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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery 2018: NEW YORK and BROOKLYN!

May 3, 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.

The 2018 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is finished at last! Fourteen screenings in fourteen cities, from February to April. Hundreds of people came to the shows, and I got to meet young filmmakers from coast to coast and show off their movies to big crowds. What a thrill!

Every year I try my best to keep up on blogging the shows as they happen, but the pace of the season means I always fall behind. For instance, on March 3 and 4 (two months ago!) we did 90-Second Newbery screenings at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. And I was delighted to have as my co-host bestselling author Michael Northrop (Polaris, the Tombquest series, and more).

Michael was a natural performer, funny and quick on his feet. He was full of stories of his scrappy young days as a standup comedian in New York, experience which he put to good use in the show. Here we are doing the opening skit for the Brooklyn show, in which Michael scandalizes me with revelations about video-game versions of Newbery-winning books, which eventually culminates in a song-and-dance encouraging folks to make their 90-Second Newberys as weird as possible, all sung to the tune of “Make A Man Out Of You” from the Disney classic Mulan:

This year, thanks to the great planning and support of the NYPL’s Tali Stozenberg-Myers, Emily Krell, Beth Dukes, Arden Armbruster, and Serena Rockower, and the BPL’s Brandon Graham and Paquita Campoverde, we had more New York entries than ever—more movies than we could show even in these two screenings! The screenings always work best when there’s lots of local participation, and the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library really delivered this year. (Both libraries also set up opportunities for me to do presentations to kids from schools and after-school programs in the days leading up to the screenings, which I really enjoyed!)

And of course, thanks to all the young filmmakers, and their parents and teachers and others who supported their creative efforts!

Let’s take a look at some of those local entries that we featured at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library screenings. First: Brooklyn!

90-Second Newbery veteran Violet W. returns for another year, this time with an animated paper cut-out puppets version of Scott O’Dell’s 1961 Newbery Medal winner Island of the Blue Dolphins:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said Violet’s movie was “beautifully done, a real masterpiece! The paper puppets were elaborately detailed and the sets they moved through were satisfyingly layered and rich.” You can read their full review here.

For the past few years, siblings Jillian and Joseph Parrino have been consistently making great movies for the 90-Second Newbery, often with very clever twists. This year was no exception. Jillian adapted Polly Horvath’s 2002 Honor Book Everything on a Waffle, literally on a waffle:

The judges wrote in part “This is the kind of bizarre, inventive twist that is perfect for the 90-Second Newbery. The illustrations on the waffle were expressive and served as a great visual complement to the brisk, skillful voiceover narration . . . Entertaining and offbeat!” You can read their full review here.

Not to be outdone, Jillian’s brother Joseph adapted Margi Preus’ 2011 Honor Book Heart of a Samurai in animated form:

The judges said, “The illustrations were bracingly stark and bold, telling the story with simple vividness . . . This movie is idiosyncratic and original in all the right ways.” Read their full review here.

I’m glad so many library branches got in the act of making movies this year. For instance, here’s E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, as adapted by the Clarendon Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library:

As the judges said, “Charming illustrations and a super-fast, super-efficient retelling of the story! I liked the punchy, direct script . . . Using the Scratch programming language to make the movie was an ingenious move.” Read their full review here.

The Canarsie Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library did their own adaptation of Charlotte’s Web, by Baby Benny, Baby Jayni, Leila A., Marie I., Morgan L., Thom O. J., Yosef A., Cassie H., and Julia L.:

As the judges said, “I liked the contrast between the pictures of the cute kids and the occasionally brutal voiceover (‘Wilbur! We’re gonna KILL you!’) . . . fun to watch, lots of good stuff here!” Read their full review here.

The Central Library of Brooklyn also did a movie! This one was an adaptation of Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together, by Kye T., Angie W., Lizzy A., Onaje G-S., Niemah B., Raymond MdO, Selin Y., Izni S., Kelly B., and Tyler M.:

As the judges said, “Funny, at times ingenious . . . lots of clever, inventive, funny touches, like when Toad’s face is covered with the crumbs of eaten cookies, or when the cookies themselves come to life and start dancing around, pleading ‘eat me! eat me!'” Read their full review here.

The Flatbush branch of the Brooklyn Public Library adapted Jacqueline Woodson’s 2015 Honor Book Brown Girl Dreaming:

The judges wrote, “A unique and surprisingly detailed sprint through the book . . . The various performances were strong and engaging and committed . . . Entertaining to watch, and it does the book justice!” You can read their full review here.

Almost every year we’ve done the 90-Second Newbery in New York, we’ve had a great entry by the talented Mohana Buckley. I’m always delighted to see what interesting idea she cooks up next. Here’s her ingeniously computer-animated version of Mildred D. Taylor’s 1977 Medal Winner Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry:

As the judges said, “I liked this original animation idea: representing every character with a little box with their initials in it! It was fun to watch the boxes whiz around as the voiceover narration explained the plot . . . Clever and entertaining!” You can read the full review here.

