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90-Second Newbery 2018: TACOMA!

May 16, 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 Sunday, April 15, 2018 we had the Tacoma, Washington screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! I look forward to the Tacoma screening every year, because Sara Sunshine Holloway of the Tacoma Public Library always goes over the top to make it a special event. This year Sara really outdid herself, by moving the screening from the library to Tacoma’s beautiful Blue Mouse Theatre, a bona fide historic landmark that dates all the way back to 1923! We packed the 220-seat house with a sold-out crowd. It was a raucous, fun show!

It took a lot of folks to make the show run smoothly, including the hardworking John Hargis and Jordan doing a fantastic job in the tech booth. And of course I was honored once again to share the stage with Doug Mackey, my longtime Tacoma 90-Second Newbery cohost! (Scandalously, I don’t have any pictures or video of Doug and me together at the show. What the heck.)

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

Let’s check out some of their movies!

Mr. Johnson’s 5th Grade at Grant Center for the Expressive Arts in Tacoma submitted tons of great movies this year. In particular, they crafted this slyly subversive adaptation of Marion Dane Bauer’s 1987 Honor Book On My Honor . . . in the style of the Netflix hit Stranger Things!

As the judges wrote in part, “This movie nails all the tropes of that supernatural horror series . . . As the chapters kept multiplying, seemingly getting faster and faster, it set up a rhythm that gets the audience more and more excited about what will happen next . . . The ending is classic, cleverly reversing the ending of the original book.” Read the full review here.

Mr. Johnson’s class also created this hilarious movie of Patricia Lauber’s 1987 Honor Book Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens. In this adaptation, the eruption of Mount St. Helens is blamed not on the grinding of tectonic plates and the pressure of magma, but . . . a volcano’s frustration at having his perfect Rubik’s Cube thwarted by a mischievous squirrel:

As the judges wrote in part, “I loved the goofy accent of the narrator, who kept the story moving along quickly, clearly, and amusingly. The campy epic background music struck just the right tone . . . When the volcano finally erupted, it was both hilarious and cathartic!” Read the full review here.

As it happens, I got a lot of great movies from Grant Center for Expressive Arts. Unfortunately we didn’t have time at the screening to show them all (I’m sorry!). But do yourself a favor and check them all out:

Adam Gidwitz’s 2017 Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (this one, honored by the author himself!)

Christopher Paul Curtis’ 2008 Honor Book Elijah of Buxton

Julia Sauer’s 1952 Honor Book The Light at Tern Rock

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

Lauren Wolk’s 2017 Honor Book Wolf Hollow

We also received a deluge of amazing movies from Tacoma’s Seabury School. For instance, Aidan made this adaptation of Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats in the style of a 1940s black-and-white noir detective movie:

As the judges wrote in part, “This movie fulfills all the expected tropes of the genre: the dramatic black-and-white lighting, the hardbitten private eye’s voiceover narration, the stylish fedora, trouble walking in the door from a femme fatale, roughing up the suspects . . . Brilliant how the same actor plays both the investigator and the keeper of the cats . . . fantastic, a great twist on the material, well-executed!” Read the full review here.

Colin from Seabury School did this impressive stop-motion version of Adam Gidwitz’s 2017 Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale:

As the judges wrote in part, “Excellent stop-motion animation, with a giant cast of many Lego figurines running around impressively detailed environments (including the occasional green screen background)! . . . Spectacularly animated, and true to the book . . . A solid movie made with serious dedication to getting the book right!” Read the full review here.

I also loved this version of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes, by Seabury School’s Ishaan K.:

As the judges wrote in part, “the comically small police car at the beginning was hilarious, and the bombastic police officer was just the right amount of absurd. I was impressed that most of it was shot in an actual desert, which made it much more accurate to the book!” Read the full review here.

Those two above are actually only small fraction of the fantastic movies we got from the Seabury School! There are too many to feature on this one post, but you can check them all out at the 90-Second Newbery website here.

