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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery: 2 versions of The Giver

November 23, 2012

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!