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90-Second Newbery 2018: ROCHESTER!

May 7, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

On Sunday, March 25, 2018 we had a screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Rochester, New York! Rochester has always been a hotbed of 90-Second Newbery activity, and this year was no exception. So many great movies! I was so proud to showcase them at Rochester’s Dryden Theatre in the George Eastman Museum. I was particularly thrilled to meet the kid filmmakers—some of them veterans from years past, some of them brand-new fresh faces on the 90-Second Newbery scene.

My co-host was Rochester superlibrarian and previous Newbery committee member Matt Krueger, whose style and panache brought real class to my dog-and-pony show. Look at this guy! Here Matt and I pose with the similarly stylish and resourceful Eliza Kozlowski of the George Eastman Museum:

In this video, Eliza introduces me and Matt, and then we launch into our opening skit in which Matt scandalizes me with revelations about video-game versions of Newbery-winning books, which eventually culminates in a song-and-dance encouraging folks to make their 90-Second Newberys as weird as possible, all sung to the tune of “Make A Man Out Of You” from the Disney classic Mulan:

Enough of my hosting buffoonery, let’s check out the great movies themselves!

Wunderkind Eian-Gabriel Sinclair, a 90-Second Newbery veteran, returns to this year with another movie in his inimitable animation style, this time of Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins:

As the judges wrote in part, “A tour de force! This movie was amazingly well-drawn and cleverly animated . . . Tight script, expressive voiceover, and the music was charming.” Read the full review here.

That’s not the only adaptation of Mr. Popper’s Penguins we got from Rochester! This one is by the fourth graders of Leo Bernabi Elementary:

As the judges wrote, “It was a smart choice to open this movie with a relaxed conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Popper, grounding the story in their relationship and their difficulties before moving on to the crazy penguin stuff. I liked the way they both reacted with delighted shock when Admiral Drake spoke directly to them through the radio. The performance of the penguins was funny, especially with the constant ‘ork! ork! ork!’ noises . . . An engaging and entertaining adaptation of the book!” Read the full review here.

Every year the kids of the RCTV/Writers and Books Summer Camp make several movies for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. They’re always fantastic! The camp made three this year. The first is Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s spooky 1972 Honor Book The Headless Cupid, updated to make its witchy character Amanda a YouTube star called “Occult Amanda.” In this movie, she documents the plot of the book on her vlog:

As the judges wrote, “an ingenious, creative, and hilarious way of updating the story! It totally nails how the story would be converted for the Internet age: naturally the witchy, overbearing stepsister Amanda from the 1970s book would nowadays be the YouTube vlogger ‘Occult Amanda,’ complete with logo, branded content, and (inevitably) that characteristic vlogger mannerism of starting every video by braying ‘HEY GUYS…!’ . . . It’s really fun to watch – all the way to the Blair-Witch style, first-person horror at the end, when Occult Amanda meets her own grisly fate!” Read the full review here.

Another movie by the RCTV/Writers and Books Summer Camp is an adaptation of 2015 Honor Book El Deafo by Cece Bell:

As the judges wrote, “Lots of great ideas came together here to make a movie that’s really entertaining and fun . . . It was truly hilarious when Cece’s dreamy crush ‘Mike Miller’ shows up, complete with wind blowing dramatically through his hair and flirtatiously wiggling his eyebrows – Cece’s ‘hubba hubba’ reaction might’ve been the best part of the movie!” Read the full review here.

The third and final movie by the RCTV/Writers and Books Summer Camp is an adaptation of Esther Forbes’ 1944 Newbery Medal Winner Johnny Tremain, in the style of Star Wars:

As the judges wrote, “What a great idea to do Johnny Tremain in the style of Star Wars! It makes perfect sense–both are the stories of a young man participating in the revolt against a distant, overbearing empire. And there’s a great parallel of how Luke and Vader are actually father-and-son, and Johnny and the villainous Mr. Lyte are uncle and nephew, and thus Mr. Lyte fits quite well as a Darth Vader character . . . A standout!” Read the full review here.