Meanwhile, Keaira Sinclair and Julia Gordon made this resourceful version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1938 Honor Book On the Banks of Plum Creek:

As the judges wrote in part, “The ominous music in the background is effective foreshadowing that all that happy talk and optimistic planning will soon come crashing down . . . you do a great job having the girls shriek in horror as the music changes and everything turns into a horror movie . . . Tight story, skillfully told, great work!” Read the full review here.

Piper and Barbara of Gig Harbor, WA crafted this beautiful stop-motion animated version of Scott O’Dell’s 1961 Medal Winner Island of the Blue Dolphins:

As the judges wrote in part, “The painted sets and fabrics made an effective backdrop for the clay stop-motion animation, which was fluid and fun to watch . . . This movie zips through the story, hitting all the major plot points, and ends of a satisfying note. Well done!” Read the full review here.

The Tacoma Public Library’s Abby S., Jaek A., and Jordan M. (who helped out in the tech booth at the screening!) made this impressively detailed Minecraft adaptation of Kelly Barnhill’s 2017 Newbery Medal Winner The Girl Who Drank The Moon:

As the judges wrote in part, “I like the sardonic narrative tone established from the very beginning: ‘It’s that time of year again . . . let’s go get the youngest baby to sacrifice!’ All the voiceover acting was engaging and fun to listen to (even the robot voice—I get it, ‘voice actors are expensive’) . . . Ingeniously constructed, well acted and edited, entertaining to watch!” Read the full review here.

The hilarious Rosemary Sissel has been consistently submitting great, subversive material to the 90-Second Newbery for years (check out all her stuff here). This year she outdid herself with this fast, funny zombie re-imagining of Patricia MacLachlan 1986 Medal Winner Sarah, Plain and Tall:

As the judges wrote in part, “Hilarious, horrifying, and surreal! This movie puts its finger right on a disturbing aspect about Sarah, Plain and Tall that’s always kind of creeped me out: what kind of madman orders their wife through the mail? And what kind of woman would be motivated to take up the offer? This movie has a ready answer for that: the bride is actually a zombie, in search of fresh living flesh to devour! . .. . Funny, irreverent, and satisfyingly weird.” Read the full review here.

Martin A., Quinn S., Vivian S., Waylon B., and Josiah A. at Jason Lee Middle School made this ambitious adaptation of Pam Muñoz Ryan 2016 Honor Book Echo:

As the judges wrote in part, “This movie did a good job of swiftly pulling all the different strands of the story together, making the progression of each vignette clear and grounding it in character and emotion . . . A great sprint through a complicated, difficult-to-summarize book!” Read the full review here.

Geiger Elementary turned in two great movies. First is Danity, Arshan, Levi, Avery, Jamaree, Eva, and Leo’s marionette version of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Newbery Medal Winner One and Only Ivan:

As the judges wrote in part, “I love the elaborate marionette work on this! So impressive and skillful! The elephants were particularly amazing . . . I’m really delighted and awed by the commitment and craftsmanship on this movie!” Read the full review here.

(Also from Geiger Elementary, check out Molly, Ella, Lyla, Jacob, Mateo, Diesel, and Anthony’s adaptation of Paul Flesichman’s 1989 Medal Winner Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. It’s another standout, definitely go watch it!)

Speaking of The One and Only Ivan, Brooklyn of Baker Middle School made her own version by speaking narration over her own skillful drawings:

As the judges wrote in part, “This was a simple and elegant retelling of the story! The voiceover narration was brisk and to-the-point, laying out the plot in clear and easy-to-understand terms . . . Fast and engaging!” Read the full review here.

That’s not the only entry we received from Baker Middle School! Although we didn’t have time to show them at the screening, do yourself a favor and check out Anh’s and Amberlea’s adaptation of Lauren Wolk’s 2017 Honor Book Wolf Hollow and Oceania’s, Dasani’s, Roselin’s, Madison’s and Alyssa’s adaptation of Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Medal Winner The Crossover.

