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The Order of Oddfish

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The Final 90-Second Newbery Screening of 2019—In Boulder, Colorado!

May 15, 2019

We did it! The 2019 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival has at last come to an end. From February to May, we’ve put on fourteen screenings in fourteen cities, with 2883 registered attendees, and just over 400 movie submissions. What a ride!

The final screening was on Saturday, May 11 in a brand-new city: Boulder, Colorado. Here’s the end of the show, when all the young filmmakers came onstage for pictures:

Wait, who’s that co-host next to me? It’s none other than Boulder’s own Lija Fisher, author of The Cryptid Catcher and the upcoming The Cryptid Keeper. She was a fantastic co-host, so funny and game for anything! Afterwards folks came up to us and asked how long we had been doing this show together. They thought we’d been sharing the stage for months. Actually we had only first met a few hours before! Lija’s natural charisma and quick comic sensibility made the show shine. Thank you, Lija!

How’d we score a show in beautiful Boulder? Kerry & Zach Maiorca (friends from Chicago who are veterans of the 90-Second Newbery) recently moved their family to Boulder and wanted to bring the film festival there too. Working with Darsa Morrow of Mackintosh Academy, they managed to get the Boulder Public Library on board, to secure sponsorship from Mackintosh, to spread the word to local filmmakers, and to do the million-and-one things it takes to make the film festival flourish in a new city. And they pulled it off magnificently!

We even got a a big splashy article about us in the Boulder Daily Camera, which helped to fill up the 200-seat Canyon Theatre at the Boulder Public Library. Thanks to the Boulder Book Store for showing up to sell books, and folks from Steve and Kate’s Camp for offering a pop-up stop-motion moviemaking workshop at the event. (And thanks to Katie, Shawn, Jude, Julie and Xander of the Ropp family, my old friends from Chicago, for putting me up while I was in town!)

Let’s look at the movies we got from Boulder this year! Mackintosh Academy made this excellent version of Robert C. O’Brien’s 1972 Medal Winner Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “An entertaining and comprehensive romp through the story! I loved the running joke about Mrs. Frisby’s shawl (or ‘cape,’ as she amusingly insists on calling it), with her repeated slow-burn reaction shots. The performances were funny and yet emotionally grounded, making the far-fetched talking-animal story feel believable . . . Mrs. Frisby’s superheroic pose at the beginning and the end was a great way to frame the whole story.”

Sabrina of the Maiorca family teamed together with her friends Bridger, Celia, Edie, Harper, Scarlet, and Yael to make this amazing version of Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Expertly shot and hilariously acted, with resourceful costumes and a great use of sets! The cinematography was on point throughout: I loved how so many of the important characters are deftly set up in just the first few seconds, including a perfect silhouetted shot of Flora watching the out-of-control vacuum fly across the backyard, Ulysses cowering in the grass, and the ‘blind’ William Spiver failing to catch a ball . . . I loved the script (‘holy unanticipated occurrences!’) which told the story with economy and style.”

Izzie, Amalia, Sylvie, Bridger, and Kinley of Whittier International School made this fun-to-watch movie of Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “What a fun, energetic, joyful retelling of the story! . . . I loved the script, with such great lines as ‘some other jerkface named Rachel’ and Rachel’s ‘OMG I chipped a nail . . . call 911!’ followed by a dramatic fainting. There were great costumes and sassy attitude throughout, especially when the parade of the other, more experienced cool-girl skaters came by . . . Unhinged, fun, and entertaining in all the best ways!”

Nina, Harper, Ruby, Liv, and Ella made this quite funny version of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I enjoyed this original approach to telling the story, telling in the form of quick scenes punctuated by explanatory intertitles . . . The intertitles could be disarmingly vain (‘That was a perfect scene’) and amusingly cognizant of the limitations of the form (‘Ruby’s full monologue is an hour long. Alas, 90 second Newbery’) . . . The movie zipped through the essential plot points and told the story in its own idiosyncratic and entertaining way. Great work!”

Every year we get a 90-Second Newbery movie that is mind-blowingly weirder than every other submission that year. This year, that honor goes to this other version of The One and Only Ivan, done in Claymation by Keira and Sebi:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “A MASTERPIECE. In my eight years of reviewing movies for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, I’ve never been so simultaneously disturbed and delighted by an entry! This movie dispenses with the plot of The One And Only Ivan entirely, and focuses on one incident between Ivan the silverback gorilla and Ruby the elephant. While imprisoned next to each other at the mall zoo, Ruby asks Ivan for a story, and . . . well, we’re off to nightmare world. My hat is off to the monstrous and haunting horror show that ensues.”

