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90-Second Newbery 2017: Thanks, Bay Area!

May 5, 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.

On February 17 and 18, the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival had its SIXTH ANNUAL screenings in San Francisco and Oakland. I hosted them with fellow Chicago author Keir Graff (The Matchstick Castle) and San Francisco’s own Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat).

Keir gamely co-hosted many screenings with me in 2017. Marcus has co-hosted the Bay Area screenings with me the last few years. They both rip up the stage every time. The beast of Chicago and the jewel of San Francisco!

In the picture below, Marcus, Keir, and I goof off during the opening skit, assisted by our audience volunteer (whose name, I’m afraid to say, I’ve misplaced—but she did a great job!). It’s a scene in which we discover a machine that can create Newbery-winning books out of thin air, but at a grisly price:

Unfortunately the videos of the opening skit in the Bay Area didn’t turn out. But if you want to get the drift of what we were doing, the video of the opening skit in Minneapolis represents it well!

Thanks to Carla Kozak, Christy Estrovitz, Cristina Mitra, and Meghan Monahan of the San Francisco Public Library for bringing us out for yet another year. And thanks to Erica Siskind and Nina Lindsay of the Oakland Public Library for bringing us to the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library too. Special thanks to Summer Dawn Laurie and Katherine Megna-Weber of Books Inc. for doing the bookselling at both events. San Francisco is so welcoming and full of positive attitude. I love doing the film festival here!

This year we had a record number of San Francisco entries. Let’s check them out!

You may remember Felix and Taytum from last year. They did a slick, genre-bending adaptation of Jean Craighead George’s 1960 Honor Book My Side of the Mountain—with the story’s setting ingeniously shifted to outer space, so that it became My Side of the Wormhole.

Felix and Taytum’s submission this year uses Kate DiCamillo’s (non-Newbery-winning) The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as a kind of framing device to ambitiously shuttle between three different Newbery honorees: Sterling North’s 1964 Honor Book Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era, Jack Gantos’ 2012 Medal Winner Dead End in Norvelt, and in neat bit of twisty recursion, their old adaptation of My Side of the Mountain:

As the judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, (check out full review here), “Stylish and intriguing . . . pushing the boundaries of what can be done with a 90-Second Newbery . . . beautifully shot and beautifully edited . . . The music choice was propulsive and inspired . . . The rewinding reference to last year’s entry of My Side of the Mountain was totally ingenious . . . An adventurous, experimental, exhilarating entry!”

On his own, Felix also adapted Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together, with a hilarious twist: Toad isn’t a gentle swamp creature, but rather a stylish hit man in the 1990s Tarantino mold:

On the 90-Second Newbery blog, the judges said (in part), “A brilliant twist . . . Toad isn’t a bumbling, sweetly foolish amphibian who is friends with a frog, but rather a cold-hearted urban murderer-for-hire who is apparently friends with nobody! And instead of Toad crossing off from his list innocent items like ‘eat breakfast’ or ‘take walk,’ it’s a list of plants he must shoot! It was hilarious how the low stakes of targets (a flower, bush, and tree) ironically undercut the intense action-movie style of the movie.”

What other Bay Area entries were shown? How about Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes, here adapted by Armando, Alexi, Chloe, Jazmin, Arianna, Reina, Raymond, and Jaime of Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond, CA:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said (read whole review here), “I like how this movie included the material about the stuff that happened in the past that caused the curse to fall on Stanley Yelnats—too many 90-Second Newbery videos skip that important backstory! The green screen was resourcefully deployed and the background music pulled the whole video together and made it feel of one piece. There were many great moments, like the whirling transformation of Katherine Barlow into Kissin’ Kate, and the exaggerated double-take when Stanley finds out Zero’s name is short for Zeroni, and when the ‘lizard’ bites Kissin’ Kate.”

Here is Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner Tale of Desperaux as adapted by Aarav P., Astrid M., Steven L., and Vanessa B. of Commodore Sloat Elementary:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery praised the movie (full review here), saying, “I loved how everyone raps their lines in verse . . . The way that Roscuro sings ‘Soup and the baaaaanquet haaallll’ was particularly fun. All of the performers were charismatic and committed and fun to watch, and many of the verses were ingenious!”

Here’s another Kate DiCamillo adaptation! It’s her 2014 Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, as done by Omara Rosenfeld, Karina Anders, and Lilah Anders:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog (full review here) claimed it was “ingenious to have ‘Ulysses’ be not a squirrel, but an astronaut! (Or a ‘squirrel-astronaut.’) The performances of all the characters were so fun—I especially liked it when Tootie said, ‘I just sucked up a space squirrel!’ . . . The slow-motion credits sequence of whipping hair around over ‘Space Oddity’ was a perfect way to end it.”

