumper crop of 35+ videos from Minnesota in our first year! They don’t do things halfway in Minnesota!

I also must thank my fantastic co-host Kelly Barnhill (author of The Witch’s Boy and other great books), who instantly connected with the audience, sang and danced our opening number like a pro, and made hosting the screening stress-free and fun. I’m looking forward to doing it with her next year, too!

And of course thanks to all the filmmakers, many of whom showed up for the screening, joining the audience who packed the 235-seat Pohlad Hall at the Minneapolis Central Library:

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Let’s take a look at some of these great Minnesota videos . . .

This first one is submitted from Jamie Molitor’s Media Arts class from the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resource (FAIR) School in Crystal, MN. It’s the story of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Newbery Medal winner Holes, told as a rap! If you’ve ever wondered what Minnesota-style rap is like, we’ve got you covered. These students created the beat from scratch, too. IS THERE NOTHING THESE FOLKS CAN’T DO? I love, love it:

Favorite bit: ending on the line about “making it rain,” and then adding in a deadpan tone, “seriously… it rains at the end of the book” with a thousand-mile stare at the camera. Hilarious, resourceful, and a crowd favorite in every city where I’ve shown it!

Stop-motion Lego adaptations of Newbery winners are always welcome, especially if they’re as meticulously detailed and amusingly told as this movie of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Medal winner Shiloh, done by Miles Fischer of Worthington, MN:

I loved how Jud has a three-headed Cerberus dog just hanging around, and is wearing a Superman shirt for some reason. I was truly impressed by the snakes, fish, rat, and spiders all frolicking about, it really made the forest feel “alive.” Fantastic montage of our hero doing chores . . . especially how he seems to be using the Force to magically sweep away all the junk from the yard!

The large cast of amusing animals and the straightforward pleasure of the hero’s problem-solving make Ruth S. Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon a great choice for a 90-Second Newbery. Patricia Armstrong’s third-grade class from Aquila Elementary does a bang-up job with it, and it’s clear they’re having fun, too:

Clear storytelling is hard when you have only 90 seconds, so I really appreciate how this video, even with its many scenes, makes total sense. Elmer’s desire is clear form the beginning. Good bird twitter sound effects throughout, and great costumes for cat, tiger, rhino, and lion, dragon, and monkeys and apes—costumes can make all the difference! I liked the resourceful crocodile puppets (“watch the tail sonny boy!”) and I liked how the dragon was “so ready to get out of here.” Splendid job!

Attention 90-Second Newbery hopefuls: one of the quickest ways to my heart is by adapting Rita Williams Garcia’s 2011 Honor Book One Crazy Summer, one of my favorite Newbery books which I feel really should’ve taken the medal. It’s here adapted with ingenuity, warmth, and sensitivity by third graders Liv, Stephanie, Ellie, and Audrey:

I was charmed by Liv, Stephanie, Ellie, and Audrey’s sweet take on the material. The way they bicker was very believable acting. And the movie was overflowing with great 60s-style clothes. The way they represented the interior of an airplane at the beginning was marvelously resourceful. I loved the emotion in the exchange of “Who is it?” “It’s your daughters!” “Girls, go to your room!” Great fight over Miss Pattycake too, and the poetry recital at the end effectively brought it all together. Great work!

There are so many more wonderful entries from Minnesota—too many for me to feature in one post! I will get them all up on the website in time. THANKS AGAIN for all the great entries, Minnesota!

Finally, here’s our closing montage that showcases all the movies featured at the Minneapolis screening:

Thanks again, Minnesota! Never too early to get cracking for next year!

90-Second Newbery Film Festival: Tacoma and Portland Screenings 2015!

March 3, 2015

Tacoma 2015 screening shots EXPORTED

The 90-Second Newbery relies on donations to keep going. Make a tax-deductible donation to the 90-Second Newbery here.

We had two more fantastic 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screenings in Tacoma and in the Portland area on February 21-22, 2015! Thanks so much to Sara Sunshine Holloway for arranging the screening at the Tacoma Public Library—complete with red-carpet walk, popcorn, paparazzi, and specially-made Oscar-like prize statuettes for participants!—and Violeta Garza and Coi Vu for organizing the screening at the Troutdale branch of the Multnomah County Public Library near Portland.

And extra special huge thanks for my co-hosts, Doug Mackey in Tacoma and Jacob von Borg in Portland! Doug Mackey was my co-host last year in Tacoma, and the young Jacob von Borg was my co-host in Portland—you may remember Jacob from the many great 90-Second Newbery movies he’s made over the past few years, as well as the cornucopia of Order of Odd-Fish fan art he and his sisters have created as well. Add to that list: excellent co-host! I need to hire this kid full-time!

I thought I’d take the opportunity in this post to feature some of the movies I received from Tacoma and Portland this year.

