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90-Second Newbery 2018: SALT LAKE CITY and OGDEN, UTAH!

March 5, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

It’s always exciting starting up the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in new cities. We’re expanding to new towns every year. This year we’ve added two Utah locations to the tour: Salt Lake City and Ogden!

Even though there was significant snow that weekend, we had big audiences for both screenings. I think we’re going to get even more submissions from Utah next year. This is the start of something big!

This was all due to Michael McClane at Utah Humanities and the Utah Film Center. With Michael’s help, we got Liesl Jacobson’s support to screen the film festival at the Salt Lake City Public Library, and Lynne Goodwin and Kathy Gambles’ support to screen at the Treehouse Museum in Ogden. Thanks so much to all of them and everyone in Utah who came together to pull this off–including Spy Hop, Weber County Book Links, and the King’s English Bookshop, who sold books at the Salt Lake City event.

And thanks to my co-host, Keir Graff, who spearheaded this whole thing from the beginnning! Here we are onstage for the opening song-and-dance:

And of course, thank you to all the kids and teachers and librarians who came together to make the movies, especially the ones from Utah that we featured at the screenings! For instance, we received this great animated paper cutout version of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia by Seth, Jamison, Justin, and Noah of Entheos Charter School:

As our judges said in part (full review here), here the book is “stripped down to its absolute minimal essentials! The cut-paper animation was beautifully done, very fluid and detailed . . . It was a cool idea to switch from cut-paper animation to shadow-puppets when Jess and Leslie go to the fantasy world of Terabithia. The scissors constantly pursuing them was a clever touch that made us feel the looming menace of death throughout the entire movie.”

We also screened this movie of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game from C.S. Lewis Academy in Santaquin, Utah:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Breakneck pace, lots of funny details, and many resourceful touches! My two favorite parts are probably the explosion and screams when the one character tries to exit the room (the sudden way he drops to the ground and starts twitching is legitimately alarming!) and the breezy manner of the ‘cool’ doctor who shows up to pronounce the patient dead . . . Moves along with a brisk, bouncy energy.”

We featured four movies from Orem Elementary School in Orem, Utah! The first was A Wrinkle in Time by Ember, Brock, Kristen, and Ryan:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said, (full review here), “A witty, fun retelling of the story! The acting for all the parts was properly melodramatic and goofy . . . The way the crown-brain of IT blows up into a mushroom cloud (after a dramatic flourish of music) via the magic of stock photography was inspired! Fun to watch all the way through.”

Here’s another A Wrinkle in Time from Orem Elementary, by Xander, Jada, Zipporah, and Andru:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said, (full review here), “Such a fun idea to retell A Wrinkle in Time in the style of Harry Potter! . . . Fun Brit accents, and resourceful use of Harry Potter robes and wands!”

Orem Elementary also made two movies of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver. This first version is by Walker, Ivory, Alyssa, Hudson, Ethan, Abby, Olivia, and Rachel:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website wrote in part (full review here), “It was an effective choice to use a black-and-white filter up to the Ceremony of Twelve, and then to let a little bit of color show up after Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory. I like how the chanting of “Jonas, Jonas” crescendoes into a kind of maniacal freaking-out (especially with “Walker” getting up and bellowing ‘JONAS!’). The ‘release’ video was creatively handled, especially with the baby’s piteous crying and the way it is (hilariously) backwards-flipped over its head into the trash can!”

Here’s one more version of The Giver from Orem Elementary, by Lydia, Elena, Ryan, and Jane:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Stylish from the very start! A creative choice to have the color get ‘taken away’ at the beginning, when the world is being introduced to the audience (and as each detail of the world is revealed, Jonas withers and collapses more and more). . . . The release scene was terrifyingly gruesome (that baby’s scream!) and the war scene was similarly short and effective . . . This felt like a pro job from beginning to end!”

Thanks so much, Salt Lake City and Ogden! We’re looking forward to bringing the film festival back to Utah in 2019. Remember, it’s never too early to start working on your movies for next year! You can find all the information on how to get started at the 90-Second Newbery website (in particular, the video resources page).

And to wrap it up, here’s a montage of the movies we showed at the Salt Lake City screening—a blend of Utah’s submissions this year, plus some of the best movies we’ve received from the past seven years:

See you next year!

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

90-Second Newbery 2018: MINNEAPOLIS!

February 26, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

On Saturday, February 10 we brought the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival back to Minneapolis for the fourth year!

Now last year, my amazing co-host in Minneapolis for the past three seasons, author Kelly Barnhill, WON THE NEWBERY MEDAL for her excellent fantasy The Girl Who Drank The Moon (fun fact: in an email exchange with Kelly before the announcement, I predicted to her that she’d win, and she said no way. I know things before they happen, people.) Kelly had been a fantastic co-host over the years—check out how she rocked out the opening skit of last year’s Minneapolis 90-Second Newbery—and two years ago, when my computer crashed onstage, Kelly jumped in and entertained the crowd for 10 minutes while I sorted out the technical issues. A brilliant writer, a pro stage presence, and a good friend!