Giaudrone Middle School made two movies. Their “Team SPOT” put together their own version of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

As the judges wrote in part, “Great idea to tell the story with a lively voiceover accompanied by paper cut-out illustrations . . . This was a marvel of compression. Fun to watch too!” Read the full review here.

“Team Huskies” from Giaudrone Middle School also made this great movie of Vince Vawter’s 2014 Honor Book Paperboy. Another one worth watching!

. . . And that’s it for the all the Tacoma entries in the 2018 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Thanks again to everyone who made this happen. This year was the most entries we’ve ever gotten from Tacoma, and the quality was way up too. Tacoma is a beautiful city and I’m so happy to visit. Here’s to next spring!

Let’s conclude with the final montage of the Tacoma show. It was a great day. Can’t wait until next year!

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.

90-Second Newbery 2018: PORTLAND!

May 11, 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 April 14, we brought the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to Portland, Oregon! We’ve been doing screenings in Portland ever since the film festival’s beginning, seven years ago, when we were in only three cities (the others being Chicago and New York). Our annual tour has grown to fourteen cities—but creative, beautiful Portland always remains a highlight.

Our hosts and collaborators are the fine folks at Open Signal, a venerable media arts center in Portland (it used to be called Portland Community Media). Elisa Barrios, Katmeow Garcia, Yousef Hatlani, and so many others at Open Signal worked hard to make the screening happen. I’m very grateful to them.

I’m also grateful to my cohost Dale Basye (author of the Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go middle-grade series). He’s been my Portland co-host for the past few years, and he’s fantastic onstage every time. He can sing! He can dance! He can crack wise! Unfortunately, the audio of my video of our opening skit is sketchy, so I won’t be posting it, but here are some pictures of me and him and our young filmmakers:

Let’s check out the local movies that were shown at the screening! For instance, Vivienne, Aika, Jaydyn, Henry, and Abigail of Cedar Park Elementary Library came all the way down from Seattle, Washington to showcase their stellar version of Thanhha Lai’s 2012 Honor Book Inside Out and Back Again:

As our judges wrote, “What a work of art! All the characters and the backdrops were so beautifully drawn. The occasional animation worked well (the flying kick, the ‘pink boy’ chasing Ha) but the quick cuts, zooms, and thoughtful cinematography also served well to propel the story forward and keep it feeling dynamic and propulsive. Even though it was long at 3+ minutes, I wouldn’t cut it down by a single a second—everything worked and felt necessary!” Read the full review here.

Open Signal’s Spring Break “So You Want to be a Filmmaker” Camp made three great movies in their weeklong workshop. (You can learn more about Open Signal’s youth programs here.) All three were done by Moto, Sean (a.k.a. “Hobbs”), Solomon, and Victoria. The first is an adaptation of Rita Williams-Garcia’s 2011 Newbery Honor Book One Crazy Summer:

As our judges wrote, “The kooky pitch-shifted voiceover performance gives this movie a daffy, almost avant-garde vibe, especially with the lurching, loopy, fun-to-watch cut-paper animation—characters hopping over each other, skateboarding around, zooming all over the place . . . I’m not sure what was happening in the ‘Horito laughed his head off’ scene, but the ‘I watched my mother get arrested’ scene was particularly well done, especially with the cut-and-paste army of Black Panthers with arms upraised in salute—weird but oddly compelling! ” Read the full review here.

The same group also did this very good version of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan:

As our judges wrote, “A pleasure to watch! The movie is fast but never feels hurried . . . the clay animals are deftly sculpted and skullfully animated . . . Great work!” Read the full review here.

The third and final movie by Moto, “Hobbs,” Solomon, and Victoria is an adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

As our judges wrote, “Ambitious, nimble, and fun to watch . . . I particularly liked the oddly long and drawn-out singing to the pig, and the direct malediction hurled straight at the camera: ‘You forgot me! You’re cursed!’ . . . Good music and opening titles sequence too! A fun sprint through the story.” Read the full review here.

