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90-Second Newbery 2018: PORTLAND!

May 11, 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 April 14, we brought the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to Portland, Oregon! We’ve been doing screenings in Portland ever since the film festival’s beginning, seven years ago, when we were in only three cities (the others being Chicago and New York). Our annual tour has grown to fourteen cities—but creative, beautiful Portland always remains a highlight.

Our hosts and collaborators are the fine folks at Open Signal, a venerable media arts center in Portland (it used to be called Portland Community Media). Elisa Barrios, Katmeow Garcia, Yousef Hatlani, and so many others at Open Signal worked hard to make the screening happen. I’m very grateful to them.

I’m also grateful to my cohost Dale Basye (author of the Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go middle-grade series). He’s been my Portland co-host for the past few years, and he’s fantastic onstage every time. He can sing! He can dance! He can crack wise! Unfortunately, the audio of my video of our opening skit is sketchy, so I won’t be posting it, but here are some pictures of me and him and our young filmmakers:

Let’s check out the local movies that were shown at the screening! For instance, Vivienne, Aika, Jaydyn, Henry, and Abigail of Cedar Park Elementary Library came all the way down from Seattle, Washington to showcase their stellar version of Thanhha Lai’s 2012 Honor Book Inside Out and Back Again:

As our judges wrote, “What a work of art! All the characters and the backdrops were so beautifully drawn. The occasional animation worked well (the flying kick, the ‘pink boy’ chasing Ha) but the quick cuts, zooms, and thoughtful cinematography also served well to propel the story forward and keep it feeling dynamic and propulsive. Even though it was long at 3+ minutes, I wouldn’t cut it down by a single a second—everything worked and felt necessary!” Read the full review here.

Open Signal’s Spring Break “So You Want to be a Filmmaker” Camp made three great movies in their weeklong workshop. (You can learn more about Open Signal’s youth programs here.) All three were done by Moto, Sean (a.k.a. “Hobbs”), Solomon, and Victoria. The first is an adaptation of Rita Williams-Garcia’s 2011 Newbery Honor Book One Crazy Summer:

As our judges wrote, “The kooky pitch-shifted voiceover performance gives this movie a daffy, almost avant-garde vibe, especially with the lurching, loopy, fun-to-watch cut-paper animation—characters hopping over each other, skateboarding around, zooming all over the place . . . I’m not sure what was happening in the ‘Horito laughed his head off’ scene, but the ‘I watched my mother get arrested’ scene was particularly well done, especially with the cut-and-paste army of Black Panthers with arms upraised in salute—weird but oddly compelling! ” Read the full review here.

The same group also did this very good version of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan:

As our judges wrote, “A pleasure to watch! The movie is fast but never feels hurried . . . the clay animals are deftly sculpted and skullfully animated . . . Great work!” Read the full review here.

The third and final movie by Moto, “Hobbs,” Solomon, and Victoria is an adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

As our judges wrote, “Ambitious, nimble, and fun to watch . . . I particularly liked the oddly long and drawn-out singing to the pig, and the direct malediction hurled straight at the camera: ‘You forgot me! You’re cursed!’ . . . Good music and opening titles sequence too! A fun sprint through the story.” Read the full review here.

Next up is this skillful stop-motion movie of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet by Mac Childers and Cooper Hurt of Capital Community Television:

As our judges wrote, “This stop-motion lego movie told the story of the book very effectively, somehow hardly using hardly any words! All of Brian’s actions were very clearly rendered, from the way he makes a fire to how he kills a pig with bow and arrow (and turns that pig into edible meat!). The skunk episode and the tornado were also resourcefully and artfully done . . . Great movie, entertaining and accurate to the book!” Read the full review here.

Also from Capital Community Television, Anya Beebe and “Hip-Hop Angel” made this adaptation of E.L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Newbery Medal Winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler:

As our judges wrote, “Telling the story from the point of view of Jamie was a great idea! It got up and running quickly, putting us in his shoes and making us see how he feels about the whole adventure . . . The addition of Siri to the story was a nice modern touch. It was funny how they literally found baloney in the files, and the ‘Angel’ statue was amusingly posed. Fun and entertaining!” Read the full review here.

At last, the Salem Public Library Teen Advisory Board made this movie of Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted:

The judges “loved this bonkers, breakneck-paced sprint through the story . . . with the insane, delightful twist to retell it entirely with google-eyed vegetables! . . . This was a fun romp, and it looked like it was a blast to make!” Read the full review here.

Thanks again to everyone who came to the the film festival, and all the organizers and folks who made it happen! (And thanks especially to Joe and Madeleine, my old friends whose house I stay at every time I come to Portland. Hanging out with them would make the whole Portland trip worth it, even if the film festival weren’t happening at all!)

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 April 14. 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: 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.

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