That’s not the only great Johnny Tremain we got from Rochester this year. Here’s another one by the all-girl school Our Lady of Mercy. That’s right, it’s an all-female Johnny Tremain:

As the judges wrote, “the narrator did a good job keeping the story on track and moving along at a brisk pace. I like how the movie concentrates on the most visually striking and physically active moments of the book, like when Johnny burns his hand, the Boston Tea Party, and the battle in the Revolutionary War . . . This all-girl Johnny Tremain gives new ironic meaning to the concluding phrase ‘a man can stand up’ when it’s said by a girl! Entertaining and engaging throughout!” Read the full review here.

Olivia Colvin and her brother made this movie of Russell Freedman’s 1992 Honor Book The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane:

As the judges wrote, “a fun and effective idea to tell the story with no spoken words, but instead a sequence of stock photographs, short videos, and personal photos . . . My favorite part was how this movie portayed an airplane by strapping two branches to a boy’s arms and having him sprint down the driveway, flapping!” Read the full review here.

The last of the Rochester-made movies we featured was this great version of The Westing Game, adapted by 6th graders Sam, Eitan, Ella, Sarina, Noah, Hannah and Nikol of Hillel Community Day School:

As the judges wrote, “Fun idea to tell the story of The Westing Game in the form of a super-dramatic trailer! The tense synth music, punctuated by the occasional BOOM, made for an effective atmosphere . . . Goofy and entertaining throughout, and fulfills the ‘trailer’ tropes well.” Read the full review here.

Thanks to everyone who made the Rochester screening possible! Thanks first and foremost to Deb Ross of KidsOutAndAbout.com and Carol White Llewelyn of RCTV, the prime movers who brought me to Rochester in the first place and who make the film festival happen, year after year. The 90-Second Newbery owes so much of its Rochester success to them! Thanks also to my friends Amy Holland and Arthur Bond, who gave me a place to stay while I was in town (and who helped me solve a certain mystery from my junior high school days, about weepuls . . . in a way, the less said about that, the better!)

Thanks to Eliza Kozlowski and everyone at the Dryden Theatre of the George Eastman Museum for giving us a venue for the screening. And thanks again to Matt Krueger, such a talented and hilarious co-host!

Thanks also to our generous sponsors and partners: Animatus Studio, Cheshire Audio/Visual, the Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library, Delta Airlines, Rochester Community Television, and KidsOutAndAbout.com.

And of course, thanks most of all to the young filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who came out to our screening on March 25! Here’s the final montage we showed that day:

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

90-Second Newbery 2018: NEW YORK and BROOKLYN!

May 3, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

The 2018 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is finished at last! Fourteen screenings in fourteen cities, from February to April. Hundreds of people came to the shows, and I got to meet young filmmakers from coast to coast and show off their movies to big crowds. What a thrill!

Every year I try my best to keep up on blogging the shows as they happen, but the pace of the season means I always fall behind. For instance, on March 3 and 4 (two months ago!) we did 90-Second Newbery screenings at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. And I was delighted to have as my co-host bestselling author Michael Northrop (Polaris, the Tombquest series, and more).

Michael was a natural performer, funny and quick on his feet. He was full of stories of his scrappy young days as a standup comedian in New York, experience which he put to good use in the show. Here we are doing the opening skit for the Brooklyn show, in which Michael scandalizes me with revelations about video-game versions of Newbery-winning books, which eventually culminates in a song-and-dance encouraging folks to make their 90-Second Newberys as weird as possible, all sung to the tune of “Make A Man Out Of You” from the Disney classic Mulan:

This year, thanks to the great planning and support of the NYPL’s Tali Stozenberg-Myers, Emily Krell, Beth Dukes, Arden Armbruster, and Serena Rockower, and the BPL’s Brandon Graham and Paquita Campoverde, we had more New York entries than ever—more movies than we could show even in these two screenings! The screenings always work best when there’s lots of local participation, and the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library really delivered this year. (Both libraries also set up opportunities for me to do presentations to kids from schools and after-school programs in the days leading up to the screenings, which I really enjoyed!)

And of course, thanks to all the young filmmakers, and their parents and teachers and others who supported their creative efforts!

Let’s take a look at some of those local entries that we featured at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library screenings. First: Brooklyn!

