order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery 2017: Thank you, Minneapolis!

March 2, 2017

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The 6th annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is in full swing, rolling across this great and glorious land of ours!

So far we’ve done shows in San Antonio, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. (Phew!) I haven’t blogged about them yet because I haven’t had time, but I wanted to blog about Minneapolis as soon as possible because of our special co-host.

(Hey! If you can, come to our upcoming screenings in New York City, Brooklyn, Rochester NY, Chicago, Asheville, and/or Boston! I promise a great show and it’s free! In this economy, can you beat that? Full schedule here.)

Usually I have only one co-host. But this year I’m doing most of my screenings with TWO co-hosts. The first is always Keir Graff, author of the brand-new, rollicking, adventurous, funny children’s novel The Matchstick Castle. The second co-host changes from town to town, usually a local children’s author.

Who was my local co-host in Minneapolis? None other than the one and only Kelly Barnhill, who JUST HAPPENED TO WIN THE 2017 NEWBERY MEDAL for her magical, inventive, poetic The Girl Who Drank the Moon! I’m so happy for Kelly—I’m a fan of her previous books The Witch’s Boy and The Mostly True Story of Jack, and in fact Kelly has co-hosted the Minneapolis 90-Second Newbery twice before (here we are in 2016 and 2015).

Yes, I knew her when!

Kelly has always been a fantastic co-host, with great crowd rapport, and always game for whatever singing-and-dancing goofery the show might call for.

The crowd was ready for it! We completely filled up the Pohlad Auditorium in the Central Library of Minneapolis, with an audience of well over two hundred. By tradition, we always start the show with a singing-and-dancing skit. In this year’s opening skit, Kelly teaches Keir and me the secret to writing Newbery Medal-winning books. A gruesome device is revealed, a volunteer from the audience is roped in, Kate DiCamillo is affectionately denounced, there is some (tasteful!) murder, and then Kelly, Keir and I launch into the opening number from “Hamilton” with a 90-Second Newbery twist. I know what you’re asking: is there a video of these three middle-aged white people incompetently rapping? Of course! Scroll back up, check out the video!

Watched the video? Okay, so the girl from the audience who helped us out is named Hadley. She has attended 90-Second Newbery screenings before, but this was the first time she’s ever been part of the show! Here we are hanging out afterwards:

Thanks, Hadley! You dad a fantastic job, especially on such short notice!

Speaking of folks I just met at the show . . . I had a special surprise: I met a girl named Leonie who is a fan of my novel The Order of Odd-Fish! She was wearing an “Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit” costume (confused? just read the book) and she also gave me this fantastic fan art, below!

For those of you who have read Odd-Fish, Leonie here illustrates the scene of when the cockroach butlers force Jo to wear “The Hat of Honor” and parade her over to the gossip columnist Chatterbox’s apartment:

Beautiful, amazing! I like that it’s an over-the-shoulder POV shot from Chatterbox’s window, cool choice! The Hat of Honor is hilariously elaborate, the joyous cockroaches are both anatomically accurate and yet dressed exactly as foppishly as I imagined, and I love all the spectators peeking in on the situation — including an incognitio Belgian Prankster at the bottom! (And is that the Schwenk flying in the sky in the background?) Masterful, Leonie! Thank you so much. (Intrigued by this glimpse into the world of The Order of Odd-Fish? Learn more about the book here.)

OK, back to the 90-Second Newbery! We received ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-THREE videos from Minnesota this year. An embarrassment of riches! There were so many great ones! We ended up showing twelve movies from Minnesota, plus a few other great movies from around the country. If I featured all twelve in this post, it would be way too long, so I’ll just highlight three of them and link to the rest. They’re all winners!

First up, here’s Cece Bell’s 2015 Newbery Honor book El Deafo, as adapted by Jackie Hjelden’s class at Highlands Elementary in Edina, MN:

I especially liked the way Cece gapes with puppy-love eyes at Mike Miller! You can see the judges’ complete comments on the video here.

Next, here’s a Claymation version of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 Medal Winner A Wrinkle in Time by Aubrey and Gia of Ms. Nite’s class at Anwatin’s Middle School:

I love the way the brain melts at the end under the relentless might of “the power of love”! Read the judges’ praise and commentary of the movie here.

Here’s another movie that was a huge hit at the film festival, a Lego stop-motion adaptation of Sharon Creech’s 2001 Honor Book The Wanderer, by Bai Li Johnson of Inver Grove Heights Middle Middle School:

Painstakingly animated, frequently ingenious, sometimes funny, and genuinely touching! Check out the judges’ complete comments here.

Like I said, we featured twelve Minnesota videos, way too many to put in one blog post! But if you’re interested, do check these out too, they all show a lot of hard work, resourcefulness, and wit on the part of the filmmakers:

Another adaptation of El Deafo by Highlands Elementary of Edina, MN, this time by Adna, Emily, Louisa, Reid, and Tyler.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by Max, Owen, and Simon of Creek Valley Elementary of Edina, MN.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Franklin, Harry, Noah, and Elijah of Sanford Middle School of Minneapolis.

