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The Order of Oddfish

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Minneapolis! Thanks for the amazing 90-Second Newbery screening!

March 1, 2019

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

The 2019 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival rolls on! Last Saturday we screened to a packed house at the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis. I always love bringing the film festival to Minneapolis—I’ve found the crowds are some of the best and most responsive.

Special thanks to my co-host, New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline West (The Collectors, the Books of Elsewhere series). She was recommended to me by last year’s host, Pete Hautman. Although I missed Pete, Jacqueline knocked it out of the park! It turns out she was a voice major in college, and has done a lot of musical theater, so she was a perfect stage partner for the opening skit, in which the HIGH SUPREME NEWBERY COUNCIL (that is, Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. White, and Meindert Dejong) attempt to shut down the film festival. This turns into some onstage hijinks, culminating in a transformed version of “One Day More” from Les Miserables. Check out Jacqueline’s exquisite voice! And her impeccable comic timing!

The great thing about the Minneapolis screening is that the filmmakers and their friends and families always come out in full force. We took a picture with some of them onstage at the end of the show:

Let’s look at some of the videos we featured at the screening! Stephanie, David, and Aiden of Boeckman Middle School created this witty and ingenious animated movie of Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses:

In the full review on the 90-Second Newbery website, the judges say “This was some amazing animation! I loved how the movie’s minimal, deadpan style sometimes broke into crazy flights of fancy . . . It was a clever and fun idea to replace the squirrel of the book with a small unicorn. I liked the way Flora is telling her story directly to the viewer while the crazy visuals flash past and her expressions change to suit the mood and emotion of the story.”

Also from Boeckman Middle School was this adaptation of Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Newbery Medal Winner The Crossover by Leo, Brayden, and Lacie . . . in the form of an energetic, amazing rap:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website, “With inspiring enthusiasm and commitment, this movie left it all on the court . . . I was impressed at how the movie earnestly and honestly goes for the true emotion . . . great writing, delivery, and occasional visuals. This movie was a triumph!” Full review here.

Jayden and friends did this standout version of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

You can read the judges’ full review here, in which they say this movie “did a great job telling the entire story in a coherent, easy-to-follow way, which is not easy to do. And the movie does it with lots of style! Great use of green screen throughout, making the locations vivid and the scenes believable . . . I appreciated the attention to detail, like the orange prisoners’ outfits, the judge’s wig and robes, and especially comically long beard on the old man at the end . . . a clear, entertaining, stylish retelling of the story!”

There is another great movie of Holes, done by Melrose Elementary School. The twist? Instead of being set in the barren desert, it’s set in a snowy tundra. More appropriate for Minnesota, right? Check it out here.

If you watched the video of our opening skit above, you were probably impressed by the acting and comedic timing of the kid who played the “Sergeant-at-arms of the High Supreme Newbery Council.” That kid was Chris Conway, and he and his friends Anthony and Will made this funny and meta version of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet:

You can read the full review here, in which the judges say (in part), “I loved the irreverent, self-aware attitude of this movie! The snarky dialogue from Brian at the beginning set the tone perfectly . . . It was a fun change to the original book to make the pilot seem to survive the crash, and for Brian to seriously consider cannibalism . . . I like how the movie broke into reality by having the filmmaker’s father obliviously wander into the movie.”

We screened many other movies made right in Minnesota—too many to feature all in one post! I recommend you check them all out:

Hatchet by Ben W., Talesh T., and Daniel S.

Call it Courage by Louisa, Emily, Aryanna, Graham, and Alexander

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by Genet, Yamato, and Anwar

Penny from Heaven by Frankie, JoJo, Lucy and Mitali

The Crossover by Legend and Benny

Hello, Universe by Peter, Quinn, Cooper, and Rahul

Bridge to Terabithia by Kelsi, Abi, and Ella

Thanks so much, Minnesota, for some great videos and a great screening! I’m already looking forward to next year! Thanks especially to Leah Larson, Jennifer Nelson, and Jen Verbrugee of the Minnesota Department of Education for putting this whole thing together every year. Thanks again to Chris Conway for helping out in the opening skit. Thanks again to Jacqueline West for co-hosting. Thanks to Angela Whited and everyone at the Red Balloon Bookshop for selling books at the event. And thanks to Dan and Veronica who put me up for the weekend!

I don’t want to forget! Here’s a picture of me and some students at Da Vinci Academy of Arts & Science in Ham Lake, Minnesota, where I came to speak about The Order of Odd-Fish the Friday before the show:

And let’s finish off this post with the closing montage of the movies from last Saturday’s screening. See you next year!

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

The 90-Second Newbery screenings in Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah were a blast!

