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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery films from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Becky Farnum’s sixth grade class at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. have sent in eleven tremendous videos for the 2011 90-Second Newbery film festival. Let’s watch them all!

First, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, won the Newbery Medal in 1968. Here it’s adapted by Ananya Kapur, Claire Hodges, Carrera Chao, and Caroline Mullins!

This is by far the bloodiest Claymation video I’ve ever seen. Set to the music of Debussy, no less! I found it nothing less than hypnotic, especially when the dogs dismember the guy. The movements put me in the mind of a 1980s video game.

Next, Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, winner of 1986 Newbery Medal, adapted by Sarah Brodnax:

Sarah’s Sarah is a winner! I liked the “teaser” at the beginning, before the titles. There was convincing acting throughout, and Caleb’s “Whatever you say, know-it-all” was priceless. Sarah did a great job of boiling the story down to its emotional essentials. (Was that her singing “Country Life” at the end?) Jaunty and fun!

Next, Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, 2003 Newbery Honor winner, adapted by Matthew Gergen, Andrew Rabinowitz, Joey Romansky, and Cole Marshall:

The conversation in the hallway at the beginning was satisfyingly intense, with lots of leaping out of chairs and finger-pointing. I liked the accent on the pancake guy. And as soon as I heard the hoot of the owl, I thought to myself, man, I really hope they made a fake owl that we can see. THEY DELIVERED ON THE FAKE OWL. “Look! An owl! In your face, loser!” Well done. I enjoyed it!

Next, Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. But wait a second . . . that didn’t win a Newbery! (By the way, did you know Laurie Halse Anderson once threatened to kill me?) I’m guessing that perhaps Julian Dixon, the creator of this video, was thinking of 2004 Newbery Honor winner An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy. Hey, yellow fever’s yellow fever, right?

Inventive and fun! I particularly liked how Julian anthropomorphized the yellow fever by portraying it as a little kid with yellow gloves who runs around tagging people. The recurrent organ trills were very effective, ominous and scary. A satisfying climax when everyone gathers around the “dead” fever and cheers! (And of course it “rises” again . . . )

Next, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, which won a Newbery Honor in 1988, adapted by Fernando Campoamor and Jack Knibb:

Whether crashing a plane, eking out an existence in the forest, or fighting a bear, the Brian in this Hatchet is consistently chipper and smiling. I liked that! I was also intrigued by the random guy who strolled by Brian with the line “You are in the random forest.” The subtitles were witty and helpful too. And quite a bear fight!

But wait, that’s not the only Hatchet we got from Sidwell Friends! Take it away, Nicky DeParle, Matthew Lobel, and Emma Goldfield:

The pilot’s death scene might be one of the great death scenes in 90-Second Newbery history. Brian grabs control of the plane and exclaims “It’s really hard to steer this thing”―I’m guessing it’s hard for him because he’s holding the steering wheel upside down? This movie is almost avant-garde in how it subverts expectations: sure, it’s called Hatchet, but the hatchet itself is only referred to once, in passing, and it is never ever used! YOU’RE PLAYING WITH MY MIND, NICKY, MATTHEW, AND EMMA! Bonus points for the special effect at the end, when the plane comes, which for some reason causes the forest to fill with smoke. Why would a plane . . . ? Doesn’t matter, the smoke was awesome!

Next, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, winner of Newbery Honor in 2001, adapted by Rebecca Barker and Sylvia Saxenian:

Another good one! I’m intrigued by the girl in the large sun hat―was she actually hitting that boy with the dog during the party? Pet abuse! I snorted with amusement when the heroine said “You bald-headed baby!” to the guy on the street and he plaintively called after her, “But I have hair.” The cover of “Don’t Stop Believing” at the end was cute. Well done!

Next, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, winner of this year’s (2011) Newbery Medal! Here it is adapted by Anya Vinogradsky:

A solid entry! I particularly liked the soul-rattling howl of “It can’t be truuuee!” Anya did a good job hitting all the major points of the plot. I liked the bloopers and outtakes at the end too.

Next, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, winner of Newbery Medal in 2010, done by Julian Cividanes, Darius Siahpoosh, Jamie Cantor, and David Conners:

Well done. I chuckled at the declaration of “and . . . . I am HANDSOME” at the beginning, and hey, that was a pretty convincing fight scene when Sal got slugged!

Next, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, winner of the 1968 Newbery Medal, done by Daniela Ilhan and Sarah Baldino:

I liked the genuine bantering relationship between Claudia and Jamie, and they hit all the highlights of the book very well. Extra points for shooting the museum scenes in an actual museum!

Last but not least, Rules by Cynthia Lord, 2007 Newbery Honor winner, done by Bryn Wilson and Caroline Nash:

I was hoping to get a good adaptation of Rules–thanks for giving it to me! The acting was good, the story still made sense even though it was so abbreviated, and I especially liked the dance party at the end . . . not only the ludicrous dancing but the “song” that someone was singing that everyone was dancing to. I want the extended dance version of that.

Thank you so much, Sidwell Friends School, for eleven great 90-Second Newbery films!