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90-Second Newbery: Looking Back at 2017, Looking Ahead to 2018!

July 7, 2017

Want to support us? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

The 6th Annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival season is over, but let’s look back on what a great year this was. We screened in an unprecedented twelve cities, with nine stellar co-hosts . . .

Including this year’s Newbery Medal winner, our old friend Kelly Barnhill (The Girl Who Drank The Moon)! The stars ain’t gonna align like that every year! Above, check out a video of Kelly, fellow co-host Keir Graff (The Matchstick Castle), and me performing this year’s opening skit. (The premise: an expose of the fact that so many Newbery-winning books feature an animal getting hurt or killed. Then it pivots into a tweaked version of the opening number of Hamilton. Watch it—Kelly and Keir really rip up the stage!

Mark your calendar for next year’s screenings

We’re already putting together the schedule for 2018. Some of the screening dates have already been confirmed (San Antonio (2/3), Minneapolis (2/10), Salt Lake City and Ogden, UT (2/23-24), Chicago (3/11), Oakland, CA (3/17), San Francisco (3/18). I’ll update again in the fall when we have a full lineup confirmed.

Want to bring the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to your town? Want me to speak about or screen the film festival at your school or library, or even teach seminars on how to make your own 90-Second Newbery? Contact me at james@90secondnewbery.com. Let’s do it!

Make a movie for next year!

It’s never too early to start working on your 90-Second Newbery movies for next year. The deadline is January 12, 2018, but of course you can work on and submit your movies at any time.

Want to make a movie, but are having a hard time getting started? Here are lots of filmmaking resources, including a helpful step-by-step guide. Want to watch some of the best 90-Second Newbery videos to get inspired? Here are 25 of the most popular videos we’ve received.

Some highlights from 2017

Speaking of popular videos, let’s review some standout entries from this year. From coast to coast, everyone loved Fuzzy Pizza’s adaptation of Elizabeth George Speare’s 1984 Honor Book Sign of the Beaver (full review here):



Portland Claymation sorceress Anya Schooler blew everyone’s minds with her masterful stop-motion clay adaptation of Mary and Conrad Buff’s 1952 Honor Book The Apple and the Arrow (full review here):



The students From Williamston Explorer Elementary School of Mason Public Library in Mason, Michigan made this ebullient, crowd-pleasing adaptation of Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl (full review here):



One of the best creative twists I saw this year was Charlie of Highland Park, IL’s adaptation of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet. It takes the survival story of the book and tells it in the style of a virtual reality video game (full review here):



Another satisfyingly out-of-left-field adaptation was San Francisco’s Felix Milionis’ version of Arnold Lobel’s 1999 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together, done in the style of a Tarantino-esque hitman movie (full review here):



We also got some fantastic animation this year! Check out Mya Prado’s prizewinning adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes (full review here):


All in all, one of the best years ever for the 90-Second Newbery. I can’t wait to see what we get next year!

Want to look back on the memories of how the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival came to your town this year? Here are links to of all my recaps of the various 90-Second Newbery shows, organized by date and city:

January 21, 2017: San Antonio, TX with Nikki Loftin
February 11, 2017: Tacoma, WA with Doug Mackey and Keir Graff
February 12, 2017: Portland, OR with Dale Basye and Keir Graff 
February 17, 2017: Oakland, CA with Marcus Ewert and Keir Graff
February 18, 2017: San Francisco, CA with Marcus Ewert and Keir Graff
February 25, 2017: Minneapolis, MN with Kelly Barnhill and Keir Graff 
March 11, 2017: New York City with Keir Graff
March 12, 2017: Brooklyn, NY with Keir Graff
March 19: Rochester, NY with Charles Benoit
April 1, 2017: Chicago, IL with Keir Graff
April 22, 2017: Asheville, NC with Alan Gratz
April 30, 2017: Brookline, MA with M.T. Anderson

Thanks for all the great times in 2017. Looking forward to 2018!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

90-Second Newbery 2017: BOSTON AREA

June 7, 2017

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Our final screening of the 2017 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival was on April 30 at the Brookline Public Library. It was our first screening in the Boston area, but it won’t be our last!

Big thanks to co-host and friend M.T. Anderson (author of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Feed, Whales on Stilts!, and his newest, the fantastic graphic novel Yvain). We’ve known each other for years, and it was a real treat to share the musical stage with him at last. Check out our opening skit and musical number at the top of this post, in which we sing the Paul-Bunyan-esque praises of John Newbery himself . . . a giant of a man who “ate every book he ever read,” who “once fashioned a pretty hat out of J.K. Rowling’s skull.” Thanks to Erin Kinney and Simas Phillips of Brookline Interactive Group for videoing the screening.

