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The Order of Oddfish

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The Glamor! The Glory! The Rochester screening of the 2019 90-Second Newbery!

March 27, 2019

Look at all those young filmmakers! And, uh, the two strange men murdering each other in their midst! This was the scene on Sunday, March 17, just after we did the Rochester, New York screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

Thanks to the amazing work of Deb Ross and Carol White Llewelyn, the film festival has really flourished in Rochester! They put together the local network it takes to pull off an event like this: partners at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, KidsOutAndAbout.com, the George Eastman Museum, and Writers & Books, along with sponsors Rochester Community TV (RCTV), Delta Airlines, the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library, RIT Magic Spell Studio, and Cheshire AV. The show is always free to enter and to attend, but only because of their generous support, and yours. Please consider donating to keep us going next year, too!

I was supremely honored to get the legendary children’s author Bruce Coville as my co-host. He was funny, kind, and a real pro . . . it was great to hang out with him. Check out the video below of the opening skit, in which Bruce and I are confronted by the HIGH SUPREME NEWBERY COUNCIL of Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. White, and . . . Meindert Dejong? What, you’ve never heard of the real-life winningest Newbery author ever, Meindert Dejong? Watch the video to see how he and the rest of the HIGH SUPREME NEWBERY COUNCIL attempt to shut down our film festival, only to be thwarted with our rousing parody version of “One Day More” from Les Miserables. Special thanks to Parker for playing the Sergeant-At-Arms of the High Supreme Newbery Council!

I always have a great time in Rochester. I’m grateful to stay with my friends Arthur and Amy, whom I met through Rochester’s famous Teen Book Festival. In this trip, I joined Amy’s team of librarians for an after-hours trivia contest, emceed by my co-host from the Rochester 90-Second Newbery last year, Matt Krueger. Another night we all went bowling with Matt’s husband Jonathan. And I did virtual reality in Arthur and Amy’s basement. And I did presentations at Johanna Perrin Middle School and Leo Bernabi Elementary. And many more dinners and meetings with friends that I only get to see once a year or so, but I’m so glad when I do. A whirlwind weekend! (And our film festival as even featured on the local Rochester TV news!)

So what movies did we feature from Rochester this year? RCTV Writers & Books Summer 2018 Camp created this movie of E.L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Medal Winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, in the style of a black-and-white silent movie:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “What a great-looking black-and-white silent movie! . . . I was impressed how judiciously and effectively you interspersed the intertitles and the action to tell the story mostly visually and wordlessly . . . Great acting all throughout, especially the waggle in Claudia’s eyebrows when she says ‘You wanna run away?’ . . . Great work overall!”

Also from RCTV Writers & Books Summer 2018 Camp, we received this inventive adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie, in which Winn-Dixie is advertised as though she’s a kind of medicine, complete with disclaimers:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This was hilarious! I love the idea of pitching Winn-Dixie as a kind of cure-all medicine, using the format of a pharmaceutical commercial, complete with testimonials and disclaimers . . . the two best parts were at the end: the fast-talking disclaimer at the end as the camera slowly zoomed in on Winn-Dixie’s face (an almost nightmarish effect!) and the joyful, ludicrous ‘That’s my dog!’ tag at the end. So much fun, a joy to watch!”

The third and final movie that RCTV Writers & Books Summer 2018 Camp created was of Christopher Paul Curtis’ 1996 Honor Book The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963, with a weird twist: the old characters from the book are young in this movie, and the young characters are old:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This age-swap idea really refreshed the narrative and gave this movie its juice . . . This movie really ‘committed to the bit’ throughout—for instance, the bullies threatening to steal one’s dentures, or the ‘Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!’ reference in the whirlpool . . . This was a really good movie, with a clever premise that was admirably executed.”

Do you know Eian Sinclair? You should! And if you don’t, you soon will! He’s the young Rochester genius who has been making great 90-Second Newbery movies for years. Every year Eian Sinclair creates a masterpiece, and this year’s no exception. Here’s his animated take on William Steig’s 1983 Honor Book Doctor DeSoto:

As the judges said (full review here), “I was blown away by the painstakingly elaborate illustrations throughout . . . The fox is particularly impressively animated, with so many fun-to-watch sequences, like when he’s scooting on his knees to beg to Dr. DeSoto, or licking his chops in anticipation of a meal, or when his jaw trembles when he can’t open his mouth. The script is tight and tells the story accurately and wittily: ‘I’ve been outfoxed by a mouse!’ I was also impressed by how all of the original music was composed and played by Eian.”

