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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery: The Graveyard Book, Charlotte’s Web, and When You Reach Me

September 7, 2011

FELLOW CHICAGOANS! Can you spell? Friday, September 16, I’m one of the “celebrity judges” at the Book Cellar’s Adult Spelling Bee! Other guest judges: The Encyclopedia Show’s Robbie Q. Telfer and Chicago Tribune Literary Editor Elizabeth Taylor. Guest host Kelsie Huff from the Book Cellar’s house comedy team, The Kates. Prizes for some, fun for all. 7 pm.

The 90-Second Newbery film festival! It’s coming in November! I knew I’d receive many brilliant 90-second films of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. I’d thought that the black-and-white, silent-movie-style Graveyard Book done by kids in Toronto would be impossible to match, but check out the movie above. It’s just as impressive!

This gorgeous animated Graveyard Book is by “Ignis Draco,” a thirteen-year-old from Andover, MN. It’s a Terry Gilliam-esque romp done in a shadow puppet style, and cleverly retells The Graveyard Book in terms of its source, The Jungle Book. It’s funny throughout, the animation is ingenious, and wait till you see what happens to poor Mr. Gaiman’s head during the credits. I barked, positively barked, with mirth. I appreciated the sly references to the fact that all of Neil Gaiman’s books are written by bees (a revelation that I first announced here and confronted Neil Gaiman with in person here). Ignis manages to hit most of the significant high points of the book with verve and style: the plot-points-on-a-moving-train idea is inspired, and the narration is delightfully droll. I loved it! Thank you, Ignis Draco!

Next up, from the 5th-8th graders at the Bainbridge Island Public LibraryCharlottes’s Web:

Compelling performances, cute costumes, charming sets! (And we even get puppetry! A goose, a spider . . . ) I loved how gleeful Mr. Arable is about killing Wilbur at the beginning. Forceful acting! The Wilbur is an adorable performance, too. So is Templeton, Charlotte, Fern, everyone―and kudos to Charley and Max for the piano music. And of course I’m not forgetting Olivia and Max’s deft editing. A winner all around! The youth services librarian, Carmine Rau, said that they did it all in less than 9 hours: arguing over which book to choose, writing the script, gathering props and costumes, and shooting and editing the film (“an hour of work for every ten seconds of film,” said one of the boys). Well done, and thank you Bainbridge!

And finally, we have another great version of When You Reach Me―this time by a kids’ video class taught by Robert Carter at the Library of the Chathams, New Jersey:

This delirious sprint was actually condensed from an 12-minute version of When You Reach Me that the same class made. I like how the story is broken up with scenes of the “$20,000 Pyramid” practice, and using archival footage of the gameshow was a masterstroke (in the extended version, we even get to see a young David Letterman on the show)! They got the details right: using a first-edition of A Wrinkle in Time as a prop, and giving the discussion of the time-travel paradox the full treatment it deserves. All the actors were talented and convincing, even with their voices sped up. (Speeding up the dialogue is a technique I’m surprised more people haven’t done in these 90-second movies.) Superior!

Thank you so much, Ignis Draco, Bainbridge Island Public Library, and Library of the Chathams!

For the perplexed, here’s the complete info about the 90-Second Newbery film festival, including our November 5 screening at the New York Public Library and our November 16 screening at the Harold Washington library in Chicago.