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90-Second Newbery 2018: TACOMA!

May 16, 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 Sunday, April 15, 2018 we had the Tacoma, Washington screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! I look forward to the Tacoma screening every year, because Sara Sunshine Holloway of the Tacoma Public Library always goes over the top to make it a special event. This year Sara really outdid herself, by moving the screening from the library to Tacoma’s beautiful Blue Mouse Theatre, a bona fide historic landmark that dates all the way back to 1923! We packed the 220-seat house with a sold-out crowd. It was a raucous, fun show!

It took a lot of folks to make the show run smoothly, including the hardworking John Hargis and Jordan doing a fantastic job in the tech booth. And of course I was honored once again to share the stage with Doug Mackey, my longtime Tacoma 90-Second Newbery cohost! (Scandalously, I don’t have any pictures or video of Doug and me together at the show. What the heck.)

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

Let’s check out some of their movies!

Mr. Johnson’s 5th Grade at Grant Center for the Expressive Arts in Tacoma submitted tons of great movies this year. In particular, they crafted this slyly subversive adaptation of Marion Dane Bauer’s 1987 Honor Book On My Honor . . . in the style of the Netflix hit Stranger Things!

As the judges wrote in part, “This movie nails all the tropes of that supernatural horror series . . . As the chapters kept multiplying, seemingly getting faster and faster, it set up a rhythm that gets the audience more and more excited about what will happen next . . . The ending is classic, cleverly reversing the ending of the original book.” Read the full review here.

Mr. Johnson’s class also created this hilarious movie of Patricia Lauber’s 1987 Honor Book Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens. In this adaptation, the eruption of Mount St. Helens is blamed not on the grinding of tectonic plates and the pressure of magma, but . . . a volcano’s frustration at having his perfect Rubik’s Cube thwarted by a mischievous squirrel:

As the judges wrote in part, “I loved the goofy accent of the narrator, who kept the story moving along quickly, clearly, and amusingly. The campy epic background music struck just the right tone . . . When the volcano finally erupted, it was both hilarious and cathartic!” Read the full review here.

As it happens, I got a lot of great movies from Grant Center for Expressive Arts. Unfortunately we didn’t have time at the screening to show them all (I’m sorry!). But do yourself a favor and check them all out:

Adam Gidwitz’s 2017 Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (this one, honored by the author himself!)

Christopher Paul Curtis’ 2008 Honor Book Elijah of Buxton

Julia Sauer’s 1952 Honor Book The Light at Tern Rock

E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web

Lauren Wolk’s 2017 Honor Book Wolf Hollow

We also received a deluge of amazing movies from Tacoma’s Seabury School. For instance, Aidan made this adaptation of Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats in the style of a 1940s black-and-white noir detective movie:

As the judges wrote in part, “This movie fulfills all the expected tropes of the genre: the dramatic black-and-white lighting, the hardbitten private eye’s voiceover narration, the stylish fedora, trouble walking in the door from a femme fatale, roughing up the suspects . . . Brilliant how the same actor plays both the investigator and the keeper of the cats . . . fantastic, a great twist on the material, well-executed!” Read the full review here.

Colin from Seabury School did this impressive stop-motion version of Adam Gidwitz’s 2017 Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale:

As the judges wrote in part, “Excellent stop-motion animation, with a giant cast of many Lego figurines running around impressively detailed environments (including the occasional green screen background)! . . . Spectacularly animated, and true to the book . . . A solid movie made with serious dedication to getting the book right!” Read the full review here.

I also loved this version of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes, by Seabury School’s Ishaan K.:

As the judges wrote in part, “the comically small police car at the beginning was hilarious, and the bombastic police officer was just the right amount of absurd. I was impressed that most of it was shot in an actual desert, which made it much more accurate to the book!” Read the full review here.

Those two above are actually only small fraction of the fantastic movies we got from the Seabury School! There are too many to feature on this one post, but you can check them all out at the 90-Second Newbery website here.

Meanwhile, Keaira Sinclair and Julia Gordon made this resourceful version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1938 Honor Book On the Banks of Plum Creek:

As the judges wrote in part, “The ominous music in the background is effective foreshadowing that all that happy talk and optimistic planning will soon come crashing down . . . you do a great job having the girls shriek in horror as the music changes and everything turns into a horror movie . . . Tight story, skillfully told, great work!” Read the full review here.