But wait, let’s not forget about the movies we received from the folks in the New York Public Library system! For instance, Astral and Defy of the Home School 2nd Graders (Star Stuff Academy) adapted Beverly Cleary’s 1982 Honor Book Ramona Quimby, Age 8 entirely with dolls:

The judges wrote in part, “Impressive and elaborate! This movie creates an amazingly immersive environment of dolls, small furniture, and homemade props to put us in a convincing cinematic world . . . The voiceover work was expressive, engaging, and fun.” Read their full review here.

AltSchool East Village did two versions of Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street. This first one is by their “Ponies” team:

As the judges said, “A delightful adaptation of the book, and amazingly cute . . . The voiceover and all the performances were adorable and it got the main points of the book across effectively.” Read the full review here.

And here’s another movie of Last Stop on Market Street, also from AltSchool East Village, by the Phoenixes team:

The judges wrote in part, “Charming and effervescent . . . Bursting with goofy energy, it’s clear everyone had a ball making this joyful movie!” Read the judges’ full review here.

Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 Medal Winner A Wrinkle in Time is here given a puppet adaptation by Olivia, Violet, Hunter, and Ben:

As the judges wrote in part, “Ingenious puppetry and voiceover work! I appreciated the expressiveness of the puppets: the dour look on Meg’s face and the wide-eyed goofball look on Charles Wallace’s face, for instance. This movie nailed all the major plot points with style, all while keeping up a brisk pace.” Read their full review here.

We got a lot of great clay stop-motion entries from kids in the NYPL’s Enrichment Zones programs. For instance, here’s an adaptation of Jacqueline Woodson’s 2015 Honor Book Brown Girl Dreaming by NYPL’s West New Brighton Enrichment Zones, New York Public Library in Staten Island:

As the judges said, “Inventive and funny and fun to watch . . . This was true to the book, resourcefully accomplished, and entertaining!” You can read their full review here.

The NYPL’s Inwood Enrichment Zones in Manhattan turned in this great version of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet, done in the style of a Lynchian nightmare world:

As the judges said, “I loved the horrifying sounds while Brian’s plane is crashing, and how the rest of the movie is set in a dark world only occasionally lit up by flashlights. The repetition of identical gasps and evil chuckles and howls of horror were legitimately disturbing!” Read their full review here.

The NYPL’s Francis Martin Enrichment Zones in the Bronx created this stop-motion of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan:

As the judges wrote, “The clay creatures of this movie (both animal and human) were well-constructed and expressive . . . A dizzyingly, accelerated sprint through the story, but true to the book’s basic plot and themes. Very fun to watch!” Read the full review here.

The Hunts Point Enrichment Zones of the NYPL of the Bronx did this Lego stop-motion version of Hatchet:

The judges wrote, “There were lots of resourceful details, like making a “porcupine” out of clay with toothpicks sticking out of it, or using an electric candle to simulate a campfire, or goldfish crackers to indicate the fish in the water . . . This was a tight script, which picked out the most important details and told the story with economy and verve.” You can read the full review here.

Hunts Point Enrichment Zones from the Bronx also did this claymation version of 1956 Honor Book The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings:

The judges wrote, “There was a great combination of ways of telling the story: switching back and forth between the illustrations in the original book and the stop-motion clay animation. The voiceover told the story in a charming, natural style.” Read the full review here.

The High Bridge Enrichment Zones of the Bronx made this claymation adaptation of The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights:

The judges wrote, “It was ingenious how the movie incorporated Marian Anderson’s original recordings into the audio of the movie. Her animated clay figure was satisfyingly detailed, right down to the way she shrugged her arms about as she spoke and the tears streamed down her face . . . Entertaining throughout!” Read the full review here.

Finally (whew! this is a lot of movies!) we have this version of Beverly Cleary’s 1978 Honor Book Ramona and Her Father by The High Bridge Enrichment Zones from the Bronx. It’s in Claymation, and cleverly told from the point of view of the Quimbys’ cat Picky-Picky:

As the judges wrote, “The legos and clay and drawn backdrop combined well to tell the story . . . It was amusing how Picky-Picky got on the computer and found a job for Mr. Quimby while the rest of the family was sleeping, and the “all thanks to me!” comment at the end was perfect.” Read the full review here.

All right! Thanks again to all the filmmakers, and to the folks at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library, and to my co-host Michael Northrop. I can’t wait to come back next year!

Here are the end-of-show montages from the end of the screenings. First, the montage from New York Public Library show:

And here’s the montage from the Brooklyn Public Library screening:

Thanks again!

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.