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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery 2018: CHICAGO!

March 14, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

On March 11, 2018, our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival had its seventh annual Chicago screening. It was at the Harold Washington Library Center, in their grand Cindy Pritzker Auditorium. We filled up the place, and I was grateful to be able to bring the program back to the library. Frankly, it was one of our best 90-Second Newberys ever!

Check out our opening skit below, in which I—along with co-host Keir Graff (author of The Matchstick Castle and the upcoming Phantom Tower)—confront weird video games based on Newbery winners. The skit develops into a celebration of the strangest 90-Second Newbery movies we’ve received, sung to the the tune of “Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. Keir really nails his performance here. I’m so glad to have him as a co-host. Here’s the skit:

It was a good year for 90-Second Newberys all around. We received a ton of great local Chicago entries this year, many of which I also showed all over the country in the national tour! Let’s highlight some of the featured videos.

Now that my daughters Lucy and Ingrid are old enough, we can make our own 90-Second Newbery movies. This summer we rounded up their friends and we all worked together on this epic version of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon (full review on the 90-Second Newbery website here):

Anybody who knows me knows I’m a sucker for all things David Lynch. Maybe that’s what my niece and nephew Amalia and Domingo were banking on when they made this Twin Peaks-style version of Natalie Babbitt’s 1971 Honor Book Knee-Knock Rise, a book about a boy named Egan who visits his family in a small town in which everyone is terrified of a monstrous sound coming from the mountains that they call “The Megrimum.” Egan journeys up the mountain, and discovers the haunting sound has merely natural causes—but nobody in town believes him. Paranoia-in-a-small-town is perfect fodder for a Twin Peaks treatment, and Domingo and Amalia nail the tone here with great performances and cinematography (full review here):

Another movie I’ve shown all over the country this year is this rap version of Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Newbery Medal-winning book of poetry The Crossover, which tells the story of two basketball-loving twin brothers. This incredible, professional video is Ashton, Adrien, Celina, Dylan, Keene, and Owais from Lincoln Hall Middle School in Lincolnwood, IL (full review here):

Here’s another movie I’ve been showing at every nationwide screening: this hilarious adaptation of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, in the style of a Michael Bay action movie. Who knew that Charlotte’s Web would be so improved by copious explosions? This movie is by the consistently brilliant Ava Levine of Chicago (full review here):

Just like Ava, we’ve had other great filmmakers from previous years return with even better, more ambitious movies. Spencer Sabath of Highland Park wowed us last year with his musical take on Last Stop on Market Street; this year he takes it to the next level with his adaptation of Mary Hays Weik’s 1967 Honor Book The Jazz Man, in the style of “Another Day of Sun” from the movie La La Land (full review here):

This year the Chicago Public Library encouraged their branches to submit movies, and you can see the payoff here in this movie from the Rudy Lozano Branch in Pilsen. Their YOUMedia group did this ingenious adaptation of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet, with the main character Brian updated as a YouTube star livestreaming his survival adventure (full review here):

Another consistently entertaining contributor is Corbin Stanchfield from Lafayette, Indiana. He’s the one who made that great Shiloh-with-a-bagel-for-a-dog that was referenced in the opening skit, and a clever Al Capone Does My Shirts-in-the-style-of-a-1980s-informercial from last year. This year Corbin got a lot of laughs with this reimagining of Richard and Florence’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins in the style of an action movie trailer (full review here):

We kicked off the Chicago screening with John and Meg’s unique take on Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats. This calm, soothing, beautiful movie was the perfect antidote for Keir’s and my opening skit. And John and Meg put their own clever stamp on the story: instead of millions of cats, it’s millions of polar bears (full review here):

Last year Charlie from Highland Park showed us Hatchet in the style of a virtual reality game; this year he teams up with his friends Sammy and Tommy to adapt Kelly Barnhill’s 2016 Medal Winner The Girl Who Drank the Moon in the style of augmented reality, again with hilarious results (full review here):

Here’s another movie done in a unique medium. Not futuristic like augmented reality, but a throwback to old-fashioned black-and-white silent movies! This is Steve and Lucie’s charming, authentically old-looking black-and-white movie of Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie (full review here):

The Maiorca family have been coming to the 90-Second Newbery screenings for years. This year they took the plunge and made a movie! Here is Theo, Sabrina, and Vivian’s adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Newbery Medal winning dystopian classic The Giver. See if you can guess the TWO parts of this very entertaining movie that elicited audible gasps of horror from the audience (full review here)!

