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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:

Behold the Splendor of the San Francisco and Oakland 2019 90-Second Newbery!

April 10, 2019

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Last Saturday and Sunday, the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival came romping through the Oakland Public Library in Rockridge and the San Francisco Public Library! As a winter-weary Chicagoan, I’m always delighted to come out to the Bay Area at this time of year, especially since it’s a chance to catch up with so many old friends.

And I’m extra-lucky to have as my co-host the hilarious and talented picture-book author Marcus Ewert of 10,000 Dresses, Mummy Cat, and Mr. Pack Rat Really Wants That! Watch the video above of me and Marcus, taken at the SFPL screening on Sunday, in which Marcus and I must struggle against the forced shutdown of the 90-Second Newbery by the fearsome HIGH SUPREME NEWBERY COUNCIL comprising Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. White . . . and Meindert De Jong? Who’s Meindert De Jong? Watch the video to find out some odd Newbery history, especially if you like Les Miserables! (And special thanks to Simran, who played the part of the Sergeant-At-Arms of the High Supreme Newbery Council to perfection.)

After the screenings in both Oakland and San Francisco, we had some of the filmmakers come up onstage with us for a picture (Simran’s the one who is about to fillet me with that sword):

Let’s look at some of the great videos we received from the Bay Area this year that we featured in the screenings! For instance, Simran and a lot of other young filmmakers in the San Francisco Public Library Video Production Club worked together to make this impressive version of Lois Lowry’s 1990 Medal Winner Number the Stars:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This was a compelling, creative, resourceful adaptation . . . The cinematography and editing throughout was artful and effective, from the closeup on the German soldier’s eyes, to the way the fleeing girls are framed by his legs, to the shifting perspectives of different emotional reactions during the hurried, anxious conversations . . . I appreciated that the movie took the time to show the kids having fun and being authentic children, so that when the soldiers came searching for them, we felt their terror in a much more genuine way . . . A real triumph!”

Noemi, Grant, Sage, and Athan of Orange County, CA did this fantastic movie based on Adam Gidwitz’s 2017 Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “What a knockout! This was a witty, crisp, and accurate sprint through the book. Not a moment was wasted . . . lots of goofy details and well-crafted jokes made this a pleasure to watch . . . I like the repeated use of the Charlie Brown Christmas music to indicate sad parts of the story, and especially how the movie accelerates as it goes on, mentioning the events of the book faster and faster as the appropriate images flash by . . . Charismatic actors, tight script, polished production!”

We were also proud to feature Astral and Defy’s movie based on Derrick Barnes’ 2018 Honor Book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This movie featured a great reading of the poetry of the book, with the power of the carefully-selected images to bring all the emotions and ideas together! I liked how the rapid-fire images of geography exam, honor roll, and brain were quickly connected to the thematic poem, and how the use of memes, emojis, and dolls made the movie sing . . . Well done!”

We also got a bunch of great movies from Oakland, too! For instance, Elliott, Henry, and Owen did this snappy stop-motion version of Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “From the very beginning, the clear, confident, expressive voiceover performance told the story up with style! I loved the excellent and creative green screen work . . . The animations of the penguins emerging from the packages were particularly well done . . . It told the complete story entertainingly and ingeniously!”

Samarra, Mirella, Asha and Elza from Oakland made this fun and resourceful movie of Victoria Jamieson’s 2015 Honor Book, the graphic novel Roller Girl:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “The cinematography and editing worked well, especially how it showed the schism between Zoe and Nichole. The intertitles did a good job keeping the plot on track, and I like how this movie uses actual roller skates . . . Good job putting this joyful, anarchic, fun movie together!”

Thanks to Erica Siskind and Liz Soskin of the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library, plus Lyn Davidson, Jim Jeske, Kenny Avila, Catherine Cormier and Megan Anderson from the San Francisco Public Library. And special thanks to Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore and the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library for doing bookselling after the shows. And of course a gigantic thanks to all the filmmakers who participated, plus the parents and teachers who helped out.