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Almost every year we’ve received a fantastic Claymation 90-Second Newbery from Jennings Mergenthal of Tacoma. First he sent us a breakneck-paced Claymation version of The Story of Mankind, the second year he sent us a hilarious and educational Claymation version of An American Plague, and this year here’s a super-impressive Claymation version of Steve Sheinkin’s 2013 Newbery Honor Book Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Take it away, Jennings:

Every year Jennings finds a way to top himself: I’m amazed at how much facial emotion and human expression he can wring out just a few bits of clay. The script is hilarious and impeccably tells the story, efficiently zooming through the book and still giving us a good idea what it’s all about. And so many hilarious little grace notes—”It’s just Einstein’s house, how hard can it be to find?”, the newspaper headline “NAZIS INVADE POLAND—we should do something”, Fermi’s line when “Stand back or something” followed by “should we be wearing some kind of protection?” and “We’ll be fine.” My personal favorite moment might be Stalin picking up the phone and saying “Hurry up with my bomb,” followed by Truman tearing his newspaper in half. And perfectly-chosen Tom Lehrer song for the end!

Another great regular contributor from Tacoma is a young man named Parker, who in the past provided us this dizzying, hallucinatory, hilarious version of William Bowen’s 1922 Honor Book The Old Tobacco Shop: A True Account of What Befell a Little Boy in Search of Adventure. Do yourself a favor and go watch it, and then come back and check out his follow-up, also of an older book: Dhan Gopal Mukerji’s 1928 Medal Winner Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon. It’s the story of an Indian pigeon, so Parker had the great idea to adapt it . . . in the style of a Bollywood musical:

Just as with The Olde Tobacco Shop, Parker has done some resourceful and ingenious green screen work. The costumes were ace, too, from the saris and feathers to the WWI army uniforms—I love the attention to detail (extra points for that cool nest). I had to laugh at the feathers fluttering down indicating his parents’ untimely fates, and the “not these llamas!” line was cute. Great flying and war scenes, and the Bollywood song and dance at the end was icing on the cake.

Next up: Jean Craighead George’s 1973 Newbery Medal winner Julie of the Wolves. Tacoma wolves were probably too busy to participate, so filmmaker Rosemary Sissel used the next best thing . . . Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Julie of the Cows:

I love it when these films have a unique take on the material, and Julie’s is so creative and resourceful—I guess it’s safe to say that cows are easier to wrangle than wolves for filmmaking. The shots are well composed, the voiceover is effective and pushes the story forward with admirable speed. I chuckled at the part where Julie sighed “I’m so hungry I could eat anything,” followed by her chasing a frightened chicken. The pan left reveal of the cow was funny too, as well as “My cow became a hamburger!” and Julie’s reaction when she finds her father eating beef. Smart take on the story!

Now as it turns out, Tacoma, Washington has a special place in Newbery history, for Tacoma is the setting of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Newbery Medal winner The One and Only Ivan. The book is based on the true story of a silverback gorilla who spent 27 years in a shopping mall zoo in Tacoma and finally made his way to the Atlanta Zoo. The Tacoma Public Library Storylab (Jaek Andersen, Duncan Killion, Sebastian Killion, Zavier Killion, Shawn Newbauer, Jordan, and Trey Brown) decided to tell the story with a twist—using Minecraft! (Last year Tacoma Storylab gave the same Minecraft treatment to Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats):

Really good job representing the various animals, and the voiceover narration was rock-solid. The comic timing was on-point too: I especially liked the running joke of Ivan grousing, “It’s not a cage, it’s a domain” and the delivery of the line “I am a dog of uncertain heritage.” It was impressive when we got to zoom out of the mall and see outside, and I loved the exhilarating swoop when the camera is whirling around while they’re arguing.

Next up, Jack Gantos’ 2012 Newbery Medal Winner Dead End in Norvelt, as adapted by Sam Ledford:

I like how quickly and efficiently Sam rips through all the relevant plot points of the story. Nice musical flourishes, and I was amused by the Charlie-Brown wah-wah-wah on the phone. (And I loved the ominous glimpse of the murderer under the table . . . )

And finally from Tacoma, Coco, Simone, and Dori adapted Elizabeth George Speare’s 1959 Medal Winner The Witch of Blackbird Pond . . . all using paper cut-out dolls:

An ingenious idea to do it with those beautiful paper cut-outs. The voice-over work expressed the story very well, and I liked how neatly the ending wrapped up with the beginning. Great work!

And for the penultimate video in this long, long post, let’s watch the Troutdale library’s Teen Council’s version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler:

Smart move to use Frankweiler’s voiceover narration to push the story along (great accent too!). Resourceful use of sped-up footage in the library to give that feeling of frantic searching. Good variation of shots, from the zoom-in on the sign of “Metropolitan Museum of Art,” to the crowd milling around the Michaelangelo statue, to the tight shot in the stacks while searching. These Teen Council blew through the story with admirable efficiency, nailing all the relevant plot points like pros. Another great movie!

Thanks so much for all the movies and for coming to the screenings, Tacoma and Portland area! See you next year. (And remember, it’s never too early to start working on next year’s movie . . . all the rules and details can be found here.)

We’ll close it out with the closing montage for Tacoma’s screening:

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