Our Brookline screening was a mix of the best 90-Second Newbery movies that I’ve received throughout the years, plus some great Boston-area-made movies that I wanted to highlight. One of the most inventive was this movie by Robert Carter and the kids of the Goodnow Library, below.

Everyone remembers Charlotte’s Web, right? But it didn’t win a Newbery Medal in 1953, just a Newbery Honor. Does anyone remember the actual Medal winner of that year, Secret of the Andes? Nobody! Or the other Honor Book, The Bears on Hemlock Mountain? Nope, no one! This movie is about the resentment the other winners from that year must feel:

On the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges said, “I love how the movie is shot in the form of a talk show. The repeated identical clips of the same audience clapping make it even more surreal. I was impressed by Wilbur’s elaborate pig costume and the way he is hot-dogging it from the moment he comes onstage, just like a too-big-for-his-britches star. It’s funny the way all the other characters react to Wilbur: the host with barely-masked impatience, Jonathan from Bears on Hemlock Mountain hilariously deadpan and weird, and Cusi from Secret of the Andes flat-out furious: ‘Where’s my movie! Where are my Snapchat followers!'”

The Brookline Interactive Group were kind enough to film the whole screening on April 30, which you can see here.. They also put on workshops in which young filmmakers could make their own 90-Second Newbery movies! For instance, here’s a movie of Matthew de la Peña’s 2016 Newbery Medal winner Last Stop on Market Street as adapted by Ofri, Dan, Maria, and Camilo:

As the 90-Second Newbery website says in its review, “Ingenious Lego stop-motion animation! Elaborate and well-done. I can tell how much care and time was put into this one. I appreciated the witty blink-and-you-miss-them subtleties, like how Darth Vader is one of the folks who come on the bus. Constructing the bus itself out cardboard and paper was resourceful. Great voiceover narration, clear and engaging. And I like how the soup kitchen pretty much serves nothing but cake!”

Last Stop on Market Street isn’t the only great video we received from Brookline Interactive Group. Actually, they made so many great videos that there isn’t room to feature all of them in this post! But you can check them out in the links below:

Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Newbery Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie adapted by Samantha and Anya

Theodore and Gregor’s 1999 Newbery Medal Winner Holes adapted by Theodore and Gregor

Neil Gaiman’s 2009 Newbery Medal Winner The Graveyard Book adapted by Minghao and Rowena

Pam Munoz Ryan’s 2016 Newbery Honor Book Echo adapted by Alex and Brian

E.B. White’s 1953 Newbery Honor Book Charlotte’s Web

Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Newbery Medal Winner The Crossover adapted by David and Andrew

Thanks to everyone who pulled together to make this screening happen. Thanks to Caroline Richardson of the Brookline Public Library for hosting us, and special thanks to Kate Gilbert for being the prime mover in making this screening happen (and for hosting me at her lovely home, and throwing not one but two parties!). Our program was part of ArtWeek Boston, sponsored by Brookline Community Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Brookline Commission for the Arts. Thanks also to Porter Square Books for handling book sales.

Let’s wrap it up with the montage we used to close out the show, below. See you next year!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

90-Second Newbery 2017: SAN ANTONIO

May 10, 2017

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Excuse me for my self-indulgence, but I love that first picture above. I look like the dictator of some kind of insane cartoon wonderland. Which is, to be sure, where I rightfully belong.

In fact, the picture was taken at the very first screening of this year’s season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival—which was on January 21, 2017 in San Antonio, at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre! (I know, I know. This post is way overdue.)

In the second picture above, I join my co-host Nikki Loftin in congratulating Mya Prado, the grand prize winner of the San Antonio 90-Second Newbery, for her great animated adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes. More about her, and the other winners and filmmakers, below!

This is our second year in San Antonio. Thanks to Laura Cole and her team at Bibliotech, Bexar County’s Digital Library, for bringing this all together. Thanks also to Christa Aldrich and everyone at H-E-B Read 3, HEB Texas Grocery’s literacy program, for sponsoring the program. And special thanks to Judge Nelson Wolff of Bexar County for supporting the project from the beginning. Here are Christa and Laura introducing the program:

And a gigantic thanks to Nikki Loftin (author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, Wish Girl and Nightingale’s Nest—check out all of her books here). Just like last year, she sang like a diva, she danced like a dream, she cracked wise like a pro, and she generally classed up the whole show! I love co-hosting the film festival with Nikki (check out how she brought down the house with last year’s opening)!