As usual when I come out to San Francisco, I stay with my good friends Alisha and Sharon, two of the nicest and most generous people you could ever meet. They took me out to Onsen Bath & Restaurant in San Francisco, which meant two hours of relaxing with them in a Japanese-style hot bath, sauna, and steam room, followed by an amazing meal. If you’re ever in San Francisco, hoo man, you should try this. Alisha and Sharon also have folks over their place after the show for an afterparty, and it’s always a treat. Here’s Alisha with me and Marcus and my friend Nick after the SFPL show:

Remember, it’s never too early to start making movies for next year’s film festival. The deadline is in January 2020, but you can turn them in anytime! Complete details, including tips for filmmakers, can be found at the 90-Second Newbery website.

Thanks so much, San Francisco and Oakland! I’ll see you next year! And if you enjoyed the film festival, please consider a donation to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

To round out the post, here’s the final montage that we used at the San Francisco screening:

The New York and Brooklyn 2019 90-Second Newbery screenings!

April 4, 2019

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Last weekend I had an amazing trip to New York! Deb Ross (who organizes the 90-Second Newbery in Rochester, NY) and her daughter Ella took me out to see the Broadway show of Be More Chill. I got to have dinner with my friend Charlotte and her family who have been supporting the film festival from the beginning. I spoke at some schools and made some new friends. And I did screenings of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library!

These screenings were humdingers! Unfortunately I don’t have any usable video of the opening skits (if you want to see what it looked like in other cities, we got some good footage in Minneapolis), but above you can see me being confronted by Hannah, the Sergeant-At-Arms of the High Supreme Newbery Council, in our opening skit in Brooklyn. The same role was played by Violet for the New York Public Library screening—there she is below, with me and my co-host for the NYPL screening, Newbery Honor winner Rita Williams-Garcia.

I was particularly excited to work with Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer) as my co-host at the New York Public Library, and Torrey Maldonado (Tight) at the Brooklyn Public Library. Rita was actually special guest for the All-Star 90-Second Newbery when it was at the Symphony Space back in 2012, and Torrey has been my co-host in years past and he always kills it.

Here are Torrey and Rita and me with the filmmakers onstage after each of our events:

So much talent on those stages! Let’s take a look at the New York videos we featured one by one.

The aforementioned Violet and her friend Ocean have been making great stop-motion 90-Second Newberys for years. They created this Lego stop-motion movie of Jeanne Birdsall’s book The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. The only problem? Uh, The Penderwicks didn’t win a Newbery! But it did win a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Good enough for me!

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (complete review here), “Fantastically elaborate stop-motion . .. the animation was smooth and fluid, the cinematography well-framed, the editing brisk and artful. I loved the big, impressive sets, especially the interiors of the houses . . . My favorite part was when the sisters build up the stairs to get Jeffrey out of his bedroom window, and he comes shimmying down on the rope . . . Entertaining and faithful to the book!”

Madeleine and Ellie came all the way from Lancaster, PA to attend the NYPL screening. Here’s their great movie based on Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (complete review here), “A fun, stylish retelling of the story! I love how it begins and ends with the two narrators relaxing by a cozy fire in their robes, sipping tea or coffee or something, telling the story of Stanley Yelnats in a vaguely aristocratic tone . . . This was fun to watch, inventive, and resourceful—I’m impressed you were able to tell so much of this story (which, after all, has a large number of characters) with such a small cast!”

Here I am facing off against the fierce and dangerous Madeleine and Ellie after the show:

We received a lot of great submissions from the New York Public Library’s Enrichment Zones. For instance, here is Yamilet, Ester, David, Sophia, and Ehye of the Inwood Enrichment Zones doing the “Garden” vignette from Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (complete review here), “Well-drawn backgrounds, beautiful paper puppets, and informative subtitles keep this adaptation of ‘The Garden’ fun to watch and easy to follow! The ever-changing music was a nice touch too, constantly altering to fit the development of the story . . . Fun, artistic, and true to the book!”

We received lots more movies from the NYPL’s Enrichment Zones—too many to feature in one post! You can see them all here.