I’m always up for some good stop-motion. Atom Glover does not disappoint with his adaptation of Ellen Raskin’s 1979 Medal Winner The Westing Game:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog (full review here) called this a “fantastic movie, very stylish and impressive to watch! I like how the movie deploys so many tools to get the story across: through live action, voice over, subtitles, and of course elaborate stop-motion Legos . . . I love how sprawling and elaborate the car crash scene is! The movie took an unwieldy, complex mystery and boiled it down to its essence while staying true to its spirit.”

Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street is actually set in San Francisco, so of course we got an adaptation of it from San Francisco! It’s by D’Arion Curry-Matthews at TheMIX@SFPL:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog (full review here) called this “stylish, with beautiful cinematography! Great establishing shots around San Francisco at the beginning, and evocative music choice. I appreciated the unforced, natural performances from the actors, and the movie is leisurely in a good way . . . A true pro entry.”

Every year Allison Halla of St. Andrews Episcopal in Saratoga has her students make movies for the film festival. This year St. Andrews really came through, with a record thirteen videos! It was hard to make a choice about which movies to screen from this excellent haul. Let’s check out the three that we showed at the Bay Area screenings, but you can see all of the St. Andrews videos here.

First up, how about Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Harry and Som:

The judges said (full review here), “Good use of stock footage, stock photos, background music and sound effects to enhance the movie. I appreciate that you took the time to get the right props for costumes (the headsets for the pilots, the sunglasses, etc.) I like the way the movie meticulously builds its story, step by step, giving this momentous historical event the sober treatment it deserves. ”

Have you ever seen the viral video of the bottle flipping trick? Here’s another, rather stranger version of Bomb this time by Ben, Ethan, Ian, and Anthony that takes its inspiration from that video:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, “The twist behind this movie is one of the most bizarre I’ve ever seen for a 90-Second Newbery—replacing the idea of inventing the atomic bomb with inventing the water-bottle flipping trick . . . I especially loved the scene that was like a Rube Goldberg machine, the chain reaction of one thing smacking into the next (even with a Newton’s cradle!) leading to the bottle plopping on just the right spot . . . Creative and resourceful.”

There’s just one more movie I’d like to feature today, and it’s an adaptation of Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Medal Winner The Crossover by Sina, Tyler, Tristan, and Quinn of St. Andrews Episcopal:

As the judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said (in part), “There was really good acting throughout this, especially by the two brothers . . . a chemistry that feels like family. I like the way the music comes in when JB makes his move on Sweet Tea, especially the Katy Perry bit . . . I really love the doctor who keeps changing his mind on the diagnosis: ‘He’s gonna die! He’s alive! He’s dead!’ . . . Great work!”

And that’s it for the Bay Area screenings for this year! Thanks for making it happen, I can’t wait for next year! (Remember: the deadline for entries is January 12, 2018!)

Here’s the closing montage of all the movies that were shown at the San Francisco screening:

And here’s the closing montage at the Oakland screening:

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: ASHEVILLE!

April 24, 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.

That picture above? It’s from the first ever Asheville, NC 90-Second Newbery Film Festival on April 22, 2017! From left to right, you can see co-host Alan Gratz, me, and audience volunteer Kayenta onstage at the Pack Memorial Library during our opening skit.

Every year, the 90-Second Newbery expands into new cities. This year, due to the efforts of Elliot Weiner, we added Asheville to the list. Elliot is a man of many talents. He used to lead groups of kids to participate in the 90-Second Newbery back when he lived in Tacoma. He helped them make great video adaptations of Joyce Sidman’s 2011 Honor Book Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted, and Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats.

Since then, Elliot moved from Tacoma to Asheville. It was his bright idea to bring our film festival there too! He arranged our venue at the Pack Memorial Library, partnered with Spellbound Children’s Bookshop for publicity, landed grants from the Asheville Awesome Foundation and Friends of Buncombe County Libraries (thanks so much!), and got the word out—resulting in a whopping 13 movies from Asheville in our very first year. He made award statuettes, popped popcorn, and rolled out a literal red carpet with paparazzi for the screening event. Thank you so much, Elliot, for making the film festival happen in Asheville. I’m already looking forward to returning next year! (It also gives me a chance to visit with my old friend Nate Murphy and his wife Meriam and their daughter Myrrah, who kindly put me up for the weekend.)

