order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


The 90-SECOND NEWBERY Film Festival

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The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is an annual video contest in which kid filmmakers create weird movies that tell the entire stories of Newbery-winning books in about 90 seconds. Every year, the best movies are shown at gala screenings all over the country—co-hosted by founder James Kennedy and other great children’s authors. We are now entering our sixth year! The due date for movies for the 2017 screenings is December 19, 2016.

Ever since 1922, the Newbery Medal has been recognized as the most prestigious award in children’s literature. But it turns out that any book, no matter how worthy and somber, becomes pleasingly ludicrous when compressed into 90 seconds. The 90-Second Newberys people have submitted in the past three years have been ingenious, hilarious, and impressive—from musicals to stop-motion Claymation, from puppet shows to Minecraft! Check out 25 of the best 90-Second Newbery videos right here.

Teachers, here’s a fun project that will get your students reading Newbery winners. Students, here’s an excuse to mess around with video equipment. Librarians, here’s an activity to do with your teen advisory boards. Homeschoolers, here’s a good long-term project that teaches everything from close reading to scriptwriting, storyboarding to directing, and cinematography to video editing! Anyone can enter.

The rules:

1. Your video should be about 90 seconds. (Okay, okay: if it’s three minutes but absolute genius, we’ll bend the rules for you. But let’s try to keep them short.)

2. Your video has to be about a Newbery award-winning (or Newbery honor-winning) book. Here’s a list of all the winners.

3. No book trailers! No video book reports! We’re looking for full-on dramatizations that manage to tell the entire story of the book in 90 seconds. Any format is OK—live-action, stop-motion, computer-animated, puppet show, whatever!

4. Upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo or whatever and send me the link at kennedyjames [at] gmail [dot] com. Make the subject line be “90 SECOND NEWBERY” and please tell me your name, age, where you’re from, and whatever other comments you’d like to include, including whether you’d like me to link to your personal site. You can give an alias if you want; I understand privacy concerns.

5. Sending the link to me grants me (James Kennedy) the right to post it on my blog and to other websites where I sometimes post content (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and to share at public readings, school visits—and hopefully the “90-Second Newbery” Film Festival screenings!

6. The general deadline for the SIXTH annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is December 19, 2016.

Intimidated? Don’t know where to start? I recommend checking out this handy guide of tips, tricks, and strategies for making a 90-Second Newbery. Usable as a classroom curriculum! KidLit TV also has a great series of helpful videos. Here’s one. Here’s another!

And again, check out this page of some of the 25 most popular 90-Second Newbery video submissions. Perfect for getting a handle on what kind of movies folks are making for this film festival, or to get inspiration for your own movie.

There’s loads of great material among the Newbery winners, ripe for a ridiculously compressed 90-second treatment. For instance, how about a rousing superhero-musical opening-credits adaptation of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, done by Aaron Zenz’s Bookie Woogie blog:

Or this 90-second version of Lois Lowry’s 1995 Medal winner The Giver, but done as an unhinged one-man show in which every part is played by 12-year-old Leo Lion:

Newbery Honor books are fair game too. Here’s Portland Community Media‘s take on William Bowen’s rather dubious 1922 Newbery Honor winner The Old Tobacco Shop: A True Account of What Befell a Little Boy in Search of Adventure, done as combination puppet show, claymation, and animation:

A children’s book about a boy who smokes magic tobacco and has a bunch of hallucinations?! The Newberys sure have changed!

Indeed, this contest is a good excuse to snoop through old, forgotten Newbery winners. Many of them are unjustly forgotten. Even better: many more are forgotten for a reason. Not naming names, but some Newbery award winners are absolute stinkers, or even slightly offensive! But I have a feeling they’ll become delightful again if accelerated to 90 seconds. For instance, here’s
Jalix Mergenberg‘s Claymation romp through the very first Newbery winner, the painfully dated The Story of Mankind (1922) by Hendrik Willem van Loon:

We’re particularly excited to see videos that will actively mess with their subjects, transforming the texts through surprising genre choices or creative filming methods. The 90-Second Newbery is about more than merely summarizing the books, it’s about making the books your own through creative interpretation!

For instance, everyone loves Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats, but you know what makes it even better? Adapting Millions of Cats as a Minecraft movie. Or then again, also adapting Millions of Cats as an olde-tymey 1920s movie. The possibilities are endless!

If your adaptation is sufficiently ambitious and spectacular, we might even bend the rules. Yes, this adaptation of Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Medal winner The Whipping Boy seriously tests our 90-second time limit, but since it’s done in the style of Star Wars, complete with lightsabers, lasers, and crazy green-screen work, it just squeaks in (but don’t necessarily count on us being this indulgent with the time limit):

Look, the American Library Association and I have had our disagreements. Ever since I exposed them as a bloodthirsty cult of obscene troglodytes, I’ve felt a definite chill from them. And it didn’t help when I tackled Neil Gaiman at the ALA conference and wrestled away his Newbery for The Graveyard Book (2009). People can be sensitive! I’m hoping that this 90-Second Newbery Film Festival will mend fences.

Want to make a 90-Second Newbery video, but are daunted by the project? Download (PDF) this handy guide of tips, tricks, and strategies! Highly recommended!

Get ready for next year! The deadline for videos for the SIXTH Annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is December 19, 2016. You can submit your entries at any time of the year.

Want to know what the screenings are like? Check out recaps of previous years: the first year’s New York screening at the main branch of the New York Public Library, the Chicago screening at the Harold Washington library, and the Portland screening at the Multnomah County Public Library.

Now go, dust off your beloved copy of Song Of The Pines: A Story of Norwegian Lumbering in Wisconsin by Walter & Marion Havighurst (1950), and make me a movie!

James Kennedy is the author of the young adult fantasy The Order of Odd-Fish, which did not win the Newbery (or did it?). He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters. Here is his blog.