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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery 2017: ASHEVILLE!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

That picture above? It’s from the first ever Asheville, NC 90-Second Newbery Film Festival on April 22, 2017! From left to right, you can see co-host Alan Gratz, me, and audience volunteer Kayenta onstage at the Pack Memorial Library during our opening skit.

Every year, the 90-Second Newbery expands into new cities. This year, due to the efforts of Elliot Weiner, we added Asheville to the list. Elliot is a man of many talents. He used to lead groups of kids to participate in the 90-Second Newbery back when he lived in Tacoma. He helped them make great video adaptations of Joyce Sidman’s 2011 Honor Book Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted, and Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats.

Since then, Elliot moved from Tacoma to Asheville. It was his bright idea to bring our film festival there too! He arranged our venue at the Pack Memorial Library, partnered with Spellbound Children’s Bookshop for publicity, landed grants from the Asheville Awesome Foundation and Friends of Buncombe County Libraries (thanks so much!), and got the word out—resulting in a whopping 13 movies from Asheville in our very first year. He made award statuettes, popped popcorn, and rolled out a literal red carpet with paparazzi for the screening event. Thank you so much, Elliot, for making the film festival happen in Asheville. I’m already looking forward to returning next year! (It also gives me a chance to visit with my old friend Nate Murphy and his wife Meriam and their daughter Myrrah, who kindly put me up for the weekend.)

Thanks also to my co-host Alan Gratz! Go read his great books Refugee, Projekt 1065, and his “League of Seven” series (and many, many more). I had met Alan once before at the Decatur Book Festival, and bought League of Seven, which I enjoyed very much (but was too shy to tell him when we met in person). Alan came loaded for bear, with the song and lines of the opening skit memorized, game for anything! Alan, you were a great co-host!

Special thanks to Kayenta who helped us out in the beginning skit, and to the Pack Memorial Library for putting on this event, in particular Jesse and Raj. Above all, thanks to the filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who attended on April 22!

Here are some pictures from the day:

Let’s check out some of the Asheville movies we featured that day! I won’t be able to feature all thirteen on them in this post—that would be too unwieldy!—but I’ll link to all of them. And all of the movies have been reviewed on the 90-Second Newbery website. Some excerpts of the reviews are included below.

First off, let’s check out this animated paper cut-out version of Robert C. O’Brien’s 1972 Medal Winner Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Lola Black. With Lola’s permission, I added the voices of my daughters Lucy and Ingrid to the movie, as well as my niece and nephew Domingo and Amalia, so that kids who couldn’t read the subtitles could also enjoy the movie:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, in part, “Beautifully drawn and fluidly animated! The movie gets the story across with quiet subtlety, resourcefully using nothing but nature sound effects, animated cut-paper drawings, and pithy intertitles . . . Impressive and wonderfully crafted.”

Next up is Ruth S. Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon as adapted by Gavin, Iva, Evie Gray, and Fern of Mechanical Eye Microcinema:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, “I like how the movie switches between live-action and stop-motion–the alternation keeps the audience on its toes and piques visual interest. . . . Great clay animals and elaborate sets . . . Tight script, impressive craftsmanship, engaging acting, very entertaining!”

Elliot Weiner, Chanda Calentine, and the ACT Youth Theatre Program submitted two great movies for the film festival. First was Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, “I love this idea of doing a ‘horror’ twist on the book! Great idea to start with a flashforward of the penguin Captain Cook etc. in jail, and then flashing back to see how we got to that desperate point–establishes the high stakes early. . . . The funny ‘quork! quork!’ penguin noises throughout worked well too. Impressive production values, good cinematography and editing, a blast!”

Elliot, Chanda, and the ACT Youth Theatre Program also did a similarly great adaptation of Eleanor Estes’ 1945 Honor Book The Hundred Dresses, which you can see here (along with its own glowing review.)

Those weren’t the only great movies we got from Asheville! Here are the others—go ahead and click on the links to watch the movies and read the reviews:

Jerry Spinelli’s 1998 Honor Book Wringer, adapted by Zachary Eden and Friends of North Windy Ridge Intermediate

Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by May, Caitlyn, Eve, Lee, Elly, Olivia, and Toby

Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Charlie Marsh

Cece Bell’s 2015 Honor Book El Deafo by Colette Russ

Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together by Sully, Cade, and Greyson of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner The Tale of Despereaux by Ashley, Grace, Mahogany, and Miles of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner The Tale of Despereaux by Delphi, Kayla, Mya, Lydia of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street by Alex, Harrison, Jett, and Wyatt of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Christopher Paul Curtis’ 2000 Medal Winner Bud, Not Buddy by Ada, Ashni, Coral, Ife, and Maggie of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Thanks so much, Asheville! Here’s the closing montage that we ran at the end of the afternoon. Looking forward to seeing what movies I get from North Caroline next year! Deadline is January 12, 2018. Stay tuned to the 90-Second Newbery website for details!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

90-Second Newbery 2017: PORTLAND and TACOMA!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

I’m late posting this, but better late than never!