Thanks also to my co-host Alan Gratz! Go read his great books Refugee, Projekt 1065, and his “League of Seven” series (and many, many more). I had met Alan once before at the Decatur Book Festival, and bought League of Seven, which I enjoyed very much (but was too shy to tell him when we met in person). Alan came loaded for bear, with the song and lines of the opening skit memorized, game for anything! Alan, you were a great co-host!

Special thanks to Kayenta who helped us out in the beginning skit, and to the Pack Memorial Library for putting on this event, in particular Jesse and Raj. Above all, thanks to the filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who attended on April 22!

Here are some pictures from the day:

Let’s check out some of the Asheville movies we featured that day! I won’t be able to feature all thirteen on them in this post—that would be too unwieldy!—but I’ll link to all of them. And all of the movies have been reviewed on the 90-Second Newbery website. Some excerpts of the reviews are included below.

First off, let’s check out this animated paper cut-out version of Robert C. O’Brien’s 1972 Medal Winner Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Lola Black. With Lola’s permission, I added the voices of my daughters Lucy and Ingrid to the movie, as well as my niece and nephew Domingo and Amalia, so that kids who couldn’t read the subtitles could also enjoy the movie:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, in part, “Beautifully drawn and fluidly animated! The movie gets the story across with quiet subtlety, resourcefully using nothing but nature sound effects, animated cut-paper drawings, and pithy intertitles . . . Impressive and wonderfully crafted.”

Next up is Ruth S. Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon as adapted by Gavin, Iva, Evie Gray, and Fern of Mechanical Eye Microcinema:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, “I like how the movie switches between live-action and stop-motion–the alternation keeps the audience on its toes and piques visual interest. . . . Great clay animals and elaborate sets . . . Tight script, impressive craftsmanship, engaging acting, very entertaining!”

Elliot Weiner, Chanda Calentine, and the ACT Youth Theatre Program submitted two great movies for the film festival. First was Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog said, “I love this idea of doing a ‘horror’ twist on the book! Great idea to start with a flashforward of the penguin Captain Cook etc. in jail, and then flashing back to see how we got to that desperate point–establishes the high stakes early. . . . The funny ‘quork! quork!’ penguin noises throughout worked well too. Impressive production values, good cinematography and editing, a blast!”

Elliot, Chanda, and the ACT Youth Theatre Program also did a similarly great adaptation of Eleanor Estes’ 1945 Honor Book The Hundred Dresses, which you can see here (along with its own glowing review.)

Those weren’t the only great movies we got from Asheville! Here are the others—go ahead and click on the links to watch the movies and read the reviews:


Jerry Spinelli’s 1998 Honor Book Wringer, adapted by Zachary Eden and Friends of North Windy Ridge Intermediate

Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by May, Caitlyn, Eve, Lee, Elly, Olivia, and Toby

Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Charlie Marsh

Cece Bell’s 2015 Honor Book El Deafo by Colette Russ

Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together by Sully, Cade, and Greyson of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner The Tale of Despereaux by Ashley, Grace, Mahogany, and Miles of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal Winner The Tale of Despereaux by Delphi, Kayla, Mya, Lydia of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street by Alex, Harrison, Jett, and Wyatt of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Christopher Paul Curtis’ 2000 Medal Winner Bud, Not Buddy by Ada, Ashni, Coral, Ife, and Maggie of Isaac Dickson Elementary

Thanks so much, Asheville! Here’s the closing montage that we ran at the end of the afternoon. Looking forward to seeing what movies I get from North Caroline next year! Deadline is January 12, 2018. Stay tuned to the 90-Second Newbery website for details!

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: PORTLAND and TACOMA!

April 17, 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.

I’m late posting this, but better late than never!

On February 11 and 12, we did the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Tacoma, WA and Portland, OR. Thanks to John Hargis for taping our opening skit in Tacoma (which you can watch above). In it, I along with co-hosts Keir Graff and Doug Mackey learn the true secret to winning Newbery medals. Special thanks to our young volunteer who played the owner of Fluffles!

I didn’t get a video of the opening skit in Portland, but here I am with Keir and my Portland co-host Dale Basye (author of the Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go series) and our audience volunteer Ramona (who is the daughter of my friend-since-childhood Raj!) right before the Portland show, at their historic Hollywood Theatre:

And here are some pictures from the Tacoma show! A gigantic THANK YOU to Sara Sunshine Holloway, for putting the show together at the Tacoma Public Library, year after year. Tacoma does it right: red carpet, prize statuettes for the filmmakers, popcorn and cookies, Hollywood-style posters of the Newbery-winning book covers, swarming paparazzi, a lot of genuine community support and good-feeling!