Next up is this skillful stop-motion movie of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet by Mac Childers and Cooper Hurt of Capital Community Television:

As our judges wrote, “This stop-motion lego movie told the story of the book very effectively, somehow hardly using hardly any words! All of Brian’s actions were very clearly rendered, from the way he makes a fire to how he kills a pig with bow and arrow (and turns that pig into edible meat!). The skunk episode and the tornado were also resourcefully and artfully done . . . Great movie, entertaining and accurate to the book!” Read the full review here.

Also from Capital Community Television, Anya Beebe and “Hip-Hop Angel” made this adaptation of E.L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Newbery Medal Winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler:

As our judges wrote, “Telling the story from the point of view of Jamie was a great idea! It got up and running quickly, putting us in his shoes and making us see how he feels about the whole adventure . . . The addition of Siri to the story was a nice modern touch. It was funny how they literally found baloney in the files, and the ‘Angel’ statue was amusingly posed. Fun and entertaining!” Read the full review here.

At last, the Salem Public Library Teen Advisory Board made this movie of Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted:

The judges “loved this bonkers, breakneck-paced sprint through the story . . . with the insane, delightful twist to retell it entirely with google-eyed vegetables! . . . This was a fun romp, and it looked like it was a blast to make!” Read the full review here.

Thanks again to everyone who came to the the film festival, and all the organizers and folks who made it happen! (And thanks especially to Joe and Madeleine, my old friends whose house I stay at every time I come to Portland. Hanging out with them would make the whole Portland trip worth it, even if the film festival weren’t happening at all!)

And of course, thanks most of all to the young filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who came out to our screening on April 14. Here’s the final montage we showed that day:

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.

90-Second Newbery 2018: ROCHESTER!

May 7, 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 Sunday, March 25, 2018 we had a screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Rochester, New York! Rochester has always been a hotbed of 90-Second Newbery activity, and this year was no exception. So many great movies! I was so proud to showcase them at Rochester’s Dryden Theatre in the George Eastman Museum. I was particularly thrilled to meet the kid filmmakers—some of them veterans from years past, some of them brand-new fresh faces on the 90-Second Newbery scene.

My co-host was Rochester superlibrarian and previous Newbery committee member Matt Krueger, whose style and panache brought real class to my dog-and-pony show. Look at this guy! Here Matt and I pose with the similarly stylish and resourceful Eliza Kozlowski of the George Eastman Museum:

In this video, Eliza introduces me and Matt, and then we launch into our opening skit in which Matt scandalizes me with revelations about video-game versions of Newbery-winning books, which eventually culminates in a song-and-dance encouraging folks to make their 90-Second Newberys as weird as possible, all sung to the tune of “Make A Man Out Of You” from the Disney classic Mulan:

Enough of my hosting buffoonery, let’s check out the great movies themselves!

Wunderkind Eian-Gabriel Sinclair, a 90-Second Newbery veteran, returns to this year with another movie in his inimitable animation style, this time of Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins:

As the judges wrote in part, “A tour de force! This movie was amazingly well-drawn and cleverly animated . . . Tight script, expressive voiceover, and the music was charming.” Read the full review here.

That’s not the only adaptation of Mr. Popper’s Penguins we got from Rochester! This one is by the fourth graders of Leo Bernabi Elementary:

As the judges wrote, “It was a smart choice to open this movie with a relaxed conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Popper, grounding the story in their relationship and their difficulties before moving on to the crazy penguin stuff. I liked the way they both reacted with delighted shock when Admiral Drake spoke directly to them through the radio. The performance of the penguins was funny, especially with the constant ‘ork! ork! ork!’ noises . . . An engaging and entertaining adaptation of the book!” Read the full review here.

Every year the kids of the RCTV/Writers and Books Summer Camp make several movies for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. They’re always fantastic! The camp made three this year. The first is Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s spooky 1972 Honor Book The Headless Cupid, updated to make its witchy character Amanda a YouTube star called “Occult Amanda.” In this movie, she documents the plot of the book on her vlog:

As the judges wrote, “an ingenious, creative, and hilarious way of updating the story! It totally nails how the story would be converted for the Internet age: naturally the witchy, overbearing stepsister Amanda from the 1970s book would nowadays be the YouTube vlogger ‘Occult Amanda,’ complete with logo, branded content, and (inevitably) that characteristic vlogger mannerism of starting every video by braying ‘HEY GUYS…!’ . . . It’s really fun to watch – all the way to the Blair-Witch style, first-person horror at the end, when Occult Amanda meets her own grisly fate!” Read the full review here.