A Wrinkle in Time by Cherry, Laura, Avery, Isaac, and Mira of Glacier Hills Elementary School of Eagen, MN.

Holes by Inga, Rose, Annabelle of Countryside Elementary in Edina, MN.

Kira-Kira by Olivia of Edina, MN.

Bridge to Terabithia by Kathleen, Taylor, Reid, and Milo of Creek Valley Elementary of Edina, MN.

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Dylan, Sam, and Eli of Somerset Elementary School of Mendota Heights, MN.

The Westing Game by Emily, Insley, Ellie M., and Ellie S. of St. Paul Academy and Summit School of St. Paul, MN.

Congratulations on being screened . . . and thank you to all these fantastic young moviemakers, and the teachers, family, and others who helped and supported them.

A very special thank you to Jen Verbrugge and Jen Nelson of the Minnesota Department of Education, for sponsoring this program. And thanks to Keir Graff and Kelly Barnhill for being such talented and enthusiastic co-hosts yet again. And thanks to Katherine and Marcus at Addendum Books for making our books available at the screening . . . and for hosting Keir, Kelly, and me at their bookstore the night before the screening!

Here’s a montage of all the movies we showed in Minneapolis. If I didn’t show your movie, it’s not because I didn’t like it, it’s just because we didn’t have time to show all the great stuff we received this year! I’m looking forward to seeing what you make for next year. (Hopefully, there will be a few adaptations of The Girl Who Drank the Moon in the mix… In Claymation? As musicals? In the style of Monty Python? Or in the format of a Seinfeld episode? Who knows? Go crazy!)

Again, want to keep the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival going next year? We run this dog-and-pony show on a shoestring. Believe me, every dollar counts! Make your tax-deductible donation here.

San Antonio 90-Second Newbery Countdown, Part 2: The Givers

January 19, 2017

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is coming to San Antonio this Saturday! It’ll be at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre from 3-5 pm, co-hosted by me and Texas author Nikki Loftin, sponsored by Bexar County’s Digital Library Bibliotech and H-E-B Texas Grocery. Reservations are free, and they’re going fast! Make your reservation here!

Every year with the 90-Second Newbery, one thing always remains the same: I get a lot of adaptations of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winning book The Giver. But that’s just fine, if the adaptations are creative and do interesting things with the text! Yesterday we featured a Claymation version of The Giver from Kingwood, TX; at the top of this post, check out another submission from Kingwood, by Noah, Alyssa, Adam, and Keona of Creekwood Middle School.

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “I love how joyful and fun this adaptation of The Giver feels! The barrage of goofy references to other movies like The Hunger Games, The Terminator, Star Wars, Jaws, etc. was a fun touch. It was clever how you had people just repeating the world ‘rules’ personify the oppressive mass of rules Jonas must live under. The shift from black-and-white to color during the game of catch was well done (along with the final joke about not being able to catch), and when Jonas is enjoying the newly revealed world of color, that look of bliss on his face while colored paper is fluttering around him was aces. I liked the explosion of light special effect you used to denote every time we are entering the world of the Giver’s memory. And nice ‘sled’! I guess when you don’t have snow, you make do with what you have!”

But that’s not the only version of The Giver we’ve received! Here’s one by Spencer, Kim, Rebecca, and Daniel of Green Table Productions in Houston, TX:

As the judges said in the 90-Second Newbery blog, “I liked the combination of live-action and pen drawings you used to tell the story. The narration had a confident tone and told the story very concisely and accurately. The ‘war memory’ scene was bonkers, and the ‘release’ scene was abrupt and hilarious. Good use of the dramatic music and alarm towards the end. And I liked how the baby Gabe is just … a rainbow-colored stuffed triangle? All that said, I think my favorite part might be the sped-up goofball dancing over the credits. Well done!”

This next adaptation is by Catherine, Skye, Austin, and Brigham of Houston, TX:

The judges say, “The beginning is intense and dramatic, hooks the viewer’s interest right away! I like the Katy Perry music throughout, that was a good choice. The voiceover narration worked well. I loved how, when Jonas learns about colors, all the colors are being thrown at him and he flinches in slow-motion. And it’s a nice moment when Jonas’ parents laugh at him when he asks if they love him. As for the ‘release’ scene… pretty gruesome that he kills the baby, puts it in a bag, throws it in the trash can… and then, to add insult to injury, kicks over the trash can! Cold, cold. Also, I liked the Giver’s paper beard! And is that chair being used as a bike at the end? Resourceful! (But don’t you have a bike?)”

Finally, here’s a different take on The Giver by Camille McWhorter of Creekwood Middle School of Kingwood, TX:

The judges said, “This adaptation of The Giver does something radical I’d never seen before in a 90-Second Newbery: it tells the story of what happened before the story in the book! It’s all about Rosemary, the Giver’s daughter and Jonas’ predecessor. Very poetic and well done. It is similar to Jonas’ story in the book, but while in the book Jonas experiences being the Receiver of Memory as a kind of liberation into the world of truth, here Rosemary can’t deal with the truths she learns, and the conclusion is more tragic. I like the contrast that this demonstrates between the pre-Giver Rosemary and the post-Giver Rosemary. The creepy flashlight under the face in the dark room at the end, with the reveal of who she really is, was the perfect conclusion. Great original idea, well executed!”

