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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery 2018: CHICAGO!

March 14, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

On March 11, 2018, our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival had its seventh annual Chicago screening. It was at the Harold Washington Library Center, in their grand Cindy Pritzker Auditorium. We filled up the place, and I was grateful to be able to bring the program back to the library. Frankly, it was one of our best 90-Second Newberys ever!

Check out our opening skit below, in which I—along with co-host Keir Graff (author of The Matchstick Castle and the upcoming Phantom Tower)—confront weird video games based on Newbery winners. The skit develops into a celebration of the strangest 90-Second Newbery movies we’ve received, sung to the the tune of “Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. Keir really nails his performance here. I’m so glad to have him as a co-host. Here’s the skit:

It was a good year for 90-Second Newberys all around. We received a ton of great local Chicago entries this year, many of which I also showed all over the country in the national tour! Let’s highlight some of the featured videos.

Now that my daughters Lucy and Ingrid are old enough, we can make our own 90-Second Newbery movies. This summer we rounded up their friends and we all worked together on this epic version of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon (full review on the 90-Second Newbery website here):

Anybody who knows me knows I’m a sucker for all things David Lynch. Maybe that’s what my niece and nephew Amalia and Domingo were banking on when they made this Twin Peaks-style version of Natalie Babbitt’s 1971 Honor Book Knee-Knock Rise, a book about a boy named Egan who visits his family in a small town in which everyone is terrified of a monstrous sound coming from the mountains that they call “The Megrimum.” Egan journeys up the mountain, and discovers the haunting sound has merely natural causes—but nobody in town believes him. Paranoia-in-a-small-town is perfect fodder for a Twin Peaks treatment, and Domingo and Amalia nail the tone here with great performances and cinematography (full review here):

Another movie I’ve shown all over the country this year is this rap version of Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Newbery Medal-winning book of poetry The Crossover, which tells the story of two basketball-loving twin brothers. This incredible, professional video is Ashton, Adrien, Celina, Dylan, Keene, and Owais from Lincoln Hall Middle School in Lincolnwood, IL (full review here):

Here’s another movie I’ve been showing at every nationwide screening: this hilarious adaptation of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, in the style of a Michael Bay action movie. Who knew that Charlotte’s Web would be so improved by copious explosions? This movie is by the consistently brilliant Ava Levine of Chicago (full review here):

Just like Ava, we’ve had other great filmmakers from previous years return with even better, more ambitious movies. Spencer Sabath of Highland Park wowed us last year with his musical take on Last Stop on Market Street; this year he takes it to the next level with his adaptation of Mary Hays Weik’s 1967 Honor Book The Jazz Man, in the style of “Another Day of Sun” from the movie La La Land (full review here):

This year the Chicago Public Library encouraged their branches to submit movies, and you can see the payoff here in this movie from the Rudy Lozano Branch in Pilsen. Their YOUMedia group did this ingenious adaptation of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet, with the main character Brian updated as a YouTube star livestreaming his survival adventure (full review here):

Another consistently entertaining contributor is Corbin Stanchfield from Lafayette, Indiana. He’s the one who made that great Shiloh-with-a-bagel-for-a-dog that was referenced in the opening skit, and a clever Al Capone Does My Shirts-in-the-style-of-a-1980s-informercial from last year. This year Corbin got a lot of laughs with this reimagining of Richard and Florence’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins in the style of an action movie trailer (full review here):

We kicked off the Chicago screening with John and Meg’s unique take on Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats. This calm, soothing, beautiful movie was the perfect antidote for Keir’s and my opening skit. And John and Meg put their own clever stamp on the story: instead of millions of cats, it’s millions of polar bears (full review here):

Last year Charlie from Highland Park showed us Hatchet in the style of a virtual reality game; this year he teams up with his friends Sammy and Tommy to adapt Kelly Barnhill’s 2016 Medal Winner The Girl Who Drank the Moon in the style of augmented reality, again with hilarious results (full review here):

Here’s another movie done in a unique medium. Not futuristic like augmented reality, but a throwback to old-fashioned black-and-white silent movies! This is Steve and Lucie’s charming, authentically old-looking black-and-white movie of Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie (full review here):

The Maiorca family have been coming to the 90-Second Newbery screenings for years. This year they took the plunge and made a movie! Here is Theo, Sabrina, and Vivian’s adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Newbery Medal winning dystopian classic The Giver. See if you can guess the TWO parts of this very entertaining movie that elicited audible gasps of horror from the audience (full review here)!

Lydia, Hannah, Gabi, Elizabeth, and “Hannah Banana Cinnamon Sue Boby” of Edgewood Middle School turned in this heartfelt and engaging adaptation of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Medal Winner Shiloh. Great acting and cinematography in this one, and such a cute dog (full review here):

The students of Mark DeLay Elementary and Indian Prairie Public Library District stepped up with this fun and resourceful adaptation of Matt de la Pena’s and Christian Robinson’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street (full review here):

I always love it when somebody adapts an older, more obscure Newbery honoree. That’s certainly the case here, with the sixth graders of John B. Murphy Elementary making a movie of James Cloyd Bowman’s 1938 Newbery Honor Book Pecos Bill, which is all about the mythical adventures of a rootin’ tootin’ larger-than-life hero of the old American West. I particularly like the part where Pecos Bill wrestles that tornado (full review here):

I love the Newbery-winning books of poetry, whose brevity and precise language often make for great 90-Second Newbery fodder. That’s certainly the case here, with John, Steve, Meg, and Lucie’s adaptation of Paul Fleischman’s 1989 Medal Winner Joyful Noise: Poems For Two Voices, a book of poems from the point of view of various insects, which the kids imitate here (full review here):

Hazel, Violet, Nora, Devin, and Ray’s adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1944 Honor Book These Happy Golden Years was a crowd favorite on Sunday. Lots of funny moments with energetic and committed performances from the kids. This family has been making 90-Second Newberys of the Little House books for years, and they just get better and better (full review here):

Whew! That’s a lot of movies . . . and that’s not even counting the out-of-town movies we screened on Sunday, or the dozens of Chicago-area movies that were submitted that we didn’t have time to show.

Thanks so much to Elizabeth McChesney, Maria Peterson, Mary Beth Mulholland, Patrick Molloy, and Alexandria Trimble of the Chicago Public Library for coming together and doing all the behind-the-scenes work to make this year’s 90-Second Newbery happen. Thanks to Leland in the tech booth for making the show run smoothly. Thanks to the Book Cellar for doing book sales after the show, and thanks to Keir Graff for being a great co-host.

Thanks most of all to the filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who came on Sunday!

It was an incredible afternoon. It’s not too early to start making movies for next year! The deadline is January 11, 2019, but you can turn them in anytime!

Here’s the final montage that played us out:

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.