Another movie by the RCTV/Writers and Books Summer Camp is an adaptation of 2015 Honor Book El Deafo by Cece Bell:

As the judges wrote, “Lots of great ideas came together here to make a movie that’s really entertaining and fun . . . It was truly hilarious when Cece’s dreamy crush ‘Mike Miller’ shows up, complete with wind blowing dramatically through his hair and flirtatiously wiggling his eyebrows – Cece’s ‘hubba hubba’ reaction might’ve been the best part of the movie!” Read the full review here.

The third and final movie by the RCTV/Writers and Books Summer Camp is an adaptation of Esther Forbes’ 1944 Newbery Medal Winner Johnny Tremain, in the style of Star Wars:

As the judges wrote, “What a great idea to do Johnny Tremain in the style of Star Wars! It makes perfect sense–both are the stories of a young man participating in the revolt against a distant, overbearing empire. And there’s a great parallel of how Luke and Vader are actually father-and-son, and Johnny and the villainous Mr. Lyte are uncle and nephew, and thus Mr. Lyte fits quite well as a Darth Vader character . . . A standout!” Read the full review here.

That’s not the only great Johnny Tremain we got from Rochester this year. Here’s another one by the all-girl school Our Lady of Mercy. That’s right, it’s an all-female Johnny Tremain:

As the judges wrote, “the narrator did a good job keeping the story on track and moving along at a brisk pace. I like how the movie concentrates on the most visually striking and physically active moments of the book, like when Johnny burns his hand, the Boston Tea Party, and the battle in the Revolutionary War . . . This all-girl Johnny Tremain gives new ironic meaning to the concluding phrase ‘a man can stand up’ when it’s said by a girl! Entertaining and engaging throughout!” Read the full review here.

Olivia Colvin and her brother made this movie of Russell Freedman’s 1992 Honor Book The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane:

As the judges wrote, “a fun and effective idea to tell the story with no spoken words, but instead a sequence of stock photographs, short videos, and personal photos . . . My favorite part was how this movie portayed an airplane by strapping two branches to a boy’s arms and having him sprint down the driveway, flapping!” Read the full review here.

The last of the Rochester-made movies we featured was this great version of The Westing Game, adapted by 6th graders Sam, Eitan, Ella, Sarina, Noah, Hannah and Nikol of Hillel Community Day School:

As the judges wrote, “Fun idea to tell the story of The Westing Game in the form of a super-dramatic trailer! The tense synth music, punctuated by the occasional BOOM, made for an effective atmosphere . . . Goofy and entertaining throughout, and fulfills the ‘trailer’ tropes well.” Read the full review here.

Thanks to everyone who made the Rochester screening possible! Thanks first and foremost to Deb Ross of KidsOutAndAbout.com and Carol White Llewelyn of RCTV, the prime movers who brought me to Rochester in the first place and who make the film festival happen, year after year. The 90-Second Newbery owes so much of its Rochester success to them! Thanks also to my friends Amy Holland and Arthur Bond, who gave me a place to stay while I was in town (and who helped me solve a certain mystery from my junior high school days, about weepuls . . . in a way, the less said about that, the better!)

Thanks to Eliza Kozlowski and everyone at the Dryden Theatre of the George Eastman Museum for giving us a venue for the screening. And thanks again to Matt Krueger, such a talented and hilarious co-host!

Thanks also to our generous sponsors and partners: Animatus Studio, Cheshire Audio/Visual, the Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library, Delta Airlines, Rochester Community Television, and KidsOutAndAbout.com.

And of course, thanks most of all to the young filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who came out to our screening on March 25! Here’s the final montage we showed that day:

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.

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