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The Order of Oddfish

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Thanks, Bay Area! And: Portland and Tacoma, here comes the 90-Second Newbery

February 24, 2014

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival season is in full swing! A few weeks ago we packed the house in San Francisco and Oakland for screenings, and it was a great time. Thanks to Newbery-winning authors Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan), who co-hosted the San Francisco screening with me, and Jenni Holm (Our Only May Amelia, Penny From Heaven, Turtle in Paradise) who co-hosted the Oakland screening with me. Not only were both of them game for our goofy singing-and-dancing shtick at the beginning, but both also brought their own sparkling wit to the proceedings. I’m lucky to have such generous and talented co-conspirators for this film festival!

This upcoming weekend we’ll be doing the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Portland (with co-host Amber Keyser) and Tacoma (with a mystery co-host!). Details in the events sidebar. I’m looking forward to it!

To whet your appetite, I’ll be featuring 90-Second Newberys I’ve received from Tacoma and Portland all week. Let’s start today with these two completely different versions of Wanda Gag’s bizarre 1929 Newbery Honor Book, Millions of Cats. Why bizarre? Perhaps because the climax of the book involves “hundreds and thousands and millions and billions and trillions of cats” literally murdering each other in order to determine who is the “prettiest.” It is by far the bloodiest Newbery book with the highest body count (top “trillions”). Even better, it’s a picture book aimed at 4-year-olds! Everyone wins?

So check out Elliott and Jen’s (of Tacoma) version of Millions of Cats above. It’s a crowd-pleaser, from the old-tymey-film style in which they did it, to the hilarious performances of the old man and the old woman, to the tons of kids dressed as actual cats. And it really underscores the bloody absurdity of the story. Good Lord, how did this nightmare ever get published?! Who reads this to their children?

Here’s another entry from Tacoma, by the Tacoma Public Library Action Faction (Young Adult Volunteer Group) and the Tacoma Public Library Digital Media StoryLab users. It also puts its finger squarely on what makes this children’s story so disturbing—and even better, does it in Minecraft:

It’s especially appropriate to use Minecraft to adapt a book like this, because how else are you going to wrangle that many cats for your movie, especially when they’re called upon to accomplish large-scale shenanigans like drinking up a pond or devouring the countryside? Funny script too: “I know how to solve this. We’ll have a kitty thunderdome!” And when the cat-beast rose up with a sword, shouting “there can be only one” and going on a murderous rampage—I love it! And all the guts out in the field in the end, blech! And that final hideous laugh from the demon cat, as everything turns red, and the camera goes cockeyed—a nice horror-movie final touch, which really brings the sadism of this “children’s” story home.

I’m looking forward to screening these movies, and more, at the Portland and Tacoma screenings this weekend! Check out the events sidebar for more details, and to make your free reservation for the Portland show.