90-Second Newbery veteran Violet W. returns for another year, this time with an animated paper cut-out puppets version of Scott O’Dell’s 1961 Newbery Medal winner Island of the Blue Dolphins:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said Violet’s movie was “beautifully done, a real masterpiece! The paper puppets were elaborately detailed and the sets they moved through were satisfyingly layered and rich.” You can read their full review here.

For the past few years, siblings Jillian and Joseph Parrino have been consistently making great movies for the 90-Second Newbery, often with very clever twists. This year was no exception. Jillian adapted Polly Horvath’s 2002 Honor Book Everything on a Waffle, literally on a waffle:

The judges wrote in part “This is the kind of bizarre, inventive twist that is perfect for the 90-Second Newbery. The illustrations on the waffle were expressive and served as a great visual complement to the brisk, skillful voiceover narration . . . Entertaining and offbeat!” You can read their full review here.

Not to be outdone, Jillian’s brother Joseph adapted Margi Preus’ 2011 Honor Book Heart of a Samurai in animated form:

The judges said, “The illustrations were bracingly stark and bold, telling the story with simple vividness . . . This movie is idiosyncratic and original in all the right ways.” Read their full review here.

I’m glad so many library branches got in the act of making movies this year. For instance, here’s E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, as adapted by the Clarendon Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library:

As the judges said, “Charming illustrations and a super-fast, super-efficient retelling of the story! I liked the punchy, direct script . . . Using the Scratch programming language to make the movie was an ingenious move.” Read their full review here.

The Canarsie Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library did their own adaptation of Charlotte’s Web, by Baby Benny, Baby Jayni, Leila A., Marie I., Morgan L., Thom O. J., Yosef A., Cassie H., and Julia L.:

As the judges said, “I liked the contrast between the pictures of the cute kids and the occasionally brutal voiceover (‘Wilbur! We’re gonna KILL you!’) . . . fun to watch, lots of good stuff here!” Read their full review here.

The Central Library of Brooklyn also did a movie! This one was an adaptation of Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together, by Kye T., Angie W., Lizzy A., Onaje G-S., Niemah B., Raymond MdO, Selin Y., Izni S., Kelly B., and Tyler M.:

As the judges said, “Funny, at times ingenious . . . lots of clever, inventive, funny touches, like when Toad’s face is covered with the crumbs of eaten cookies, or when the cookies themselves come to life and start dancing around, pleading ‘eat me! eat me!'” Read their full review here.

The Flatbush branch of the Brooklyn Public Library adapted Jacqueline Woodson’s 2015 Honor Book Brown Girl Dreaming:

The judges wrote, “A unique and surprisingly detailed sprint through the book . . . The various performances were strong and engaging and committed . . . Entertaining to watch, and it does the book justice!” You can read their full review here.

Almost every year we’ve done the 90-Second Newbery in New York, we’ve had a great entry by the talented Mohana Buckley. I’m always delighted to see what interesting idea she cooks up next. Here’s her ingeniously computer-animated version of Mildred D. Taylor’s 1977 Medal Winner Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry:

As the judges said, “I liked this original animation idea: representing every character with a little box with their initials in it! It was fun to watch the boxes whiz around as the voiceover narration explained the plot . . . Clever and entertaining!” You can read the full review here.

But wait, let’s not forget about the movies we received from the folks in the New York Public Library system! For instance, Astral and Defy of the Home School 2nd Graders (Star Stuff Academy) adapted Beverly Cleary’s 1982 Honor Book Ramona Quimby, Age 8 entirely with dolls:

The judges wrote in part, “Impressive and elaborate! This movie creates an amazingly immersive environment of dolls, small furniture, and homemade props to put us in a convincing cinematic world . . . The voiceover work was expressive, engaging, and fun.” Read their full review here.

AltSchool East Village did two versions of Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street. This first one is by their “Ponies” team:

As the judges said, “A delightful adaptation of the book, and amazingly cute . . . The voiceover and all the performances were adorable and it got the main points of the book across effectively.” Read the full review here.