Lydia, Hannah, Gabi, Elizabeth, and “Hannah Banana Cinnamon Sue Boby” of Edgewood Middle School turned in this heartfelt and engaging adaptation of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Medal Winner Shiloh. Great acting and cinematography in this one, and such a cute dog (full review here):

The students of Mark DeLay Elementary and Indian Prairie Public Library District stepped up with this fun and resourceful adaptation of Matt de la Pena’s and Christian Robinson’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street (full review here):

I always love it when somebody adapts an older, more obscure Newbery honoree. That’s certainly the case here, with the sixth graders of John B. Murphy Elementary making a movie of James Cloyd Bowman’s 1938 Newbery Honor Book Pecos Bill, which is all about the mythical adventures of a rootin’ tootin’ larger-than-life hero of the old American West. I particularly like the part where Pecos Bill wrestles that tornado (full review here):

I love the Newbery-winning books of poetry, whose brevity and precise language often make for great 90-Second Newbery fodder. That’s certainly the case here, with John, Steve, Meg, and Lucie’s adaptation of Paul Fleischman’s 1989 Medal Winner Joyful Noise: Poems For Two Voices, a book of poems from the point of view of various insects, which the kids imitate here (full review here):

Hazel, Violet, Nora, Devin, and Ray’s adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1944 Honor Book These Happy Golden Years was a crowd favorite on Sunday. Lots of funny moments with energetic and committed performances from the kids. This family has been making 90-Second Newberys of the Little House books for years, and they just get better and better (full review here):

Whew! That’s a lot of movies . . . and that’s not even counting the out-of-town movies we screened on Sunday, or the dozens of Chicago-area movies that were submitted that we didn’t have time to show.

Thanks so much to Elizabeth McChesney, Maria Peterson, Mary Beth Mulholland, Patrick Molloy, and Alexandria Trimble of the Chicago Public Library for coming together and doing all the behind-the-scenes work to make this year’s 90-Second Newbery happen. Thanks to Leland in the tech booth for making the show run smoothly. Thanks to the Book Cellar for doing book sales after the show, and thanks to Keir Graff for being a great co-host.

Thanks most of all to the filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who came on Sunday!

It was an incredible afternoon. It’s not too early to start making movies for next year! The deadline is January 11, 2019, but you can turn them in anytime!

Here’s the final montage that played us out:

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

90-Second Newbery 2018: SALT LAKE CITY and OGDEN, UTAH!

March 5, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

It’s always exciting starting up the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in new cities. We’re expanding to new towns every year. This year we’ve added two Utah locations to the tour: Salt Lake City and Ogden!

Even though there was significant snow that weekend, we had big audiences for both screenings. I think we’re going to get even more submissions from Utah next year. This is the start of something big!

This was all due to Michael McClane at Utah Humanities and the Utah Film Center. With Michael’s help, we got Liesl Jacobson’s support to screen the film festival at the Salt Lake City Public Library, and Lynne Goodwin and Kathy Gambles’ support to screen at the Treehouse Museum in Ogden. Thanks so much to all of them and everyone in Utah who came together to pull this off–including Spy Hop, Weber County Book Links, and the King’s English Bookshop, who sold books at the Salt Lake City event.

And thanks to my co-host, Keir Graff, who spearheaded this whole thing from the beginnning! Here we are onstage for the opening song-and-dance:

And of course, thank you to all the kids and teachers and librarians who came together to make the movies, especially the ones from Utah that we featured at the screenings! For instance, we received this great animated paper cutout version of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia by Seth, Jamison, Justin, and Noah of Entheos Charter School:

As our judges said in part (full review here), here the book is “stripped down to its absolute minimal essentials! The cut-paper animation was beautifully done, very fluid and detailed . . . It was a cool idea to switch from cut-paper animation to shadow-puppets when Jess and Leslie go to the fantasy world of Terabithia. The scissors constantly pursuing them was a clever touch that made us feel the looming menace of death throughout the entire movie.”

