order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery 2016: Philadelphia!

May 18, 2016

as king and me onstage

We did the final screening of this year’s fifth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at Friends Central School near Philadelphia, PA! It was co-hosted by me and the amazing prizewinning young adult author A.S. King (Please Ignore Vera Dietz, I Crawl Through It, and many other great books). I’ve loved Amy and her books ever since I first met her at an ALA event many years ago. She hilariously nailed our opening song-and-dance number (as well as all the between-movie banter)! Unfortunately there’s no recording of the opening. Too bad! The photo above will have to suffice.

I also had the opportunity to visit classrooms at Friends Central that day, to talk about The Order of Odd-Fish and being an author. It was a really welcoming vibe at this school, and the students were very engaged and energetic! Here I am at lunch with some of them earlier that day:

lunch with kids at fcs

One of the reasons we brought the 90-Second Newbery to Friends Central was because of the numerous great movies we received from the school that year, led by teachers Alex McDonnell and Rebecca Guenther. For instance, this masterful stop-motion version of Sharon Creech’s 1995 Medal Winner Walk Two Moons:

Great stop-motion, very fluid and expressive! The cinematography was crisp and assured. I liked the resourcefulness of the materials used—the cardboard-made car, the people made of yarn, the tiny clothes they wore. And the script was tight and funny too, with committed voiceover acting: “Who do you think that was?” “I think it was a lunatic!” got a chuckle from me, and “Gran looks pretty green” was delivered really well too. The star for me: that frisky Claymation snake!

But that’s not all we got from Friends Central! There were also two versions of Richard Peck’s 1999 Honor Book A Long Way From Chicago:

This one also had good use of establishing shots and green screen. I like how it used the book’s framing device of having the child asking the father about the old days (and the child is the same one who plays Grandma Dowdel!). Grandma Dowdel’s secret wink at the “no trespassing” sign was well done. I like how they went from paddling a canoe down the river to jumping straight out of the canoe and running when the sheriff yells after them. Entertaining and accurate to the book!

Here’s the other version of A Long Way From Chicago:

Resourceful and fun! I liked how at the very beginning, the bellowing of “Chicago!!” and the zooming in on the train pulling into the station established the kids’ arrival in town, and made a good bookend at the movie’s conclusion. The characters of Joey and Mary Alice (and their situation) were deftly and efficiently introduced. I liked “Joey’s” extreme reaction to the cheese smell. The driving scene and fence-hopping scene were both pulled off quite cleverly. Good use of the green screen, especially in the canoe fishing scene. Joey, Mary-Alice, and Grandma Dowdel (with that wonderful shawl!) all had good performances, but of course the drunken sheriff stole the show!

Next up is Cynthia Kadohata’s 2005 Medal Winner Kira-Kira:

The convincing and emotional voiceover narration pushed the plot along quickly without seeming too hasty, and I like how it alternated between the voiceover narration and the purely dramatized scenes. (The girls walking past our hero gabbing about some boy in a vocal-fry drawl, “Oh my god he is so cute,” was a nice touch). Great cameo by the baby! I like the switch to black and white when Lynn dies. The conclusion, using the green screen to make it look like Katie is looking out at the ocean, making a heart over her head with her hands, was resourcefully done!

Here’s another one done with puppets—this time of Elizabeth George Speare’s 1959 Medal Winner The Witch of Blackbird Pond:

I knew I was going to love this one from the very beginning, with that bonkers music! I liked the sped-up voices which made everyone sound like they’re in “South Park”! And the dialogue is deliciously smart-aleck: “I just live in a suspicious-looking cottage,” “It must the witch that nobody ever proved is the witch,” and “I know I’ll never see you again but I hope you have a good life!” are just some of the many great lines from the witty, hyper-fast script. The cardboard sets and the clay figures on the ends of sticks (or are they pipe cleaners?) were resourcefully crafted. Ingenious!

And finally we have Mildred D. Taylor’s 1977 Medal Winner Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry:

Good script and acting. I like it when extra attention is spent on costumes like they do here. The cinematography on some of the scenes, especially the first one, is particularly well-composed. I liked the energy of the fight scene and the chaotic kinetic action of the stealing scene. Good background music through the whole thing, and it wrapped up well with the voiceover over the image of the fire!

Thanks again, everyone at Friends Central School, for hosting me and the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! And special thanks to co-host A.S. King and Alex McDonnell, Rebecca Guenther, and all the teachers and students who made me feel so welcome. And thanks to the filmmakers too! See you next year!