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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery Movies from the Foote School in New Haven, CT: 2014

January 20, 2014

In both 2011 and 2012 I received a bunch of 90-Second Newbery videos from Jim Adams’ English class at the Foote School in New Haven, Connecticut. I was delighted with their work, which you can see here (2011) and here (2012). Back in 2013, Jim sent me a bunch of brand-new, lovely videos for this year’s film festival. Now’s the time to post them watch them!

So that this post isn’t too long, I have collected all of the videos on a separate page, but for a taste, check out the movie above of Armstrong Sperry’s 1941 Medal winner Call It Courage, as adapted by Jaden, Sammy, and Zane—in the style of Minecraft.

How brilliant to do the entire thing in Minecraft! Especially an adventure story like this, with big vistas and difficult-to-film landscapes—computer assistance is the perfect solution. Compelling and very watchable. I’m looking forward to seeing many more 90-Second Newberys done in Minecraft. It opens up all kinds of storytelling opportunities!

To see the rest of Jim Adams’ class’ 2013 90-Second Newberys from the Foote School in New Haven, go here!

90-Second Newbery: Three versions of The Whipping Boy

January 16, 2014

Deadline for this year’s 90-Second Newbery is coming up—January 20! Get your entries in! And make your FREE reservations at the screenings (see event sidebar) before they’re all sold out!

It’s weird. Every year the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival experiences a mysterious convergence. A bunch of unrelated groups, all over the country, decide to adapt the same book. The first year, many folks decided to do Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winner The Giver. Last year, I got lots of versions of Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor book Frog and Toad Together. This year? It seems like our winner is Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Medal winner The Whipping Boy, the tale of a poor boy whose job it is to be whipped whenever the prince misbehaves (since it’s against the law to strike the prince). Apparently this was a real thing in the 15th-16th century.

The first adaptation, above, is by the teens at the Schaumburg Township District Library. But there’s a twist—they did the story in the style of Star Wars! So instead of a whipping boy, it’s a whipping droid (who gets smacked around with a light saber). It’s a little longer than 90 seconds, but there are light saber battles, spaceship dogfights, and explosions! (Full disclosure: I helped out with this one.) Also, want to put light saber effects in your 90-Second Newbery? SaberFX is really easy to use.

But that’s not all! The next Whipping Boy was created by rising 4th and 5th grade students at Carolina Day School, a summer day camp in Asheville, NC (they did a great version of Natalie Babbitt’s 1971 Honor book Knee-Knock Rise last year). Take it away, Carolina Day School!

Tremendous! As last year, they read the book, created the script, scouted locations, created props and special effects, and filmed in eighteen hours in only FIVE DAYS. Wow! I’m told it was directed by a teenaged assistant who is now at NC School of the Arts. Really good cinematography on this one, and the story was pushed along efficiently and amusingly by an ace script. The voice-over was a crucial addition to make it all comprehensible. And . . . so many awesome mustaches! And what a bear! And those wagon wheels! And that fair! And who wouldn’t love a bunch of dancing singing hot potatoes at the end! (Completists can checks ou their bloopers and outtakes).

Last but not least in this great lineup, another Whipping Boy from middle school students at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, NY:

Such committed and enthusiastic acting! In particular, the way the prince recovers his dignity after being saved by Petunia in the middle of the whipping was a nice moment. I’m glad they took the time to nail the music and sound effects—that always makes a movie shine. Same with the costumes, including Cutwater and Hold-Your-Nose’s fantastic furry accoutrements, and Petunia’s marvelous costume (is that a mascot costume?). The fast-motion running-around-the-forest bit was knockabout fun, and I liked the mix of location shooting and green screen. Very resourceful! (I was particularly amused how, in the first 8 seconds, EVERYONE who stands up loses their wig, including the king.)

Thanks for all these great versions of The Whipping Boy! Looks like we’re shaping up for a great 90-Second Newbery season.

90-Second Newbery, Music Edition: Charlotte’s Web, Despereaux and The Black Cauldron

January 14, 2014

I always love it when 90-Second Newbery videos I receive use music to tell the story! After all, you can cram a lot of plot into those lyrics, and music makes a video zip right along.

Who better to make use of music than those undefeated 90-Second Newbery champs, the Bookie Woogie blog, a.k.a. the family of crackerjack children’s book creator Aaron Zenz, who in the past have given us a shadow-puppet version of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a bonkers animation of The Black Cauldron, and an incredible all-puppet adaptation of Frog and Toad Together?

Above, check out their latest ringer! I’ll let Aaron describe it: “Charlotte’s Web won a Newbery Honor in 1952. Ten years later, Spider-Man made his first appearance. Hey… why not bring the two legendary spiders together? Why not re-imagine the Charlotte characters as costumed heroes and villains in the opening credits of an imaginary TV show?”

Yes, yes, and YES! They’ve rewritten the lyrics to the famous Spider-Man theme song to tell the story of Charlotte’s Web, and the result is manic, joyous, action-packed, and makes me wish I was five years old and in the Zenz family. Fantastic job! To learn even more about how they made it, visit the Bookie Woogie blog’s post about it here.

But that’s not the only 90-Second Newbery movie with music! Check out this entry from the teen advisory board of the Cherokee County Public Library in Gaffney, South Carolina. It’s a retelling of Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Medal winner The Tale of Despereaux, but in the style of the opening credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air!

Brilliant job! Would you believe that this is the first 90-Second Newbery I’ve received that was delivered as a rap? It’s a great idea to do it that way—rap allows you to convey a lot of ideas in a short time—and the group really nailed it, from the tight writing to Alyssa’s smooth delivery. Extra points for resourceful use of the green screen. Also, the signs identifying the characters really helped, especially with a large cast like this.

Our last video today is by Allanah, who was one of my students in my 90-Second Newbery class at the Center for Talent Development over last summer. She, too, decided to take an existing song and rewrite it to tell the story of a Newbery book. In this case, the book is Lloyd Alexander’s 1966 Honor book The Black Cauldron, and the song is Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us”:

Allanah did an impressive job of fitting the entire complicated plot of The Black Cauldron into the song, and really sold it with her committed, energetic performance here!

Thanks, everyone! Remember, the deadline for submissions to the 90-Second Newbery is coming up (January 20!). And check out where we’re screening the film festival in the event bar to the right: Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Tacoma, and New York City!

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