Mohana Buckley has been submitting 90-Second Newbery movies for seven years, almost since the very beginning of the 90-Second Newbery. And Mohana’s videos are almost always based some extremely adventurous, out-there concept. Check out her movie this year of Eleanor Estes’ 1952 Newbery Medal Winner Ginger Pye:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), here the original story is “translated into Polish, Hebrew, Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Portugese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, and Punjabi using Google Translate and then translated back into English . . . complemented nicely by the rapid-fire deployment of animated clip art . . . Inventive, weird, and satisfying!

The day before the Brooklyn screening, I was lucky enough to get to visit St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn. That school submitted two amazing versions of Eugene Yelchin’s 2012 Honor Book Breaking Stalin’s Nose. Here’s one by Luca, Sonia, Matteo, Louise, Leo, Lily, Will, Joe, Margot, Ellie, Renn, May, Allison, and Kiran:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (complete review here), “The black-and-white cinematography throughout gave the movie an appropriately old-fashioned historical feel. I liked the careful attention to the sets (the ominous black walls! the portrait of the Stalin the background!) and the voiceover carried the story forward efficiently and with verve . . . The disembodied nose of Stalin, complete with glases and little tuft of hair on top, was a masterstroke . . . This was great!”

Here’s another movie of the same book, also from St. Ann’s, by Braden, Clover, Ginger, Hannah, May, Renn, Rhea, Zoya, and Zeeshan:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (complete review here), “Ingenious and elaborate! This movie pulls out all the stops in making the Russia setting come alive: the Russian-y music that played through the whole thing, the authentic-looking Russian-language signs and text in Cyrillic throughout . . . but of course the big stroke of genius is having Stalin’s nose itself be the narrator, in a surreal puppet show in which it explains the events of the story in rhyming verse . . . Delightful, creative, and fun to watch!”

Ilsa Waldron, Mia La Rosa, and Erin Serpa (with the help of their cinematographer Lola La Rosa) from Queens made this movie of Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (complete review here), “I loved the passion, energy, and craft that went into this movie . . . The cinematography was resourceful and the editing was brisk, keeping the story moving clearly and quickly. But my favorite thing about this movie was the acting! The librarian’s over-the-top freakout when she thinks Winn-Dixie is a bear, or the way Gloria Dump talks (“Ain’t that a terrible last name? DUMP!”) or how Opal’s big emotions of rage and joy and loneliness and impatience are bubbling under every scene . . . Wonderfully done!”

Young filmmakers from the Clarendon branch of the Brooklyn Public Library made this inventive version of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 Medal Winner A Wrinkle in Time by retelling the story using a bunch of anime clips:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (complete review here), “What a brilliant, deranged, sounds-like-it-shouldn’t-work-but-totally-does idea to retell the story of A Wrinkle in Time totally in redubbed Naruto anime clips! The concept was deliciously original, the new voiceovers were expressive and engaging, the clips themselves were cleverly chosen to visually tell the story, and to my surprise, by the end of this movie most of the story of the book really was conveyed! An entertaining, creative, original way to make a movie.”

We also featured this movie of Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Medal Winner The Whipping Boy by kids from the Foote School in New Haven, CT:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (complete review here), “The ‘prince’ was amusingly bratty and the whipping boy was funny (‘Finally! I won’t get whipped!’). I liked the whipping boy’s weirdly small bedroom, and it was fun to watch the friendship develop between the whipping boy and the prince. Good editing and concise script too!”

We actually got quite a few movies from the Foote School! If you want to see a bunch more great 90-Second Newberys, here they are.

And those are the movies of the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library screenings for 2019! Thanks so much to the folks at the libraries who helped us set this all up, especially Brandon Graham and Paquita Campoverde of the Brooklyn Public Library and Amber Moller, Beth Dukes, Tali Stolzenberg-Myers, and Emily Krell at the New York Public Library. Here are the final montages that we showed at the screenings. First, at the Brooklyn Public Library:

And here’s the final montage we showed at the New York Public Library:

It’s never too early to start making your movies for next year’s screening! You can turn them in anytime! Complete information about the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival here.

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

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