We also screened this movie of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game from C.S. Lewis Academy in Santaquin, Utah:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Breakneck pace, lots of funny details, and many resourceful touches! My two favorite parts are probably the explosion and screams when the one character tries to exit the room (the sudden way he drops to the ground and starts twitching is legitimately alarming!) and the breezy manner of the ‘cool’ doctor who shows up to pronounce the patient dead . . . Moves along with a brisk, bouncy energy.”

We featured four movies from Orem Elementary School in Orem, Utah! The first was A Wrinkle in Time by Ember, Brock, Kristen, and Ryan:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said, (full review here), “A witty, fun retelling of the story! The acting for all the parts was properly melodramatic and goofy . . . The way the crown-brain of IT blows up into a mushroom cloud (after a dramatic flourish of music) via the magic of stock photography was inspired! Fun to watch all the way through.”

Here’s another A Wrinkle in Time from Orem Elementary, by Xander, Jada, Zipporah, and Andru:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said, (full review here), “Such a fun idea to retell A Wrinkle in Time in the style of Harry Potter! . . . Fun Brit accents, and resourceful use of Harry Potter robes and wands!”

Orem Elementary also made two movies of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver. This first version is by Walker, Ivory, Alyssa, Hudson, Ethan, Abby, Olivia, and Rachel:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website wrote in part (full review here), “It was an effective choice to use a black-and-white filter up to the Ceremony of Twelve, and then to let a little bit of color show up after Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory. I like how the chanting of “Jonas, Jonas” crescendoes into a kind of maniacal freaking-out (especially with “Walker” getting up and bellowing ‘JONAS!’). The ‘release’ video was creatively handled, especially with the baby’s piteous crying and the way it is (hilariously) backwards-flipped over its head into the trash can!”

Here’s one more version of The Giver from Orem Elementary, by Lydia, Elena, Ryan, and Jane:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Stylish from the very start! A creative choice to have the color get ‘taken away’ at the beginning, when the world is being introduced to the audience (and as each detail of the world is revealed, Jonas withers and collapses more and more). . . . The release scene was terrifyingly gruesome (that baby’s scream!) and the war scene was similarly short and effective . . . This felt like a pro job from beginning to end!”

Thanks so much, Salt Lake City and Ogden! We’re looking forward to bringing the film festival back to Utah in 2019. Remember, it’s never too early to start working on your movies for next year! You can find all the information on how to get started at the 90-Second Newbery website (in particular, the video resources page).

And to wrap it up, here’s a montage of the movies we showed at the Salt Lake City screening—a blend of Utah’s submissions this year, plus some of the best movies we’ve received from the past seven years:

See you next year!

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

90-Second Newbery 2018: MINNEAPOLIS!

February 26, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

On Saturday, February 10 we brought the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival back to Minneapolis for the fourth year!

Now last year, my amazing co-host in Minneapolis for the past three seasons, author Kelly Barnhill, WON THE NEWBERY MEDAL for her excellent fantasy The Girl Who Drank The Moon (fun fact: in an email exchange with Kelly before the announcement, I predicted to her that she’d win, and she said no way. I know things before they happen, people.) Kelly had been a fantastic co-host over the years—check out how she rocked out the opening skit of last year’s Minneapolis 90-Second Newbery—and two years ago, when my computer crashed onstage, Kelly jumped in and entertained the crowd for 10 minutes while I sorted out the technical issues. A brilliant writer, a pro stage presence, and a good friend!

But when you win the Newbery Medal, you get busy. I knew that Kelly’s schedule would be too packed for her to co-host this year. But she thoughtfully recommended a great replacement: prolific, award-winning author Pete Hautman. I knew about Pete already because my nephew Theo had been after me for months to read his book Godless (I did—and it deserved that National Book Award!). I really got to know Pete over that weekend, and he turned out to be a charming, hilarious co-host too. It turns out that Minneapolis is crawling with authors who know their way around a stage! Here I am with Pete in the opening skit (which, unfortunately, I don’t have a good video of, because of sound issues):

Every year, Minnesota is a hotbed of 90-Second Newbery activity. This year we had nearly one hundred entries from all across the state! It was difficult to choose which ones to show at the screening. I’m so inspired and thankful at how Minnesota has embraced the film festival! And it’s all due to the great efforts of Jen Verbrugge and Jen Nelson of the Minnesota Department of Education, who dedicate so much of their time and resources to promoting the film festival around the state. I really appreciate it!

