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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery: Frog and Toad Together

I don’t know how they do it! Children’s book author/artist and superdad Aaron Zenz has a blog with his family, Bookie Woogie, in which he and his (home-schooled!) sons and daughters review books, interview writers, and generally seem to have a fantastic time. They have already had two wonderful movies featured in our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. The first one was a shadow-puppet version of Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and the other was an animated retelling of Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron. Both up there in the highest ranks of 90-Second Newberys.

But this latest one just might be the awesomest of all! It’s one of the stories from Arnold Lobel’s Newbery Honor winning Frog and Toad Together, done entirely Muppets-style. IT IS INCREDIBLE! My words cannot do it justice. Just scroll back up and watch it. Seriously. The adorable voices, the ingenious animation, the clever visual storytelling . . . it’s just a marvel. (And that’s REAL FIRE they use in the fireplace scene. Beautiful!)

And if you liked that, you’ll love this: a video about the making of Frog and Toad Together. If you want to see truly happy children achieving awesome things with their dad, you will love every minute of this. They had me at “We’re trying to eat a snake here”:

I wrote a longer blog post about the Zenz family here. You should really head over to Bookie Woogie and read their own blog post about Frog and Toad here, complete with even more extras.

And of course this movie, and many more, will be shown at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening this Sunday, December 2, at Symphony Space in New York City! Co-hosted by me and Jon Scieszka, with special guests Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Margi Preus, along with artists Dan Yaccarino and Brian Floca. Full details on the Symphony Space website here.

This will be one for the ages! Don’t miss it!

90-Second Newbery: Movies From PS 11 in NYC

Just a few more days until the second annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at Symphony Space in New York City! It’ll be this Sunday, December 2. Full details of the event from Symphony Space here. I’m co-hosting it with children’s literature legend Jon Scieszka, with special guests kidlit superstars Kate DiCamillo, Rita Williams-Garcia, Margi Preus, Dan Yaccarino, and Brian Floca!

Right now I’m in Rochester, New York, staying as a houseguest of the the marvelous, gracious Ross family. Last night we did a screening of some of Rochester’s standout 90-Second Newbery entries (here and here), including those of Madison Ross, who did an excellent 90-Second Newbery movie last year of Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard and this year, an even excellenter movie of Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot (in the style of a Godzilla movie!). Tonight I’ll be speaking at the Rochester Barnes and Noble and tomorrow at Writers and Books; see event sidebar for more info on those.

This Thursday I’ll be speaking at PS 11 in Chelsea in New York City, and I’d like to feature two 90-Second Newbery videos I’ve received from that very school!

If you scroll up, you can check out a superior adaptation of Jack Gantos’ Dead End in Norvelt, made by Mia and her friends from PS 11. Really well-directed! The locations were chosen perfectly, especially Mrs. Volker’s house. “Grandma Gilda” does a great job portraying her! Mia kicks off the story with a bang and keeps up the pace, telling the story swiftly and efficiently. I especially liked when “Mr. Spizz” (terrific voice and mustache!) is insisting to Mrs. Volker that he marry her. And of course, the brief half-second in which Mrs. Volker is trying to do surgery on Jack’s nose. A well-done movie of a book I love!

But that isn’t the only 90-Second Newbery we got from PS 11. Mohana, who is all of 7 years old, did this one-woman show version of The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. I haven’t read this book yet, but now I’m quite intrigued, especially because of Mohana’s interpretation here—done entirely as a mysterious silhouette that rapidly and repeatedly changes character on a dime:

Thanks, Mohana! I loved the device of having your silhouette speak all the lines to get the story across! It almost kind of reminded me of when Gollum is arguing with himself in the Lord of the Rings movies.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all on Thursday at your school, and at the screening on Sunday!

90-Second Newbery: 2 versions of The Giver

Don’t forget, the second annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival premieres at Symphony Space in New York City on Sunday, December 2! Full details of the event from Symphony Space here. I’m co-hosting it with children’s literature legend Jon Scieszka, with special guests kidlit superstars Kate DiCamillo, Rita Williams-Garcia, Margi Preus, Dan Yaccarino, and Brian Floca. Whatta lineup!

There’s no getting around it: The Giver is one of the most commonly-adapted books for the 90-Second Newbery. Both last year and this year, loads of folks can’t resist doing this book. (Other perennially popular choices for the 90-Second Newbery? A Bridge to Terabithia, Holes, When You Reach Me, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.)

I’ve become a seasoned connoisseur of movies of The Giver (and noted with amusement how filmmakers tend to linger on the infamous “releasing” scene). So I know my way around a good The Giver.

Here are two standouts! First of all, scroll back up and check out that first one. Top-notch! It was submitted by 13-year-old Ian of “The Reddler Films” of Westmont, Illinois. Technically assured, it looks professional and abbreviates the story quite effectively. Smart framing device to have it begin and end with Jonas talking to Gabe. Deft use of royalty-free music, good cinematography for every scene—shaky and jittery when Jonas is in a hurry, emphasizing his smallness in relation to authority figures, riding along with Jonas on the bicycle—and the rapid-fire montage of good/bad memories transmitted by the Giver to Jonas is a masterstroke! I also appreciated the subtle, gradual way color bleeds back into the world at the end. The tight focus on Jonas’ face to the exclusion of almost everyone else’s makes us really feel like we’re with him in his journey. A winner!

But that isn’t the only adaptation of The Giver I’ve received. This next one is an all-girl The Giver from Metuchen, New Jersey, made by Julia, Sophie, Molly, Alanna, Chloe, and Ada of the Write Stuff Writers Program—a bit cheekier and more light-hearted that the first one:

Quite funny, especially with the Giver’s rap-song in the middle—visually, that scene is like Eminem being Gandalf for Halloween, or the other way around. In a good way! I also enjoyed “Asher’s” frantic spasticism. It was pretty amusing that Jonas’ bike has training wheels, and that he shushes a crying Gabe with a gruff “quiet, I’m trying to have a moment here.” And of course Don’t Stop Receiving sung to the tune of Don’t Stop Believing was the cherry on top. Well done!

I’ll see these filmmakers in New York, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to seeing you, too!