Every year I get about fifty movies of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver from the University Middle School in Greeley, Colorado. This year, I finally got to feature the film festival close enough to Greeley that the filmmakers could come! Here Aaliyah, Jackson, Levi, and Sally make The Giver in Minecraft:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “It was a fun idea to use Minecraft to tell the story, especially with the switch between black and white and color. Whoever built the environments did a great job of designing the world of the story! The best part of this film was the expressive and often hilarious (and sometimes British-ish) voiceover . . . The scene of the boy being released was hilariously gruesome, and I was amused at how Jonas rides a pig when he’s escaping from the community.”

We got a lot of great entries from Eagle Crest Elementary School in Longmont, just north of Boulder. I was lucky enough to get to visit this school the Friday before the screening, and meet the students and talk to them about The Order of Odd-Fish. This movie of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, by McKenzie from Eagle Crest, got a particularly big laugh at the screening about 37 seconds in:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “It was a fun idea to retell the story of Charlotte’s Web in the style of a movie trailer. There was resourceful use of pictures of stuffed animals and stock photos to give us insight to the various characters, and the onscreen text and titles gave crucial assistance in telling the story too.”

Also from Eagle Crest Elementary, we got this version of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes by Michael O., Nischal G., and Erik J.:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved the energetic, leave-it-all-on-the-field enthusiasm of the performances in this movie! . . . I also thought it was funny how you changed the ending, and made the story conclude with Stanley and Zero getting devoured by lizards in the desert. Probably a more likely outcome!”

Also from Eagle Crest, Eden H., Haley G., and Audrey L. made this movie of Cece Bell’s 2015 Honor Book El Deafo:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved the spectacular beginning of this movie, which kicks off with Cece doing a backflip! The characters were all clearly and swiftly introduced, and I liked the goofy fight scene . . . Entertaining and sassy.”

Katelyn B. adapted an uncommon choice, Catherine Coblentz’s 1950 Honor Book Blue Cat of Castle Town, with stop-motion legos:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This was an entertaining movie-trailer style teaser for the book . . . The stop-motion work was fluid and fun to watch, the onscreen text well-chosen to tell the story, and the music a good accompaniment overall.”

There are actually too many great movies from Eagle Crest Elementary to feature them all in one blog post! I recommend also checking out Brenton D.’s movie of A Wrinkle in Time, and Izabella “Peaches” M.’s version of Misty of Chincoteague, and Master Gamer Eric’s take on The Cricket in Times Square. Great job, Eagle Crest Elementary! I hope you submit next year, too.

Indeed, a big thanks to all the kids of Colorado for these great movies, and thanks to the parents and teachers who helped out. I can’t believe how much the film festival caught on in Boulder in just the first year! I hope to bring the 90-Second Newbery back to Boulder in 2020 too. So start cracking on those entries! The deadline for next year is January 2020, but you can submit your movie at any time. Complete info (including helpful tips) can be found at the 90-Second Newbery website.

Speaking of movie submissions . . . Before the show, I met Julia of the Flatirons Food Film Festival. We thought, what if kids made food-themed films based on Newbery books, and submitted them to BOTH of our film festivals? After all, there are quite a few food-themed Newbery winning books out there. Off the top of my head, I can think of Polly Horvath’s 2002 Honor Book Everything on a Waffle and Kathryn Lasky’s 1984 Honor Book Sugaring Time. Or you could give any Newbery-winning book a food twist—say, doing a movie of Ramona and Her Father in which Ramona is played by a chicken strip, Beezus is played by a tomato, and Mr. Quimby is played by a box of Cheerios? I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here. The Flatirons Food Film Festival has a children’s program on October 1 and the deadline is July 19. You can find out more here.

One last thing. If you enjoyed the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival this year, please consider kicking a few bucks our way. The 90-Second Newbery is always free to submit and to attend, but it does take money to run. And anyway, it’s tax-deductible! Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Here’s the final montage of all the movies featured that day, which we played at the end of the screening. See you next year, Boulder!

Behold the Majesty and Madness of the 90-Second Newbery in SALEM, OR!