Below is a picture of Nikki and me doing this year’s opening skit with our audience volunteer. In it, we discover a machine that creates future Newbery-winning books out of thin air . . . but at a gruesome price! Unfortunately I don’t have a good video of the skit in San Antonio, but if you’re dying to see it, you can see the same skit done at the Minneapolis screening with me, author Keir Graff, and this year’s Newbery Medal winner Kelly Barnhill here. (It’s too bad, because Nikki and our young volunteer (whose name I’ve unfortunately misplaced) really nailed it!)

This year’s 90-Second Newbery got a jolt of serious star power. Famous director Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn) taped this introduction that we showed at the top of the show. I’m so honored and grateful! Come to think of it, it makes sense that Robert Rodriguez would understand the value of the 90-Second Newbery. After all, he made his start by directing the feature El Mariachi, which he shot with a budget of $7000 (!!!), a movie that went on to make millions and indeed, his name. The kids who make 90-Second Newberys are like Robert Rodriguez: perhaps with limited resources starting out, armed with little but the love of filmmaking and the passion to tell a story. They too are finding success. (Full disclosure: I saw El Mariachi when I was in college (I think 1993?) and I remember being blown away by it even before I knew it had been made on a shoestring. I like many of Rodriguez’s movies, but the one that has a special place in my heart is his Planet Terror section of Grindhouse, an adrenaline-soaked gory thrill ride. So good.) Thanks, Robert Rodriguez, for this inspiring introduction!

And of course, thanks most of all to all the kids for the fantastic movies they made—and the audience who came out, packing the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre!

The San Antonio screening is different than all the other 90-Second Newbery screenings because, thanks to the generosity of HEB, we’re able to offer cash prizes for the best movies we received. Let’s check those out.

There was an honorable mention for this adaptation of Beverly Cleary’s 1984 Medal Winner Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Noah Cotton of Alamo Heights High School (full review on the 90-Second Newbery blog here). He won $250 for his school!

Third place and $500 went to Elijah, Vincent, Josselin, and Esteban of San Antonio ISD for their adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner Tale of Despereaux (full review here):

Second place and $750 went to this great adaptation of Jacqueline Kelly’s 2010 Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Allison Reyna of Alamo Heights High School. (full review here).

First place, and a check of $1500, went to Mya Prado of South San ISD for her animated adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes (full review on the 90-Second Newbery site here):

I’m thrilled and proud of all the great movies we’ve received from Texas this year! Here are a few more notable ones, below. (I wanted to feature them all, but you can only have so much embedded video in one blog post.)

Joshua, Tallulah, Kalea, Bryan, and Professor Floyd of Mission Academy turned in this great adaptation of Scott O’Dell, 1968 Honor Book The Black Pearl:

Here Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures gets a great adaptation from Hannah, Oluchi, Olivia, Valerie, Mykhi, Madison, Julian, and Ryan of Frances M. Rhodes Elementary:

And Pershing Elementary School did a very entertaining adaptation of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Medal Winner Shiloh here:

I’d love to show all the great local movies that we featured at the San Antonio screening, but there simply isn’t room! But you should check out all these other worthy entries:


Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White, 1953 Honor Book) adapted by Hiram and Jason

Princess Academy (Shannon Hale, 2006 Honor Book) adapted by Sofia, Karen, and Sarah by Martinez Films

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Noah, Alyssa, Adam, and Keona of Creekwood Middle School

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Camille McWhorter of Creekwood Middle School

Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson, 1978 Medal Winner) adapted by Daniella Garcia’s class of South San ISD – Kazen Middle School

The Slave Dancer (Paula Fox, 1974 Medal Winner) adapted by Aaliyah and Giselle of Scobee Middle School

The Upstairs Room (Johanna Reiss, 1973 Honor Book) adapted by Juanita, Yisselle, and Yuliana of Dwight Middle School, SSAISD

Last Stop On Market Street (Matt de la Peña, 2016 Medal Winner) adapted by Hannah, Ty, Victoria, Anaya, John, Francisco, Mr. Sandrin and Mr. Smith

One-Eyed Cat (Paula Fox, 1985 Honor Book) adapted by Elliott Brooks of Shepard Middle School, SSAISD

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Kyle, James, Elaon, and Adam

Last Stop On Market Street (Matt de la Peña, 2016 Medal Winner) adapted by Emelyn and Hector of Margil Elementary School

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Catherine, Skye, Austin, and Brigham

The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) adapted by Spencer, Kim, Rebecca, and Daniel of Green Table Productions

Want to see more pictures of the day? Dave Wilson has photos for you here.

And here’s the closing montage of all the videos we showed at the San Antonio 2017 screening. Looking forward to seeing what you all make for next year! Get working now—the deadline of January 12, 2018 is coming sooner than you think!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

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