And here’s another movie of Last Stop on Market Street, also from AltSchool East Village, by the Phoenixes team:

The judges wrote in part, “Charming and effervescent . . . Bursting with goofy energy, it’s clear everyone had a ball making this joyful movie!” Read the judges’ full review here.

Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 Medal Winner A Wrinkle in Time is here given a puppet adaptation by Olivia, Violet, Hunter, and Ben:

As the judges wrote in part, “Ingenious puppetry and voiceover work! I appreciated the expressiveness of the puppets: the dour look on Meg’s face and the wide-eyed goofball look on Charles Wallace’s face, for instance. This movie nailed all the major plot points with style, all while keeping up a brisk pace.” Read their full review here.

We got a lot of great clay stop-motion entries from kids in the NYPL’s Enrichment Zones programs. For instance, here’s an adaptation of Jacqueline Woodson’s 2015 Honor Book Brown Girl Dreaming by NYPL’s West New Brighton Enrichment Zones, New York Public Library in Staten Island:

As the judges said, “Inventive and funny and fun to watch . . . This was true to the book, resourcefully accomplished, and entertaining!” You can read their full review here.

The NYPL’s Inwood Enrichment Zones in Manhattan turned in this great version of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet, done in the style of a Lynchian nightmare world:

As the judges said, “I loved the horrifying sounds while Brian’s plane is crashing, and how the rest of the movie is set in a dark world only occasionally lit up by flashlights. The repetition of identical gasps and evil chuckles and howls of horror were legitimately disturbing!” Read their full review here.

The NYPL’s Francis Martin Enrichment Zones in the Bronx created this stop-motion of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan:

As the judges wrote, “The clay creatures of this movie (both animal and human) were well-constructed and expressive . . . A dizzyingly, accelerated sprint through the story, but true to the book’s basic plot and themes. Very fun to watch!” Read the full review here.

The Hunts Point Enrichment Zones of the NYPL of the Bronx did this Lego stop-motion version of Hatchet:

The judges wrote, “There were lots of resourceful details, like making a “porcupine” out of clay with toothpicks sticking out of it, or using an electric candle to simulate a campfire, or goldfish crackers to indicate the fish in the water . . . This was a tight script, which picked out the most important details and told the story with economy and verve.” You can read the full review here.

Hunts Point Enrichment Zones from the Bronx also did this claymation version of 1956 Honor Book The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings:

The judges wrote, “There was a great combination of ways of telling the story: switching back and forth between the illustrations in the original book and the stop-motion clay animation. The voiceover told the story in a charming, natural style.” Read the full review here.

The High Bridge Enrichment Zones of the Bronx made this claymation adaptation of The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights:

The judges wrote, “It was ingenious how the movie incorporated Marian Anderson’s original recordings into the audio of the movie. Her animated clay figure was satisfyingly detailed, right down to the way she shrugged her arms about as she spoke and the tears streamed down her face . . . Entertaining throughout!” Read the full review here.

Finally (whew! this is a lot of movies!) we have this version of Beverly Cleary’s 1978 Honor Book Ramona and Her Father by The High Bridge Enrichment Zones from the Bronx. It’s in Claymation, and cleverly told from the point of view of the Quimbys’ cat Picky-Picky:

As the judges wrote, “The legos and clay and drawn backdrop combined well to tell the story . . . It was amusing how Picky-Picky got on the computer and found a job for Mr. Quimby while the rest of the family was sleeping, and the “all thanks to me!” comment at the end was perfect.” Read the full review here.

All right! Thanks again to all the filmmakers, and to the folks at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library, and to my co-host Michael Northrop. I can’t wait to come back next year!

Here are the end-of-show montages from the end of the screenings. First, the montage from New York Public Library show:

And here’s the montage from the Brooklyn Public Library screening:

Thanks again!

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

90-Second Newbery 2018: SAN FRANCISCO and OAKLAND!

March 21, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

On March 17 and 18, we brought the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to San Francisco and Oakland! I’m always delighted to make this trip because I get to stay with my friends Alisha and Sharon Ardiana. Sharon runs three restaurants in San Francisco: Gialina, Ragazza, and the brand-new Ardiana. Some of the best food I’ve ever had. And every time I come to town, Sharon and Alisha always take me out to some new restaurant they’ve discovered, and throw a big party after the screening for everyone. I’m lucky to have them as friends.