We pretty much filled up the 230-seat theater at the Central Library in Minneapolis. Here are Pete and I with the young filmmakers:

(And speaking of old friends, one of our favorite 90-Second Newbery filmmakers from the early days of the festival—Jennings Mergenthal of Tacoma—is now a college student in the Minneapolis area, and was nice enough to stop by the screening! For old times’ sake, this year in Minneapolis I went ahead and showed Jennings’ first entry for the film festival, from all the way back in 2013: a Claymation version of Hendrik Willem van Loon’s 1922 Medal Winner The Story of Mankind. You can see that, and all of Jennings’ excellent 90-Second Newbery claymation movies, here.)

Let’s take a look at some of the Minnesota-made 90-Second Newbery movies we featured at the screening!

I always love it when filmmakers put weird twists on the material, and Breanne and Tabetha of Boeckman Middle School certainly do that here. It’s an adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie, in which all the parts are played by . . . wait for it . . . chicken nuggets:

On the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges said, “I was impressed by the total commitment to this gloriously goofy premise . . . Fun to watch, and remarkably faithful to the book!”

Also from Boeckman Middle School was Ben and Cohen’s adaptation of Padraic Colum’s 1922 Honor Book The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles:

On the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges said, “Fantastic Lego stop-motion animation! It was a clever twist to reset the story in high school . . . the Argonauts’ van was a highlight, especially how it dumps out its crew and then goes zooming off on its own.”

Madison, Brigid, Hazel and Vot of Somerset Elementary did this movie of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet:

As the judges said, “Great idea to set Hatchet in outer space! The rocketship travel scenes were particularly fun to watch, with the rocket flying crazily all over the place and then crashing on Mars . . . The stop-motion animation was fluid and the sets were satisfyingly detailed.”

Mitali M. and Frankie C. of Sanford Middle School gave us this version Three Times Lucky, done in the style of a scrapbook:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said, “A brilliant and creative idea to tell the story in the form of a scrapbook. The photographs and illustrations and extra items (the footprints! the scrawled notes in the margins! the fancy illuminated letters! the blood splatters!) made for a visually engaging experience.”

Next up is another Lego stop-motion movie. This one’s by Cambell Borrowman of Simley Middle School, and it’s of the 1941 Medal Winner Call it Courage:

On the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges say, “Spectacular! The lego stop-motion was elaborate and beautifully done . . . the chase scene when he’s leaving the island is a nail-biter.”

This was a big year for stop-motion in Minnesota. The next one is another stop-motion, this time of Richard and Florence Atwater’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Lucas of Inver Grove Heights Middle School:

As the review on the 90-Second Newbery website says, “The stop-motion lego work was exquisitely detailed, the green screen work resourceful and on-point, and the voiceover acting funny and expressive . . . Great elaborate animation, lots of witty dialogue, great editing and fun additions throughout!”

We don’t have room to feature every single Minnesota movie we screened on February 10 in this one post, but you can check out those other great movies, with their reviews, by following these links:

When You Reach Me by Ben, Sofia, Jordyn, Alex, Arianna, Mr. TJ, Ms. Amber, and Mr. Nate. of Central Park Elementary

The War That Saved My Life by Ms. Durand’s Class of Oneka Elementary School

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Highlands Elementary

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Eddie, Katherine, Gabby, and Bella of Highlands Elementary

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by Leo and Clare of Somerset Elementary School

Old Yeller by Maddie of Inver Grove Heights Middle School

Holes by Joshua A., Joshua B.G., and Jamari B. of Anwatin Middle School

Holes by Tysen, Gavin, Preston, Tyson, Johnny, Camron, and Caleb of Spring Grove School

The Giver by Brianna, Kenzie, Ava, and Julia of Spring Grove School

Thanks so much to all the young filmmakers, and to the teachers and parents and librarians who supported them! Remember, it’s never too early to get to work on a 90-Second Newbery movie for next year. You can turn your movie in at any time, and the deadline will be January 11, 2019!

Here’s the final montage we showed at the end of the show. Thanks again!

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

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