order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newberys from Sidwell Friends School, including a Claymation Island of the Blue Dolphins

Just a week until the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening in New York City, November 5! All details about the film festival are here, including information on the Chicago screening November 16.

I had the pleasure of receiving eleven, count ’em, eleven 90-Second Newbery films from Becky Farnum’s sixth-grade class at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. This gold mine included one of my favorite films so far: a Claymation version of Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, which won the Newbery Medal in 1961. It’s by Ananya Kapur, Claire Hodges, Carrera Chao, and Caroline Mullins. Check it out above.

It’s one of the bloodiest Claymation videos I’ve ever seen! Set to the music of Debussy, no less! I found it nothing less than hypnotic, especially when the dogs dismember the guy. The movements put me in the mind of a 1980s video game. This will for sure be shown in the screenings in New York and Chicago. Great job, Ananya, Claire, Carrera, and Caroline!

But that’s not all I got from Sidwell Friends School! There are ten more great adaptations too. I can’t fit them all into one blog post, so I made their own page where you can see them all. Click here to watch all eleven 90-Second Newbery films from Sidwell Friends School.

Thanks a million, Sidwell Friends! Superlative job!

90-Second Newbery, Chicago Style: The Great Fire and A Ring of Endless Light

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It looms! Screenings in New York 11/5, Chicago 11/16.

That got me thinking. New York is well-represented in the Newbery lists: just think of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Newbery Medal 1968), or 1970s Upper West Side in When You Reach Me (Newbery Medal 2009), or indeed The Cricket in Times Square (Newbery Honor 1961). That’s just off the top of my head! There are many more.

But as a Chicagoan, I must ask: how many Chicago-centric Newbery award winners are there?

Nope, Richard Peck’s A Long Way From Chicago (Newbery Honor 1999) doesn’t count. Even though the word “Chicago” is in the title, I recall the whole book takes place in downstate Illinois. Of course, there’s The Westing Game (Newbery Medal 1979), set in a Chicago apartment building, but the only other title that occurs to me is Jim Murphy’s The Great Fire (Newbery Honor 1996), which is of course about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Time Out Chicago Kids, who last week ran a great story about the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, has sportingly thrown their hat into the ring with the video above―a retelling of The Great Fire in the style of an Errol Morris documentary! The twist: all of the “experts” on the Great Fire of Chicago are under three years old. Jonathan Messinger, the Books editor of Time Out, made the video; he’s a friend, and I must further admit, he recruited my daughter Lucy for one of the roles. You can read more about the making of this video at the Time Out Chicago Kids blog. Masterful job, Jonathan, and thanks for representing for Chicago!

Our other selection for today is also by a Chicagoan, Eti Berland, who is a graduate student at the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The book? Madeleine L’Engle’s 1981 Newbery Honor book A Ring of Endless Light. Keeping with today’s Chicago theme, it is done in the style of Ira Glass’ This American Life! (Yeah, I know the show moved to New York in 2006, but I Chicago still rightfully claims it.) Have at it, Eti:

Eti really nailed the This American Life tone here, right down to the musical cues popping in whenever the emotional tenor of the narrative changes or the plot “turns.” The idea to do the visuals in the form of a scrapbook was ingenious, original, and beautifully executed!

Thanks for the shout-out at the end to The Order of Odd-Fish and the great Katie Davis, who does an indispensable kidlit podcast called Brain Burps About Books (Katie interviewed me on Brain Burps back in January, and again on the “red carpet” at the Newbery banquet in New Orleans this summer).

Thanks so much, Jonathan and Eti, for two great Chicago entries! They’ll both be at the screening at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago on November 16 (6-8 pm). Dear Reader, will YOU?

90-Second Newbery: A Single Shard Double Feature

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is just around the corner! (New York screening 11/5, Chicago screening 11/16. Full details here.) I’ll be posting videos of the entries fast and furious until then!

Special treat today. We previously received a great 90-second version of Linda Sue Park‘s 2002 Newbery Medal winning A Single Shard from New Zealand (watch it here). Today I’d like to share two more versions of A Single Shard!

The first one, above, is by 12-year-olds Madison Ross and Olivia Summerville Farrar (who also played Potter Min and Tree-Ear, respectively). The twist: the girls wrote the script in an English approximation of Sijo, a traditional form of Korean poetry. Another amazing thing: they got Linda Sue Park herself to introduce the movie! What an honor, and very gracious of Ms. Park!

There were so many brilliant little touches in here. The fast-forwarded “Eye of the Tiger” montage. The witty, whiplash reversal of “it was awful” followed by the chipper “can I keep the job?” The reappearing “fox of doom” was funny too. I liked their use of musical cues like “Ramblin’ Man” and “Bad Boys” and how Potter Min glowers at the camera when she says “slave labor.” And that royal emissary has true gravitas! Secret in-joke: the backpack that they use for Tree-Ear is a 39 Clues backpack, signed by Linda Sue and three of the other 39 Clues authors. A super-excellent version of A Single Shard!

But wait, not to be outdone, we have another version of A Single Shard–this one by thirteen year old Olivia. Done in the style of stop-motion manga! Take it away, Olivia:

I loved the idea of doing the book in animated manga form. Olivia compressed the story very efficiently, and there were some really funny parts in there! (“Now?” “No.” “Now?” “No.” “Now?” “No!”) I also chuckled at the line “You dare bring me a single shard? Hmm . . . good name for a book . . . Anyhoo . . . ”

Two great 90-Second Newbery films of one great book. Thanks, everyone!