But when you win the Newbery Medal, you get busy. I knew that Kelly’s schedule would be too packed for her to co-host this year. But she thoughtfully recommended a great replacement: prolific, award-winning author Pete Hautman. I knew about Pete already because my nephew Theo had been after me for months to read his book Godless (I did—and it deserved that National Book Award!). I really got to know Pete over that weekend, and he turned out to be a charming, hilarious co-host too. It turns out that Minneapolis is crawling with authors who know their way around a stage! Here I am with Pete in the opening skit (which, unfortunately, I don’t have a good video of, because of sound issues):

Every year, Minnesota is a hotbed of 90-Second Newbery activity. This year we had nearly one hundred entries from all across the state! It was difficult to choose which ones to show at the screening. I’m so inspired and thankful at how Minnesota has embraced the film festival! And it’s all due to the great efforts of Jen Verbrugge and Jen Nelson of the Minnesota Department of Education, who dedicate so much of their time and resources to promoting the film festival around the state. I really appreciate it!

We pretty much filled up the 230-seat theater at the Central Library in Minneapolis. Here are Pete and I with the young filmmakers:

(And speaking of old friends, one of our favorite 90-Second Newbery filmmakers from the early days of the festival—Jennings Mergenthal of Tacoma—is now a college student in the Minneapolis area, and was nice enough to stop by the screening! For old times’ sake, this year in Minneapolis I went ahead and showed Jennings’ first entry for the film festival, from all the way back in 2013: a Claymation version of Hendrik Willem van Loon’s 1922 Medal Winner The Story of Mankind. You can see that, and all of Jennings’ excellent 90-Second Newbery claymation movies, here.)

Let’s take a look at some of the Minnesota-made 90-Second Newbery movies we featured at the screening!

I always love it when filmmakers put weird twists on the material, and Breanne and Tabetha of Boeckman Middle School certainly do that here. It’s an adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie, in which all the parts are played by . . . wait for it . . . chicken nuggets:

On the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges said, “I was impressed by the total commitment to this gloriously goofy premise . . . Fun to watch, and remarkably faithful to the book!”

Also from Boeckman Middle School was Ben and Cohen’s adaptation of Padraic Colum’s 1922 Honor Book The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles:

On the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges said, “Fantastic Lego stop-motion animation! It was a clever twist to reset the story in high school . . . the Argonauts’ van was a highlight, especially how it dumps out its crew and then goes zooming off on its own.”

Madison, Brigid, Hazel and Vot of Somerset Elementary did this movie of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet:

As the judges said, “Great idea to set Hatchet in outer space! The rocketship travel scenes were particularly fun to watch, with the rocket flying crazily all over the place and then crashing on Mars . . . The stop-motion animation was fluid and the sets were satisfyingly detailed.”

Mitali M. and Frankie C. of Sanford Middle School gave us this version Three Times Lucky, done in the style of a scrapbook:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said, “A brilliant and creative idea to tell the story in the form of a scrapbook. The photographs and illustrations and extra items (the footprints! the scrawled notes in the margins! the fancy illuminated letters! the blood splatters!) made for a visually engaging experience.”

Next up is another Lego stop-motion movie. This one’s by Cambell Borrowman of Simley Middle School, and it’s of the 1941 Medal Winner Call it Courage:

On the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges say, “Spectacular! The lego stop-motion was elaborate and beautifully done . . . the chase scene when he’s leaving the island is a nail-biter.”

This was a big year for stop-motion in Minnesota. The next one is another stop-motion, this time of Richard and Florence Atwater’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Lucas of Inver Grove Heights Middle School:

As the review on the 90-Second Newbery website says, “The stop-motion lego work was exquisitely detailed, the green screen work resourceful and on-point, and the voiceover acting funny and expressive . . . Great elaborate animation, lots of witty dialogue, great editing and fun additions throughout!”

We don’t have room to feature every single Minnesota movie we screened on February 10 in this one post, but you can check out those other great movies, with their reviews, by following these links:


When You Reach Me by Ben, Sofia, Jordyn, Alex, Arianna, Mr. TJ, Ms. Amber, and Mr. Nate. of Central Park Elementary

The War That Saved My Life by Ms. Durand’s Class of Oneka Elementary School

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Highlands Elementary

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Eddie, Katherine, Gabby, and Bella of Highlands Elementary

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by Leo and Clare of Somerset Elementary School

Old Yeller by Maddie of Inver Grove Heights Middle School

Holes by Joshua A., Joshua B.G., and Jamari B. of Anwatin Middle School

Holes by Tysen, Gavin, Preston, Tyson, Johnny, Camron, and Caleb of Spring Grove School

The Giver by Brianna, Kenzie, Ava, and Julia of Spring Grove School

Thanks so much to all the young filmmakers, and to the teachers and parents and librarians who supported them! Remember, it’s never too early to get to work on a 90-Second Newbery movie for next year. You can turn your movie in at any time, and the deadline will be January 11, 2019!

