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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery, Puppetry Edition: Dark Emperor and Because of Winn-Dixie

October 17, 2011

I reviewed Colson Whitehead’s new zombie novel Zone One and Otto Penzler’s zombie anthology Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! last Saturday for the Wall Street Journal. You can read the review here. Links to all of the reviews I’ve done for the WSJ are here.

Today is the deadline for entries to our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s a contest in which filmmakers (of any age) make movies that compress the entire plot of a Newbery award winning book into 90 seconds or less. I will try to post all the entries I’ve received on this blog before the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screenings at the New York Public Library main branch (November 5) and the Chicago Public Library Harold Washington branch (November 16). Complete details about the contest and screenings here!

Today I want to feature two films that eschew live performances for ingenious puppetry. Scroll back up and check out the adaptation of Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, a 2011 Newbery Honor Book written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Rick Allen. That’s right, some Newbery books are poetry! This one is a series of poems from different plants and animals in the forest at night: a raccoon, a snail, a primrose moth, a mouse, an owl, an oak tree, a spider, a baby porcupine, a cricket, mushrooms, an eft, a bat, and the moon.

Full disclosure: I helped with this video. I worked with Soledad, Marlen, and Maricela at Casa Juan Diego in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, with help from Yvette Leigh of the Lozano branch of the Chicago Public Library and Jennifer O’Neil of Casa Juan Diego (Kathy, Yulissa, and Gianna also helped). We made a night forest and animal puppets out of paper and cardboard. All the spoken lines are from the book: each animal/plant gets to say one line from their respective poem. I filmed and edited this one, but it’s the girls’ wonderful performances and elaborate craft work that made this film work so well. Congratulations!

But that’s not the only puppet 90-Second Newbery we’ve received. Here’s another, of Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. It’s by the 10-year-old Karen Stewart of Wichita Falls, TX, with help from her mom, sister, and brother. Take it away, Karen!

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Ingenious! Karen did ample justice to DiCamillo’s plot, the puppets were well-drawn and creatively deployed, and I liked the voiceover work of all the characters! And Karen did it all under ninety seconds. A triumph of compression. I’d love to see more puppet shows from Karen. Thanks so much!

More films to come!