On February 11 and 12, we did the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Tacoma, WA and Portland, OR. Thanks to John Hargis for taping our opening skit in Tacoma (which you can watch above). In it, I along with co-hosts Keir Graff and Doug Mackey learn the true secret to winning Newbery medals. Special thanks to our young volunteer who played the owner of Fluffles!

I didn’t get a video of the opening skit in Portland, but here I am with Keir and my Portland co-host Dale Basye (author of the Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go series) and our audience volunteer Ramona (who is the daughter of my friend-since-childhood Raj!) right before the Portland show, at their historic Hollywood Theatre:

And here are some pictures from the Tacoma show! A gigantic THANK YOU to Sara Sunshine Holloway, for putting the show together at the Tacoma Public Library, year after year. Tacoma does it right: red carpet, prize statuettes for the filmmakers, popcorn and cookies, Hollywood-style posters of the Newbery-winning book covers, swarming paparazzi, a lot of genuine community support and good-feeling!

Let’s look at some of the standout movies we got from Portland and Tacoma this year.

Last year, the astonishingly talented 14-year-old Anya Schooler wowed us with her Claymation adaptation of Ruth Gannet’s My Father’s Dragon. This year Anya’s back with an even more impressive adaptation of Mary & Conrad Buff’s 1952 Honor Book Apple and the Arrow:

As the judges said in this full review on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “Simply amazing. I am floored at Anya Schooler’s meticulous craft and her inspired artistry . . . Anya gets more authentically emotional performances out of clay than I see in many real-life actors! Great voiceover acting too. The use of the ‘William Tell Overtrue’ was inspired, especially the way the movie’s action synched to the dynamics of the music.”

From Tacoma, Mr. Johnson’s fifth grade class at the Grant Center for the Expressive Arts did this excellent adaptation of Vince Vawter’s 2014 Honor Book Paperboy:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, this movie was “assured, beautifully shot, and compelling to watch! It got the whole story of the book across efficiently and with style to spare . . . all the acting was impressive and subtle. The background music tied all the scenes together effectively. The cinematography was some of the best I’ve ever seen in a 90-Second Newbery.” (You can see the reaction from Paperboy author Vince Vawter on his own blog here!)

Rosemary Sissel from Tacoma has been doing great 90-Second Newberys for the past few years. Here’s her entry for this year, essentially a one-woman show of Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog praised it thus: “Ella’s monologue elegantly frames the story and makes the narrative far easier to understand and follow. It was resourceful and funny to use cardboard cutouts for the co-stars. I appreciated all the fun touches: the cardboard mother ‘dying’ (and then getting thrown into the trash!) and lines like ‘you gotta be more chill!’ and ‘but the curse… but the kingdom… but his nose!!!'”

The Tacoma screening also featured Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Medal Winner Shiloh, as adapted by Travis of Seabury School:

As the judges said,, “Solid from beginning to end! The cinematography of the movie was excellent . . . The script was tight and smart, it really condensed the story down to the essentials without sacrificing any of the personality of the book.”

I’d love to feature ALL the movies shown at the Tacoma screening in this post. But that would be too many videos! So here are links to each one of the videos we received from Tacoma this year, and featured at the film festival:

Jaek Andersen of StoryLab TPL’s adaptation of Holes

Aidan of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver

Sofia of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan

Bayden of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Misty of Chincoteague

Zakaria of the Seabury School’s Bud, Not Buddy

Luke of the Seabury School’s adaptation of The Black Pearl

Travis of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Shiloh

Karl of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Wringer

Sulli of the Seabury School’s adaptation of My Side of the Mountain

Sam of the Seabury School’s adaptation of The Long Winter

Armaan of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia

I have a lot of people to thank for the Tacoma and Portland screenings. Of course, I must first thank Keir Graff, who has been on the road with me through so many screenings. He’s a great co-host! Go buy his splendid book The Matchstick Castle!

For the Tacoma show, my biggest thanks to Sara Sunshine Holloway and everyone at the Tacoma Public Library for bringing us out to the library yet again. Thanks also to special Tacoma co-host Doug Mackey for his comic stylings during the show. There’s a reason I love doing the show with Doug every year! Thanks again to our young volunteer for playing the role of Fluffles’ owner in the opening bit. Thank you also to Mike Hargis, everyone on the video crew, who made a real show out of this and did all the videotaping and camera work. And thanks to all the other volunteers at the library!