Let’s look at some of the standout movies we got from Portland and Tacoma this year.

Last year, the astonishingly talented 14-year-old Anya Schooler wowed us with her Claymation adaptation of Ruth Gannet’s My Father’s Dragon. This year Anya’s back with an even more impressive adaptation of Mary & Conrad Buff’s 1952 Honor Book Apple and the Arrow:

As the judges said in this full review on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “Simply amazing. I am floored at Anya Schooler’s meticulous craft and her inspired artistry . . . Anya gets more authentically emotional performances out of clay than I see in many real-life actors! Great voiceover acting too. The use of the ‘William Tell Overtrue’ was inspired, especially the way the movie’s action synched to the dynamics of the music.”

From Tacoma, Mr. Johnson’s fifth grade class at the Grant Center for the Expressive Arts did this excellent adaptation of Vince Vawter’s 2014 Honor Book Paperboy:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, this movie was “assured, beautifully shot, and compelling to watch! It got the whole story of the book across efficiently and with style to spare . . . all the acting was impressive and subtle. The background music tied all the scenes together effectively. The cinematography was some of the best I’ve ever seen in a 90-Second Newbery.” (You can see the reaction from Paperboy author Vince Vawter on his own blog here!)

Rosemary Sissel from Tacoma has been doing great 90-Second Newberys for the past few years. Here’s her entry for this year, essentially a one-woman show of Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted:

The judges on the 90-Second Newbery blog praised it thus: “Ella’s monologue elegantly frames the story and makes the narrative far easier to understand and follow. It was resourceful and funny to use cardboard cutouts for the co-stars. I appreciated all the fun touches: the cardboard mother ‘dying’ (and then getting thrown into the trash!) and lines like ‘you gotta be more chill!’ and ‘but the curse… but the kingdom… but his nose!!!'”

The Tacoma screening also featured Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Medal Winner Shiloh, as adapted by Travis of Seabury School:

As the judges said,, “Solid from beginning to end! The cinematography of the movie was excellent . . . The script was tight and smart, it really condensed the story down to the essentials without sacrificing any of the personality of the book.”

I’d love to feature ALL the movies shown at the Tacoma screening in this post. But that would be too many videos! So here are links to each one of the videos we received from Tacoma this year, and featured at the film festival:

Jaek Andersen of StoryLab TPL’s adaptation of Holes

Aidan of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver

Sofia of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan

Bayden of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Misty of Chincoteague

Zakaria of the Seabury School’s Bud, Not Buddy

Luke of the Seabury School’s adaptation of The Black Pearl

Travis of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Shiloh

Karl of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Wringer

Sulli of the Seabury School’s adaptation of My Side of the Mountain

Sam of the Seabury School’s adaptation of The Long Winter

Armaan of the Seabury School’s adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia

I have a lot of people to thank for the Tacoma and Portland screenings. Of course, I must first thank Keir Graff, who has been on the road with me through so many screenings. He’s a great co-host! Go buy his splendid book The Matchstick Castle!

For the Tacoma show, my biggest thanks to Sara Sunshine Holloway and everyone at the Tacoma Public Library for bringing us out to the library yet again. Thanks also to special Tacoma co-host Doug Mackey for his comic stylings during the show. There’s a reason I love doing the show with Doug every year! Thanks again to our young volunteer for playing the role of Fluffles’ owner in the opening bit. Thank you also to Mike Hargis, everyone on the video crew, who made a real show out of this and did all the videotaping and camera work. And thanks to all the other volunteers at the library!

In Portland, thanks to Elisa Barrios, Marie Biondolillo, and everyone at Open Signal for setting up the screening. Thanks to the great folks at the Hollywood Theater for letting us use their space, and thanks to Ramona for being the caretaker of “Fluffles” in the opening skit. (Unfortunately, we didn’t get a video of that.) Also thanks to author Victoria Jamieson for dropping in to check out the videos of her great Newbery Honor-winning graphic novel Roller Girl, and for saying such nice things about the videos! (You can see those videos here, by Mason Public Library and Jillian Parrino).

And finally, of course, thanks to all of the filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them!

You can go here to find out more about the 90-Second Newbery Film festival. Start making your movies now, due in January 2018!

Let’s close out this post with a look at the closing montage for the Tacoma screening:

And for good measure, also the closing montage for the Portland screening:

Thanks again! Looking forward to 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.

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