Here’s the final montage we showed at the end of the show. Thanks again!

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep us going. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

90-Second Newbery 2018: SAN ANTONIO!

February 7, 2018

Do you like the 90-Second Newbery? Do you want us to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

The very first screening of this year’s season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival just happened in San Antonio, on February 3! Above are stills from some of the Texas-made movies we featured.

This is our third year doing the 90-Second Newbery in San Antonio. It’s really taken off! This time we were lucky enough to get to screen it at the Mays Family Center at the Witte Museum. It’s a beautiful space. And check out this huge turnout. About 500 folks came! Thanks so much to the filmmakers for making the movies, and to the audience for supporting the event!

Thanks to organizers Laura Cole and her team at Bibliotech (Bexar County’s Digital Library) and Christa Aldrich and everyone at H-E-B Read 3, HEB Texas Grocery’s literacy program. And particular thanks to Judge Nelson Wolff of Bexar County for supporting the project from the beginning. Laura, Christa, and Judge Wolff all attended the screening, along with the mayor of San Antonio (who got up and made a speech to kick off the show), the sherriff, and other city political dignitaries. I was really honored!

Here are some kid filmmakers hanging out with the sherriff, Judge Wolff, and Mayor Nirenberg. And Laura and Christa, kicking off the program.

I was really delighted with my cohost this year, Katherine Catmull (The Radiant Road and Summer and Bird). She’s not only an author, but a legit actress, and she was able to nail the crazy opening song-and-dance skit (video upcoming) with verve and wit. Thanks so much for lending us your talent and hilariousness, Katherine!

We received many great entries from Texas this year. So many that we couldn’t feature them all at the screening. But here are some of the standout movies, who won CASH PRIZES for their schools thanks to the generosity of H.E.B. Read 3.

This movie of Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl won an Honorable Mention and $250 for Rhodes Elementary (full review on 90-Second Newbery blog here):

Third place (and $500) went to this adaptation of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon by Alek C., Derek M., Aiden U., Anthony S., Julianna A., and Sarai C. of Maverick Elementary (full review here). This movie has a fun twist: it’s done in the style of the Minions of Despicable Me!

Second place, and a whopping $750, went to Madison Elementary for Vincent B. and Francisco R.’s Lego stop-motion adaptation of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet (full review here):

First place, and the grand prize of $1500, was awarded to Robert L. Vale Middle School, Northside ISD, for this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2009 Medal Winner The Graveyard Book (by Daniel V., Makayla B., Iyannah G., John O., and Gia B.), which is done with shadow puppets and sung to the Scooby-Doo theme song! (Full review here.)

I wish I could feature all the Texas-made movies I received in this post, but that would clutter up this already monstrous post! Here are the rest of the Texas-made movies which were featured at the San Antonio screening. Click through to check them out:


My Father’s Dragon by Aubriana V., Nathaniel S., Alejandra D.L., Valerie A., and Bryan T.

My Father’s Dragon by BiblioTech South patrons

Roller Girl by Jude, Isabella, Claire, Mariela, Dhara, Ava, Izara, Julian, and Jude

Doctor DeSoto by Isaac and Matthew

The Wednesday Wars by Milad, Magnus, and Toby

Because of Winn-Dixie by Losoya Intermediate Library/Book Club 6th grade

Holes by Kingsley Onyema Jr. and Gerardo Flores

The Giver by Vincent Lopez

The Graveyard Book by Jessica D., Cira G., Kyndal S., Autumn W.

Holes by Madeline M., Dylan S., Kylie C.

The One and Only Ivan by Anna M and Margaret M.

Last Stop on Market Street by Emma D. / ShadowCreations845

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Savannah

Roller Girl by 5th & 6th Critic’s Club of Trinity Episcopal School of Austin, TX

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Danielle, McKenzie, Maria, Selena, Ashlynn, Sebastian, and special guest Ms. Tondre

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Elise, Jann, Melissa, Jonesha, Aaleya, Chloe, Olivia, Maleah, Kaylah, and Eva

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Angelica C., Alexis S., Taylor V., Sarah C., Carlos S., Stephanie B., and Lisa A. of BiblioTech Outreach Group

Walk Two Moons by Noah C. and Ally R. of Alamo Heights High School

Thanks to all the filmmakers, and the teachers and parents and others who helped them! In case you missed it, here’s the closing montage of all the videos we showed at the San Antonio 2018 screening. I’m looking forward to seeing what Texas has in store for next year! The deadline of January 11, 2019 is coming sooner than you think. And we’ve already reserved the same venue for the screening, on February 9, 2019. That’s just a year away! Start working now!

* Some of the pictures in this post by Adam Raymond Peche of SAY SÍ.

Do you like the 90-Second Newbery? Do you want us to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

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