Ms. Jennifer Wilson’s fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes at the Field School in Charlottesville, VA sent in five very entertaining videos for the 2011 90-Second Newbery film festival. They’re well worth a look. Here they are!
Let’s start out with the eighth graders’ movie first. It’s an adaptation of Avi’s 1992 Newbery winner Nothing But the Truth, which is about a boy is suspended for humming along with the national anthem in class, and how the incident blows up into a media event that changes the lives of everyone involved. One of the interesting things about the book is how you never quite know what the truth is; you’re just given a bunch of primary sources like memoranda, journal entries, etc. and are left to sort out the truth of what happened yourself.
I liked how efficiently and amusingly the eighth graders handled this, especially with the main character breaking down and weeping “I don’t know the words!” at the end. That was a good idea to have the electric-guitar version of The Star-Spangled Banner running throughout it (though surely that’s not the Hendrix version?):
The next adaptation, of The Westing Game, was done by the 7th graders and it’s also quite fun. It’s really impossible to summarize The Westing Game in 90 seconds, for it is a many-character mystery with innumerable complicated twists and turns―but for that very reason, it’s always fun to see how different groups wrestle with the complexities. This one didn’t disappoint! (But why was that one kid holding a book in front of his face in the background? Did he not want to be on camera?) I liked how all the different pairs of partners were wrestling with the clues, and the dance-off at the end (with someone shouting, “can we do another one?” randomly)―well done!
Gennifer Cholodenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts was given a satisfying adaptation by the sixth graders. There’s a pretty smooth Al Capone in here wearing a rather sharp fedora in here:
And last but not least, two, count ‘em, two Maniac Magee adaptations done by the fifth graders. Clever choice to use Michael Sembello “Maniac” song!” I liked how Maniac was truly, er, maniacal in that first one―the way he bellows “he’s deeeead!” Showing the frog of the frog pitch was a nice touch too. It’s clear that everyone was having a ball. I appreciate all the ingenuity that went in to these!
And the other Maniac Magee:
Thanks so much, Field School, for these enjoyable 90-Second Newberys!