May 6, 2019

On March 22, we screened the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival for the first time in a brand-new city: Salem, Oregon. Thanks so much to Sonja Somerville and everyone at the Salem Public Library for hosting the event. Thanks to Ashley Gruber and all the folks at Capital Community Television (CCTV) Salem for partnering with us on this event. And thanks to the Book Bin for showing up to sell books.

The screening was hosted by me and New York Times bestselling author Heidi Schulz (Hook’s Revenge, Giraffes Ruin Everything). Heidi was an amazing co-host! The CCTV folks made a video of Heidi and I singing the opening song, “What Would John Newbery Do,” in which we celebrate the bombastic legends surrounding the man for whom the Medal is named. Heidi nails it, she’s a true lady of the stage! It’s the video above. Watch it!

After the show, Heidi and I posed onstage with some of the young Salem filmmakers who participated:

Let’s check out some of those great movies from Salem that we featured at the screening! CCTV had a camp in which participants created movies to submit to the film festival, and that’s how we got this delightful retelling of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 Honor Book A Wrinkle in Time by Padraig T., Miles C., and Ben M. Watch closely to see how this group of three pulls off a script written for six actors:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “A fun, anarchic, unhinged romp . . . I loved Meg’s punked-out blue wig, Charles Wallace’s helmet and a superhero cape, and the witches dressed as Chewbacca, Elmo, and some kind of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ outfit . . . I especially loved the special effect of the “tessering”—a gleaming whirlwind that raptures the witches and our heroes from place to place . . . it was especially fun that the ‘dad’ was portrayed by a giant weird inflatable stick-man—especially when Meg throws him at Charles Wallace!”

Mac C. and Cooper H. from the CCTV camp submitted this next movie. It’s Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet in stop motion Lego . . . and in the style of Star Wars!

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “What a brilliant twist for a Hatchet adaptation: instead of the normal boy Brian, it’s a Star Wars stormtrooper; and instead of Brian surviving in the wilderness with only a hatchet, the stormtrooper must survive on an alien planet with only a lightsaber! I appreciated the attention to detail, like how the pilot was also an Imperial officer, and how their vehicle was an Imperial shuttle, and how our stormtrooper makes his shelter inside a fallen AT-AT (hey, just like Rey in The Force Awakens!).”

But that’s not the only Hatchet adaptation we received from the CCTV camp! Here’s another Hatchet, this time by Caden:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Imaginative, entertaining, and in some places quite impressive! The combination of Lego stop motion and green screen worked well to totally set the scene. I liked the fun twist this movie puts on the story: instead of a boy trying to survive in the wilderness with only a hatchet, it’s a unicorn trying to survive in the wilderness with only a horn!”

Caden also teamed up with Aniah for this final entry from CCTV. It’s an adaptation of Gail Carson Levine’s 1988 Honor Book Ella Enchanted:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “A quick, fun retelling of the story! The graphics of the various characters and their backgrounds were well-chosen to indicate the corresponding parts of the story, and the onscreen text filled in the plot clearly and efficiently. The background music also felt appropriate to the quasi-medieval setting of the story. Solid work!”

We also received a movie from Maddie O’Donnell and members of the Salem Public Library Teen Advisory Board! It was a puppet-show adaptation of Sharon Creech’s 1995 Medal Winner Walk Two Moons:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This accelerated, comedic, borderline-lunatic puppet show was lots of fun to watch! It was creative and resourceful to make all the puppets out of paper bags, with hand-made backgrounds. I especially liked the various hairstyles (made of yarn?) that flopped around amusingly . . . A tight script, shot in a no-nonsense way, and performed with gleeful enthusiasm!”

Thanks again to all the filmmakers for these great movies! All in all, it was an exceptional first-year showing for Salem. I’m looking forward to bringing the screening back to town next year, hopefully with even more local entries. The deadline for next year’s film festival is January 2020, but don’t procrastinate! You can actually start making your movies now, and turn them in at any time. As alwways, complete details (including helpful tips) can be found at the 90-Second Newbery website.

And, if you don’t mind me asking . . . if you enjoyed the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival this year, please consider kicking a few bucks our way. This film festival is always free, but it costs money to put on. From year to year, it all depends on the generous donations of those who love it. And anyway, it’s tax-deductible! Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

As a final cherry on top, here’s the final montage of all the movies featured that day, which we played at the end of the screening:

Witness the Magic and Mayhem of Boston’s 2019 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

May 1, 2019

The eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival tour is almost complete. Fourteen screenings in fourteen cities, from February to May, yee-hah! We’re in the home stretch now. Last Saturday was our second-to-last screening of 2019 at the Boston Public Library, hosted by me and M.T. Anderson (author of Feed, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, and many other amazing books).

