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Countdown to San Antonio 90-Second Newbery, Part 2: Giverpalooza

January 5, 2016

This year’s fifth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is kicking off with a special early screening in San Antonio, TX on January 9, 2016! It’s hosted by me and Texas young-adult author Nikki Loftin (The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, Wish Girl, and Nightingale’s Nest) and sponsored by Bibliotech and H-E-B Texas Grocery. This free event is “sold out,” but in my experience, only 80% of the reservations ever get used, so go ahead and put yourself on the wait list here. Or if you’re feeling lucky, just show up!

So, every year, by an overwhelming margin, I get more 90-Second Newberys based on Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver than any other book. I get why: it’s often taught in classrooms, so most kids have already read it; it’s short; it’s a dystopia. So today, in our countdown to the San Antonio screening, let’s feature at all the versions of The Giver that I’ve received from Texas this year.

(By the way, there’s a harrowing scene in the book in which the hero’s father kills a baby. For some reason, kids making 90-Second Newbery videos love this scene, spending upwards of 10 seconds of their allotted 90 seconds depicting it, frequently with a kind of harrowing glee. A few years ago I put together a highlights clip of all the infanticide scenes from all the 90-second versions of The Giver I received; it’s at the top of the post.)

I’m happy to say that most of these Texas adaptations of The Giver tastefully avoid or minimize that scene! Our first Texas Giver is from Chetzaly, Michelle, Luis, and Amy:



What a great idea to do it in the style of a music video for “Don’t Stop Believing”! The lyrics were ingenious. I like the switch from black and white to color when Jonas learns about color, and Jonas’ funny look of incredulity. Good committed acting and well shot!

The one is by Brianna, Matthew, Jailene, Austin, Josue, and Adryn:



Very efficiently told! I like how it’s not only whiteboard drawings but also stuff taped up onto the whiteboard. I also liked how they represented the “elsewhere” world with colored houses to contrast the black and white world. Well-chosen background music too!

The next one is by Mrs. Garcia’s class at Abraham Kazen Middle School:



I liked their twist of taking a girl from our world and zapping her into watching the events of the story so she can comment on them. Great staging of all the scenes, especially the Jonas-getting-his-job scene (his look of confusion when he’s passed over was great; and the chanting of “Jonas, Jonas!” was pretty creepy!). Good editing throughout too, especially in the family discussion scene. Oh and the beards! I loved the father’s little paper beard and the Giver’s huge luxurious white beard. Jonas got off some good lines throughout, “This job is easy!” and “Good idea, but I must take my fake brother first.” And there’s something kind of hilarious about, during the “war” memory, the soldier kid smiling with glee even while he’s getting shot to death—followed by “you thought that was bad?” The switching from black and white to color was a good way to indicate the difference between the worlds.

The next one is by Amalie and Madeleine:



What a deeply satisfying musical version! The songs were all really well-written and sung, so much fun to listen to (especially that way the singer’s voice goes up with “little Gabe-re-ELLLLLL!”). I liked how each song had its own distinct emotion and rhythm, and how the lyrics were really tightly written.

The next one is by Emily, Skip, Jonathan, and Simone:



What a funny, inventive, refreshingly light-on-its-feet adaptation this is! From the very beginning I was on board, with the hyper-dramatic movie-trailer voice intoning “in a world . . . ” I like how the adult giving out the jobs intoned “you are now carrot and you are now celery” with the same committed maniacal energy as she gave out jobs—the way she delivered the line “it’s gonna be a great honor, it’s gonna hurt a lot” was priceless. That was very resourceful how they made the Giver’s “beard” out of long hair, cleverly pulled under the chin (and I also liked her delivery of the lines “I am the Sharer… I mean, I’m the Giver” and “I will transmit a memory of when the world was awesome”). It’s a satisfyingly shocking moment when Jonas’ perception changes from black and white to color, and we see how wildly red that crazy wig is. Also, Jonas’ reaction to the baby being released was suitably over the top. I liked the ridiculous chase scene where the “plane” comes zooming back and forth (nice wings!) and how Jonas eludes it. And that music at the end is . . . the theme from the Smurfs!? That’s a twist ending, right there!

The next four are from Creekwood Middle School. This one is by Savannah, Kylie, Kimathi, and Lauren:



I love how they did it as a series of pictures. They really got the thrust of the story across with hardly any words at all . . . quite an achievement! I like how, to cut down on confusion, the filmmakers showed and named the different characters right away. The way they showed the apple turning from black and white to color was masterful. The black and white reality turning into the color memories was well done. I especially liked the bad guys on bikes coming after Jonas . . . and the going-through-the-door zoom-in at the end was great! (It was also cool how we got to see drawings of all you filmmakers at the end too.)

The next one from Creekwood Middle School is by Om, Noah, Marirosa, and Keri Ann:



There are so many funny, original, cool details that they put in here: I loved the attitude of the girl at the beginning (although why is she wearing tape on her forehead/nose?) and the person playing The Giver was pretty funny. I loved the way the Giver “made it rain” with colors. And Jonas’ “sad” face was hilarious. Also hilarious: when Jonas’ parents break into uncomfortable laughter after he asks “Do you love me,” followed by their sudden NO. Falling off the bike and grunting “stupid bike!” was good too, as well as the breaking-the-fourth-wall touch “could you please be quiet?”

Here’s the third entry from Creekwood Middle School, by Zoe, Andrew, Lucy, and Haley:



I loved this musical adaptation! What an ingenious idea to recount the plot in the style of a chanting singalong. They whipped through the plot with awesome efficiency, nailing all the necessary details, and the overall effect is both goofy and deeply creepy! My favorite part: when Jonas rescues Gabe from the his father’s maniacal stabbing, just straight-up snatching the baby out of his hands while he’s running by! I also loved when Jonas was using the chair as a “sled” while people through “snow” at him. Resourceful! The lyrics were tight and the execution was full of energy and fun.

The fourth and final entry from Creekwood Middle School is by Ben, Mason, Adam, Hayden:



Very amusing! I liked how at the beginning Jonas is just sitting in the grass, randomly breaking sticks and giggling weirdly to himself. The guy who gives Jonas the job of receiver of memory has an amusingly avuncular manner (especially the self-satisfied way he looks to the distance as he says, “filled with honor, just like mine!”). And The Giver himself was awkwardly funny, the way he giggled while telling Jonas to lay down so he can put his hands on his back. The slow-motion memory of getting hit was well done. Showing a video of the baby being “released” on the phone, and then whipping the camera up to Jonas, was a cool cinematic move too. Well done all around!

Our penultimate video is by Natalie Jaimes:



I liked the intriguing design choices here—telling the story all through text of various interesting fonts over evocative backgrounds with background music. Good job!

And finally, here’s the last adaptation of The Giver from San Antonio this year, by Facio, Fonseca, Rodriguez, Romero, Brooks and Guerra:



Good cinematography, and good use of stock images and videos. I liked the montage in the middle— it packed an unexpected punch!

Thanks for all these adaptations of The Giver. Some of them will be shown at the screening this Saturday in San Antonio, so do come if you can!