As it happens, Eian drew a caricature of me, which I featured at the screening. What do you think? Pretty good likeness?

I also got a wonderful movie of Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie from Leo Bernabi Elementary School (which I visited and did a presentation in the days leading up to the screening!):

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here): “This movie was fantastic! I like how this movie resourcefully deployed a convincing-looking stuffed dog to portray Winn-Dixie . . . There was realistic and grounded acting from everyone (and I was amused at how Miss Franny yelped ‘Ah! A bear!’ and tumbled off her chair, and just as swiftly recovered). The part with Gloria Dump portrayed as the Wicked Witch of the West was adorable . . . Great cinematography and editing throughout, crisply moving from scene to scene and keeping the story clear at every moment. And I loved how it ended with everyone singing ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’!”

When I visited Leo Bernabi Elementary, the students of Canal View Elementary also showed up for the presentation. Canal View submitted FOUR great movies, all of which we featured at the screening. First there was this movie of Kate Dicamillo’s 2014 Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses by Sean, Jackson, Ray, and Liam:

As the judges said (full review here): “It was fun how the movie kicked off with a portentuous voice intoning, ‘IT ALL STARTED WITH A VACUUM’ while our opening shot focuses on the fateful vacuum in question. I like how you used fast-forward to simulate the vacuum romping out of control, and the use of dramatic music during Flora’s CPR on Ulysses was an inspired touch. The script was fast and funny, capturing the spirit of the book . . . The whole thing was quick and fun to watch!”

Canal View Elementary also submitted this movie of Katherine Paterson’s 1978 Medal Winner Bridge to Terabithia by Addison, Leah, Mya, Bella, and Rachael:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here): “Fast, resourceful, and true to the book! It was a clever idea to start with Jesse’s voiceover thoughts, putting us right in the hero’s head and letting us know his goals and personality as he practices running in the morning. The introduction of the character of Leslie was handled swiftly and clearly, right after showing her beating everyone else at the race . . . I liked how the phone call was represented with a split screen, and I was amused how Jesse’s mom’s only reaction to his question about going to Washington was an inarticulate grunt. The editing throughout was admirably fast: going from phone call, to museum, to ‘Leslie’s dead,’ to her funeral in about 5 seconds!”

Kristian, Aaron, Bella, Kya, Brynn, Alexis, Megan, Morrigan, Ella, and Shannon of Canal View Elementary made this movie of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here): “This was super entertaining, fast, and surprisingly comprehensive! The voiceovers were a good way to set up the story and keep it on track, since so much of Brian’s journey is spent alone with nobody to speak to . . . Crisp, rapid-fire editing hurtles us through the story at a record pace—I was very impressed at how lean this movie is, proceeding from Brian crawling out of the lake, to building the shelter, to all his other challenges in double-quick time. Resourceful use of a stuffed bear in the foreground to make it look like a larger bear, and the sudden zoom on Brian’s face was classic.”

The last movie from Canal View Elementary is also Hatchet, and it’s by Molly, Lylah, Mikayla, Alyvia, Kayla, Emmaline:

As the judges said (full review here), “This was a lot of fun to watch, and it was carried by a fantastic acting performance of ‘Brian’! It was a great idea to start with the scene of Brian’s mom giving the sullen, sulky Brian the hatchet, with a voiceover giving us access to his inner thoughts (‘I don’t want a stupid hatchet!’) while he outwardly accepts it with a ‘thanks.’ . . . My favorite green screen moment is when the moose comes after Brian! The flashbacks to Brian’s mom were well-handled, and gave extra depth to the survival story . . . I like how it ends with the pilot’s body getting dragged out of the water. This was resourceful, funny, convincing, accurate, and unique!”

And that was the Rochester 2019 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Thanks again to everyone who came together to make this happen! And if you like what we do, please donate to the film festival! The show is always free, but that means we rely on your generosity to keep going.