Check out the video of the opening skit above, in which the film festival is nearly shut down by order of the nefarious HIGH SUPREME NEWBERY COUNCIL, helmed by Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. White, and . . . uh, Meindert de Jong? Who’s that? Watch the video and find out. Can I escape execution from the High Supreme Newbery Council’s pitiless sergeant-at-arms? (Special thanks to Iman for playing that role.) And can we pull off the opening song, sung to the tune of “One Day More” from Les Miserables?

This is our third year bringing the film festival to Boston. Thanks first to Kate Gilbert for her tireless hustle in bringing the film festival to town. Thanks to Laura Koenig and everyone from the Boston Public Library for sponsoring the show and providing such a great space for it. Thanks to the Writers’ Room of Boston and ArtWeek Boston for the promotion. Thanks to Trident Bookstore for doing bookselling after the show. Thanks to M.T. Anderson for being a witty, generous, and up-for-anything co-host and friend. And thanks most of all to the young filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them create their masterpieces!

Let’s take a look at some of the great entries we received from the Boston area. For instance, the Benali family (which includes Iman from the opening skit) created this inventive and entertaining adaptation of Adam Gidwitz’s 2017 Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. They put the events of the story to song—of “Summer Nights” of Grease—rewritten here as “Stupid Knights”:

Superlative! As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved how the movie cut between expertly-drawn animation and live-action storytelling . . . the lyrics hit all the major plot points clearly and vividly and with a lot of humor! This was a pleasure to watch, resourceful and fun!”

Homeschoolers Merrik, Canon, Lauder and Aldrin Moriarty of Holliston, Massachusetts submitted this enthralling movie of Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s 2016 Honor Book The War That Saved My Life:

A triumph! As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved how thoroughly and carefully this movie recreates the time and place of the book, from the English accents to the period-appropriate costumes and sets . . . The cinematography was crisp and assured, with well-framed shots and brisk editing . . . and I was amused by the inclusion of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’!”

Agapi, Ramon, Jake, Nanette, Michelle, Ellen, and Ben of West Bridgewater Public Library made this engrossing stop-motion movie of Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery Medal Winner When You Reach Me:

Delightful! As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “The stop-motion animation of the dolls was expertly handled, and I like how the combination of green-screened images in the background and foreground sets combined to make effective sets . . . I like the sardonic, abbreviated tone: ‘Marcus, you are the Laughing Man! And now you are dead.’ A movie to be proud of!”

Last year I visited Eliot School in Boston’s North End because one of their students, Jordan, had made a 90-Second Newbery movie The One and Only Ivan. This year, Jordan and Zolie of Eliot School are back for another shot at 90-Second Newbery glory with this movie of Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Energetic and resourceful . . . the crazy grocery store manager, grabbing Opal and shaking her by the shoulder and using the cat-grabbing robot arm all over the place, was well-played in the most over-the-top manner . . . Great performances throughout . . . Fantastic work!”

Also from Eliot School, Bea and Orson adapted Eleanor Estes’s 1945 Honor Book The Hundred Dresses . . . but with a twist. Instead of a hundred dresses, it’s a hundred pairs of Steph Curry athletic shoes:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved the creative idea of switching up the premise of the original story, so that instead of Wanda boasting that she has one hundred dresses in her closet, she instead claims to have one hundred pairs of Steph Curry shoes! . . . This movie has charm and inventiveness to spare!”

Fiona and Zoe of Melrose Avenue School traveled in all the way from Jamestown, Rhode Island to the screening! Their movie was of Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Great acting in this one, very natural and expressive! The greenscreen backgrounds and the resourceful costumes (like Nana’s shawl and the blind man’s dark glasses and cane) helped to make the movie feel authentic. The movie told the story quickly and accurately, hitting pretty much all the plot points, and it looked like everyone was having fun, which made it fun to watch.”

Thanks again to all the filmmakers for these great movies! I can’t wait to see what Boston comes up with next year. Remember, the deadline for next year’s film festival is January 2020 . . . but you can start making your movies now, and turn them in at any time! Complete details, including tips for filmmakers, can be found at the 90-Second Newbery website.

If you enjoyed the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, please consider kicking a few bucks our way! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

And here’s final montage of all the movies that we played at the end of the Boston screening:

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