All of these and more will be shown at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening in San Antonio this Saturday! (I promise they won’t all be The Giver. We have lots of adaptations of other books too!) Again, tickets are free, so get them here!

90-Second Newbery in San Antonio this Saturday!

January 18, 2017

The screenings for the sixth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival are starting up! Our first stop is in San Antonio, TX, this Saturday (1/21) at the historic Charline McCombs Empire Theatre at 226 North Saint Mary’s Street. It’ll be hosted by me and Texas author Nikki Loftin (Wish Girl, Nightingale’s Nest). She’s an amazing co-host—check out how we ripped up the stage last year!

Reservations are free, but get in while you can: we’re already up to 600 reservations! Reserve your seat here.

You’ll see many great movies, like the above animated version of Jacqueline Kelly’s 2010 Newbery Honor Book The Education of Calpurnia Tate, made by Allison Reyna of Alamo Heights High School. As the judges told Allison on the 90-Second Newbery blog, this is an “amazing animatic, very impressive! Calpurnia’s character in particular was very well done. I like how you were able to make her go through so many moods and emotions (for instance, watching her go from gleeful to disappointed when she’s trying to catch the grasshopper!) and yet she still stayed very much herself. The composition was very well done, and I liked how you varied it between close-ups, wide shots, and midshots, especially for the grasshopper-chase scene. You were able to get so much of the story across wordlessly–I love how you showed the difference between Calpurnia’s reaction shots when she is given the book The Origin of the Species vs. her reaction shot when she is given The Science of Housewifery. The part at the end when she wipes off her makeup and starts reading what she wants was very well done.”

But that’s not the only animated entry we received from San Antonio this year that we’ll be featuring at Saturday’s film festival. There is also this adaptation of Louis Sachar 1999 Newbery Medal Winner Holes, created by Mya Prado of Shepard Middle School:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “This is fantastic! I love this animation you’ve done! I’m really impressed by this! The art is really expressive and tells the story very concisely and effectively. The acting the the voiceover narration were committed, authentic, and accurate.”

That’s not the only kind of animation we are featuring this Saturday. We also have a couple of great Claymation pieces, like this adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver by Kyle, James, Elaon, and Adam of Kingwood, TX:

On the 90-Second Newbery blog, the judges wrote, “Great use of Claymation to tell the story! I like how you kept it in black and white for most of it, then switched to color at the end when Jonas leaves the community. The music was well-chosen and gave the movie a certain power… for example, the ‘releasing’ scene of the baby was unexpectedly affecting (I like how you switched to pen-and-paper animation for that part, to emphasize that this is something Jonas is viewing). A lot of nice little touches, like the way it looks when Jonas goes down the hallway to escape the town. Baby Gabriel was very cute, too!”

Here’s an adaptation with TWO twists, by Elijah, Vincent, Josselin, and Esteban. It’s of Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner The Tale of Despereaux, and it’s also done in Claymation… but also with a horror-movie twist!

Judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog, take it away: “Inventive and fun! I love the idea of a horror movie version of Tale of Despereaux. I like how the ghosts flew out of the bodies of all Desperaux’s siblings at the beginning (with the ominous parting shot of ‘And you are next!!!’) and I thought it was ingenious for the princess to be a zombie. The music was well-chosen and effective throughout, and the dialogue-bubbles kept the story moving along quickly and clearly. The big castle Desperaux enters was a good prop, the terrifying red-eyed cat in the cage was great, and when he was released from the cage for the final fight, it was legitimately exciting! The goriness of ‘slice! slice!’ and the shot of the decapitated cat in the pool of blood would have been too extreme if done in real life, but somehow in claymation it becomes charming. Classic horror movie ending: ‘The end… or is it?’ I loved every second of this!”

We have one other Claymation that we’ll be showing on Saturday, and it’s of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, as adapted by Hiram and Jason:

As the judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog say, “The stop-motion claymation was so much fun to watch! I liked how this movie used not only clay animals but also paper cut outs of animals. The dialogue bubbles were a good touch too. And I like how Farmer Zuckerman rides Wilbur around as though he’s a horse! You got the story across vividly and entertainingly, and great choice of music.”

Wait! One more! Even though it’s not technically animation, but rather a series of drawings. It’s of Paula Fox’s 1974 Medal Winner The Slave Dancer, by Aaliyah M and Giselle S.:

On the 90-Second Newbery blog, the judges said, “Beautifully drawn! The spoken story is well told by the alternating narrators. The pictures complement the narration very well, not just reinforcing the meaning of what’s spoken, but also augmenting it, showing us the emotions that the characters are feeling. The speech bubbles throughout were a cool touch too. I like the dramatic orchestral smash when the ship crashes. Great work!”

All right! Stay tuned to the blog for more 90-Second Newberys from San Antonio as we approach Saturday. And get your free tickets for Saturday’s screening here!

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