In Portland, thanks to Elisa Barrios, Marie Biondolillo, and everyone at Open Signal for setting up the screening. Thanks to the great folks at the Hollywood Theater for letting us use their space, and thanks to Ramona for being the caretaker of “Fluffles” in the opening skit. (Unfortunately, we didn’t get a video of that.) Also thanks to author Victoria Jamieson for dropping in to check out the videos of her great Newbery Honor-winning graphic novel Roller Girl, and for saying such nice things about the videos! (You can see those videos here, by Mason Public Library and Jillian Parrino).

And finally, of course, thanks to all of the filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them!

You can go here to find out more about the 90-Second Newbery Film festival. Start making your movies now, due in January 2018!

Let’s close out this post with a look at the closing montage for the Tacoma screening:

And for good measure, also the closing montage for the Portland screening:

Thanks again! Looking forward to next year!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

90-Second Newbery 2017: CHICAGO

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

On Saturday, April 1, my co-host Keir Graff and I brought the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival back home to Chicago, at the Vittum Theatre. Above are (most of) the local young filmmakers who contributed to the show. It was a great crowd, an exhilarating afternoon.

Especially because my daughter Lucy made her stage debut! Check out the video of the opening skit below, in which Keir and I learn what most Newbery-winning books have in common: the mawkish/gruesome inclusion of a dead animal. We discover a device that produces guaranteed-Newbery-winning manuscripts, but at the price that an actual animal must die. Lucy plays the volunteer from the audience whose pet bunny “Fluffles” is the victim of our scheme. Then Keir and I launch into the opening number from “Hamilton” with a 90-Second Newbery twist:

Great job, Lucy! Just for reference, here’s what Lucy looked like almost eight years ago. She’s grown!

So, let’s get to this year’s local movies. This year saw the triumphant return of Fuzzy Pizza Productions to the 90-Second Newbery, adapting Elizabeth George Speare’s 1984 Honor Book Sign of the Beaver:

As the judges said in the full review on the 90-Second Newbery website, “One of the best 90-Second Newberys ever . . . I love the way the father willfully misinterprets all the plot points so that they have to be about beavers . . . Great art and animation all throughout!” You owe it to yourself to check out all the 90-Second Newberys over the years by the multitalented Zenz family. (They had a great children’s books blog going for a while, and the father Aaron Zenz is an amazing picture book author too.)

Next up: Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet by Charlie of Edgewood Middle School in Highland Park, IL. Here, this gritty tale of how a boy must survive alone in the wilderness after a plane crash, with only a hatchet for help, is given a modern twist: it’s Hatchet in virtual reality!

As the judges said, “Hilarious. I love the visuals of Charlie bumping around in his house with the virtual-reality headset on. Each scene expertly builds the comedy . . . Big laughs, loved it!”

That’s not the only version of Hatchet we received this year. Here’s the same story, but adapted with a horror-movie twist, by the Youth Media Program at Chicago Filmmakers Moviemaking Camp:

According to the judges, it was “a stroke of brilliance to adapt it in the style of a horror movie! What’s more horrifying than being trapped alone in the wilderness? And I like how the premise extends to everything: the ominous black-and-white effect used throughout, the terrifying mother (and the foreboding repetition of “future danger”), and the scary music inside the plane . . . and that ending credits sequence was super impressive!”

(Chicago Filmmakers Moviemaking Camp also did an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1990 Newbery Medal Winner Number the Stars, which you can see here.)

Last year Corbin Stanchfield of Indiana turned in an all-time 90-Second Newbery classic with his adaptation of Shiloh with the dog replaced with a bagel. This year he’s back with an adaptation of Gennifer Choldenko’s 2005 Honor Book Al Capone Does My Shirts:

The judges loved this one too: “Hilarious idea to do the book in the form of a cheesy 1980s-style commercial! . . . the bloviating low-rent huckster version of Al Capone in this video is a fantastic comic creation.”

How about last year’s Newbery Medal winner, Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street? We’ve got a great musical version of it, by Spencer of Highland Park, IL:

The judges were also enthusiastic about this one: “Amazing! A new approach to the 90-Second Newbery, fun and well-executed! I like the way that you played all the parts of the song yourself, with voice and manual percussion on loop, and then sped up the whole thing. The lyrics summed up the story elegantly and they fit perfectly into the song . . . So much fun, joyful and goofy and well-crafted!”

Here’s another movie by a 90-Second Newbery veteran from Chicago, Ada Grey. Every year Ada makes elaborate Playmobil mise-en-scenes that tell the stories of the books, with her narrating the story in voiceover. This year she adapted Amy Timblerlake’s 2014 Honor Book One Came Home:

The judges praised this one as “Ambitious and technically innovative . . . The sets were beautiful and elaborate, especially the nighttime ones with the glowing stars and the artfully deployed lightning and shadows . . . Great movie!”