Piper and Barbara of Gig Harbor, WA crafted this beautiful stop-motion animated version of Scott O’Dell’s 1961 Medal Winner Island of the Blue Dolphins:

As the judges wrote in part, “The painted sets and fabrics made an effective backdrop for the clay stop-motion animation, which was fluid and fun to watch . . . This movie zips through the story, hitting all the major plot points, and ends of a satisfying note. Well done!” Read the full review here.

The Tacoma Public Library’s Abby S., Jaek A., and Jordan M. (who helped out in the tech booth at the screening!) made this impressively detailed Minecraft adaptation of Kelly Barnhill’s 2017 Newbery Medal Winner The Girl Who Drank The Moon:

As the judges wrote in part, “I like the sardonic narrative tone established from the very beginning: ‘It’s that time of year again . . . let’s go get the youngest baby to sacrifice!’ All the voiceover acting was engaging and fun to listen to (even the robot voice—I get it, ‘voice actors are expensive’) . . . Ingeniously constructed, well acted and edited, entertaining to watch!” Read the full review here.

The hilarious Rosemary Sissel has been consistently submitting great, subversive material to the 90-Second Newbery for years (check out all her stuff here). This year she outdid herself with this fast, funny zombie re-imagining of Patricia MacLachlan 1986 Medal Winner Sarah, Plain and Tall:

As the judges wrote in part, “Hilarious, horrifying, and surreal! This movie puts its finger right on a disturbing aspect about Sarah, Plain and Tall that’s always kind of creeped me out: what kind of madman orders their wife through the mail? And what kind of woman would be motivated to take up the offer? This movie has a ready answer for that: the bride is actually a zombie, in search of fresh living flesh to devour! . .. . Funny, irreverent, and satisfyingly weird.” Read the full review here.

Martin A., Quinn S., Vivian S., Waylon B., and Josiah A. at Jason Lee Middle School made this ambitious adaptation of Pam Muñoz Ryan 2016 Honor Book Echo:

As the judges wrote in part, “This movie did a good job of swiftly pulling all the different strands of the story together, making the progression of each vignette clear and grounding it in character and emotion . . . A great sprint through a complicated, difficult-to-summarize book!” Read the full review here.

Geiger Elementary turned in two great movies. First is Danity, Arshan, Levi, Avery, Jamaree, Eva, and Leo’s marionette version of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Newbery Medal Winner One and Only Ivan:

As the judges wrote in part, “I love the elaborate marionette work on this! So impressive and skillful! The elephants were particularly amazing . . . I’m really delighted and awed by the commitment and craftsmanship on this movie!” Read the full review here.

(Also from Geiger Elementary, check out Molly, Ella, Lyla, Jacob, Mateo, Diesel, and Anthony’s adaptation of Paul Flesichman’s 1989 Medal Winner Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. It’s another standout, definitely go watch it!)

Speaking of The One and Only Ivan, Brooklyn of Baker Middle School made her own version by speaking narration over her own skillful drawings:

As the judges wrote in part, “This was a simple and elegant retelling of the story! The voiceover narration was brisk and to-the-point, laying out the plot in clear and easy-to-understand terms . . . Fast and engaging!” Read the full review here.

That’s not the only entry we received from Baker Middle School! Although we didn’t have time to show them at the screening, do yourself a favor and check out Anh’s and Amberlea’s adaptation of Lauren Wolk’s 2017 Honor Book Wolf Hollow and Oceania’s, Dasani’s, Roselin’s, Madison’s and Alyssa’s adaptation of Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Medal Winner The Crossover.

Giaudrone Middle School made two movies. Their “Team SPOT” put together their own version of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

As the judges wrote in part, “Great idea to tell the story with a lively voiceover accompanied by paper cut-out illustrations . . . This was a marvel of compression. Fun to watch too!” Read the full review here.

“Team Huskies” from Giaudrone Middle School also made this great movie of Vince Vawter’s 2014 Honor Book Paperboy. Another one worth watching!

. . . And that’s it for the all the Tacoma entries in the 2018 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Thanks again to everyone who made this happen. This year was the most entries we’ve ever gotten from Tacoma, and the quality was way up too. Tacoma is a beautiful city and I’m so happy to visit. Here’s to next spring!

Let’s conclude with the final montage of the Tacoma show. It was a great day. Can’t wait until next year!

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.