They also took me to see a drag show of Star Trek, which I loved. The Captain Kirk of the show was particularly amazing. Here’s an article about it.

My co-host for the 90-Second Newbery was my good friend Marcus Ewert, who has co-hosted with me in the Bay Area in years past! He is the author of the picture books Mummy Cat, 10,000 Dresses, and the upcoming Mr. Pack Rat Really Wants That. But to my shock and chagrin, I realized that we didn’t video our opening skit, nor did Marcus and I take any pictures together! Such a shame, because Marcus really nailed the opening skit and song, and he cut quite a dashing figure. Since I don’t have those images, I’ll put up pictures of him and his books instead:

So let’s look at some of the movies we received from San Francisco this year! The first is Felix and Taytum’s action-movie adaptation of Kelly Barnhill’s 2016 Medal Winner The Girl Who Drank The Moon. Felix and Taytum reliably submit a boundary-pushing, visionary movie for the 90-Second Newbery every year. This one was no different! As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “The camera work is blazingly kinetic, with lots of great angles and movement. The editing is propulsive when it needs to be, but also lets the scenes breathe when they need to. I like the special effects: the purple smoke, the gunfire, the fireball, the ‘teleporting’ effect. The fight scenes were brilliantly choreographed and really felt exciting and high-stakes, with so many great weapons: guns, swords, even a whip!”

Omara, Karina, and Lilah have also made fantastic 90-Second Newbery movies in the past, and I was thrilled with thei entry this year: an adaptation of Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl, done entirely with animated paper cut-outs! As the 90-Second Newbery judges said on the website (full review here), “Impressively detailed . . . I loved how the separately articulated arms and legs of the characters were always in motion, making the movie feel lively and energetic. It was especially funny when Nicole does her ballet moves and when the girls roller skate for the first time (to the tune of ‘Twist and Shout,’ no less!). There was great voice acting throughout, pushing forward the narrative clearly and engagingly — concentrating not just on the roller-skating, but also the ups and downs of the friendships.”

San Franciscan Atom Glover is also in the stop-motion business. Last year he submitted a great stop-motion Lego version of The Westing Game, and this year he’s back with a similarly animated Flora and Ulysses . . . with the twist being, instead of Flora taking in a superhero squirrel, the story is set in the future and Flora befriends an alien who thinks it’s a squirrel. As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I like the twist of retelling the story in the new setting of space. The bouncy old-time piano music kept the energy up throughout . . . Good voiceover acting, and the sound effects were resourcefully deployed. I liked how the giant vacuum cleaner and phone dwarfed all the characters. My favorite line might have been the deadpan ‘They do not teaching spelling in alien kindergarten.’ I especially like the fight between Ulysses and the cat!”

San Francisco’s Glen Park Elementary submitted this version of Katherine Paterson’s 1978 Medal Winner Bridge to Terabithia, which has a political and humanitarian twist. As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “A timely and relevant take on the book: Leslie doesn’t die, but is deported. The script was tight and moved the story along swiftly and engagingly. The shots were well-framed and the editing was brisk, with hardly a second wasted! . . . I appreciated how the movie used so many good locations: the rainbow-mural background for Terabithia, the pedestrian overpass acting as the bridge to Terabithia, the watercolors on the wall for the art show, etc.”

Thanks to Erica Siskind and Nina Lindsay at the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library, and thanks to Christy Estrovitz and Carla Kozak at the San Francisco Public Library, for helping me to make this film festival happen again in the Bay Area. Thanks to Kenny Avila for running the tech booth at the San Francisco show, and thanks to Summer Dawn Laurie and Ingrid Nylund of Books Inc. for selling books at the Rockridge show.

And thanks to all the folks who came out to the shows, and most of all thanks to the filmmakers and the parents and teachers and librarians who encouraged them! It’s not too early to start working on movies for next year’s show. They’re due on January 11, 2019, but they can be turned in at any time!

Here was the final montage that wrapped up the San Francisco show:

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

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