You can see Ada Grey’s other 90-Second Newbery movies here, and check out her progress in the Chicago theater scene (with reviews of various shows, and her own budding acting career!) at Adagrey.com.

Next up is the “Cookies” vignette from Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together, as adapted by by Steve, Meg, Lucie, and John:

The judges gave high marks to this one too: “A standout entry, beautifully well done! The banjo music in the background throughout set a rambling-but-peppy mood. Excellent visual storytelling, the movie really gets across the events of the narrative in a compelling way without a single word . . . It was also a cool moment when the bird flew away with the cookies, and eventually perched at the top of the Sears Tower!”

Frog and Toad Together was also adapted by Newbery veteran Ava Levine (check out her earlier entries here). Her twist? Do do them in the style of Seinfeld! Here are the vignettes “The List” and “The Garden” from the book:

The judges’ remarks for “The List” and “The Garden” praise the use of “traditional Seinfeld bass-slap music and laugh tracks and sitcom-style credits . . . the script follows the plot of the story accurately while still giving it ridiculous sitcom twists . . . Funny, creative, well done!”

Next up is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1941 Honor Book The Long Winter as adapted by Hazel, Violet, Nora, and Devin. Last year the same group adapted On the Banks of Plum Creek . . . I hope they eventually make movies of all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books!)

So quoth the judges: “A superior adaptation of the book! I liked the repeated use of footage of an actual blizzard . . . That was a fun scene when all the girls all broke down crying, and then whooped with joy when Pa came back, and then all screamed in horror again when they saw there was no candy left for them. Really great acting throughout!”

Cynthia Kadohata’s 2005 Medal Winner Kira-Kira was adapted by Kathrine, Valentina, Liza, and Aaron of the Niles Public Library:

As the judges said, “Beautiful and ingenious! . . . The stop motion throughout is elaborate and clever . . . I particularly loved the part that illustrated the story where the fish were driving and the horse was flying! Technically assured and heartfelt, a real treat.”

Only a few more movies left! Next up is Holly Black’s 2014 Honor Book Doll Bones, as adapted by the Evanston Public Library Homeschool Group:

As the judges said, “Committed and hilarious acting, a tight script, an overall fun romp through the book! It was a classic comedic bit when the father gives the son his Blackhawks jersey… only to reveal another Blackhawks jersey underneath . . . I liked the attention detail throughout: the gravestone at the end, the action figure fight at the beginning, and the breaking of the fourth wall right before the flashback. Well done!”

Two more to go! The kids at Francis Xavier Warde School in Chicago did this horror-themed adaptation of Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver:

The judges said, “The scary sound effects and music really make the movie! I love the monochromatic background and the Giver’s weird bald wig . . . It was an inspired touch to have the Giver engaging in a sword fight with pursuers as Jonas escapes the community. Fun climactic chase scene near the end!”

And last but not least of the local entries I’d like to feature today, we have Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan, adapted by Kevin and Richard of Highland Park:

The judges said, “Excellent stop motion claymation! I was impressed all the way through, indeed from the very beginning, with Ivan the gorilla eating the banana–so accurate and well-structured! . . . The intertitles moved the plot along very effectively . . . enjoyable all the way through!”

Phew! That’s a lot of movies.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped out with the Chicago show. Thanks of course to my wonderful co-host Keir Graff (go buy his new children’s book The Matchstick Castle). Keir co-writes the opening skit with me every year. This year he joined me not only for the Chicago screening, but for screenings across the country. It was great fun!

Also thanks to the folks at the Vittum Theater and Northwestern Settlement, especially Laura Kollar and Maya who helped out the day of the screening, and Tom Arvetis and Mary Kate Barley-Jenkins who take care of the administrative end.

Thanks to my friend Kate Babka for running the lights during the show, to Oak Park’s bookstore The Book Table for selling books after the show, and to Scott Dummler and my wife Heather for filming the opening skit. (Speaking of the opening skit, special thanks to Lucy for her great work in that!)

And thanks to Eti Berland for all her great work coordinating the social media for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival on Facebook and Twitter!

And last but not least, thanks to all the young filmmakers, and their friends and family and teachers and facilitators who helped out. Obviously, there would be no film festival without you. Year after year I get great movies from all around the country, and the entries from Chicago and environs are always up there with the best (here’s looking at you, Michigan and Indiana!)

Itching to make a movie, after seeing all those great ones? The deadline for next year is January 2018. I can’t wait to see what you dream up next time. Complete details about the film festival at www.90secondnewbery.com.

Until then, here’s the closing montage of the Chicago 2017 90-Second Newbery show:

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.