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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery: The ABC Bunny, From the Mixed-Up Files, and . . . Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing?!

October 19, 2011

I’m stunned, grateful, and excited! My inbox is overflowing with a TON of last-minute submissions for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Please, if I haven’t gotten back to you yet, it’s only because I’m buried under a million films right now I have to sort through. I will try to show at least one film every day from now until the screenings in New York (November 5) and Chicago (November 16). Complete info on the film festival here!

We’ve had some great musical 90-Second Newbery films, like the musical version of The 21 Balloons by Elephant and Worm that I showed back in July. Here’s another (above)―a musical version of The ABC Bunny, an alphabet picture book by Wanda Gag (Newbery Honor, 1934).

It turns out that Wanda’s sister, Flavia Gag, wrote an official song for the book. Here the song is adapted to a zippy 90-second guitar version by Chris Norborg and Alice Setrini and their kids Domingo and Amalia. Full disclosure! Chris has been my friend for almost 20 years now (yikes!) and my brother-in-law for the past three years. Eagle-eared connoisseurs of nineties indie music know Chris as the bassist of D.C. mod-pop band Chisel; Ted Leo, who now heads up the great band the Pharmacists, was in Chisel. (Last year I wrote a long blog post about what a big deal Chisel is for me.)

Enough history! Chris is a great guitarist and singer, and Alice, Domingo, and Amalia do backup vocals on this sweet, witty, and tuneful take on The ABC Bunny. The visuals are super-cute, showing off Domingo and Amalia’s nuclear-powered adorableness. There’s even a cameo by my daughter Lucy! Her nickname is Baby Owl, so she shows up for “O for Owl’s bookish look.” Notice what she’s holding: a copy of the German translation of The Order of Odd-Fish. Whoa.

Next up: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koningsburg (Newbery Medal 1968), by Lily, Claire, and Maddie from Lombard, IL:

Very enjoyable, ingeniously compressed, and good performances all around! I loved Mrs. Frankweiler’s rather smug, slightly diabolical delivery. Especially how she pops out from behind the “angel”! Super Claudia and Jamie too! I’m told Lily, Claire, and Maddie will be attending the 90-Second Newbery screening in Chicago on November 16. Can’t wait to meet them and congratulate them in person!

No time to linger, must press onward! Margaret Reynold’s 2nd grade class at Park View School in Morton Grove, IL created this Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing:

Now wait a second, I know what you’re saying: “James, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing didn’t win a Newbery Medal or an Honor. Why is it in the film festival?” To which all I can say is: ruh roh. You’re right! But c’mon, the kids are obviously having a ball . . . So let’s call this an “honorary exhibition entry,” and I’m looking forward to seeing the kids from Morton Grove when they come to the screening on November 16. Great job!

The film festival gets closer and closer! Getting excited!