February 19, 2019

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Last year (2018) I was blown away by the warm welcome we got when we introduced the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah. I was delighted to return to Utah this year too, to honor some great local kid-made movies!

Last Friday and Saturday I was joined at the 2019 Utah screenings by longtime co-host and author Keir Graff (The Phantom Tower, The Matchstick Castle). Just like last year, even a big snowstorm didn’t stop lots of folks from attending the shows!

Below, check out the video of Keir and I doing the opening skit and song-and-dance at the Treehouse Museum in Ogden. The premise? The 90-Second Newbery has offended the honor of the HIGH SUPREME NEWBERY COUNCIL, composed of Newbery all-stars Kate Dicamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. White, and . . . Meindert Dejong? Wait, you don’t know who Meindert Dejong is? The man who has won more Newberys than anyone? Then this skit is for you, especially if you like goofy floating heads, swordplay, and Les Miserables:

Thanks to Natalie for co-starring with us! I like this recording because, since the Treehouse Museum’s theater is a more intimate venue, we were able to get better audio than at most other shows. Indeed, the Treehouse Museum is an amazing place! It’s especially great for making 90-Second Newbery movies, because of all the kid-friendly exhibits and environments they have (a medieval castle, a farm, a diner, a fire station, a Presidential Oval Office, rooms from Japan, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, Kenya . . . and so much more!) AND they have tons of play costumes there too.

So Wes Whitby and Hannah Callaway of the Treehouse Museum rounded up OVER A HUNDRED CHILDREN and made this great adaptation of Lloyd Alexander’s 1966 Honor Book The Black Cauldron. It was shot in the style of a silent movie, and it retells this medieval fantasy in the style of an Old West adventure! Prince Gwydion becomes Sherriff Gwydion, the evil Huntsmen of Annuvin become a gang of low-down bandits, and the Black Cauldron itself is transformed into a legendary black train, the “fastest in the west”!

As the reviewers on the 90-Second Newbery said, “This is fantastic! . . . The sped-up footage, frenetic piano music, and old-timey-looking film filter make this really seem like a silent movies from bygone days . . . This movie worked because of the expressive, over-the-top silent-film acting of all the various characters.” You can read the full review here.

The next movie, also from Ogden, is one of the most distinctive and impressive 90-Second Newbery movies I’ve seen. It’s by Tanner Goethals, and it’s an adaptation of Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Medal Winner The Whipping Boy, done entirely in computer animation. But no ordinary animation! This was made using Microsoft 3D Movie Maker (here’s a strangely creepy TV commercial for it), which is software from waaaaaaaay back in, like, the Clinton administration. For those of you scoring along at home, that means this 1980s book has been redone with 1990s graphics for a film festival in the 2000s. I LOVE THIS. THIS IS WHAT THE 90-SECOND NEWBERY IS ABOUT, PEOPLE!

As the judges said, “This movie was amazing! I’ve never had this animation style used in a 90-Second Newbery before, and I loved it . . . elaborately animated, impressively detailed, and the 90s-obsolete style was fresh and compelling! The script was witty and tight and had an appropriately sarcastic tone (‘And they will never do bad stuff again’), zipping through the story at breakneck speed . . . My favorite part was when the giant rats devour Cutwater and Hold-Your-Nose, resulting in an impressive pool of blood!” Read the full review here.

After Ogden, it was off to our next screening at the Salt Lake City Public Library. Here’s a picture of Keir and me with some of the filmmakers after the show—including David (in the tie), who helped out with the opening skit at the Salt Lake City show!

We showed a lot of great 90-Second Newberys in Salt Lake City too. For instance, C.S. Lewis Academy in Santaquin returned for a second year to the 90-Second Newbery with this marvelous movie of Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted:

As the judges said, “The performances were charismatic and engaging, and it looked like everyone was having a really good time throughout. I appreciated the resourceful use of medieval-ish costumes (especially those fairy wings!) and props like masks, swords, a crown, the shoes, the baby doll and even a big cardboard box for a coffin! That was a fun battle scene with the boys riding in on horses with swords. And I liked how you made a ‘carriage’ out of two boys on those horses galloping in front of Ella and the Prince.” Read the full review here.

I had a great talk with the folks from the C.S. Lewis Academy after the show, and they showed me pictures from the red-carpet premiere they threw at their school for the movie. I’m looking forward to more movies from C.S. Lewis Academy, and other Utah charter schools, for the 2020 screenings!

Orem Elementary School also returned for a second year, this time with six (!!) movies. For instance, this wonderful adaptation of Carl Hiaasen’s 2003 Honor Book Hoot:

As the judges said, “Starts with kinetic, exciting, high-stakes opening as Dana bullies our hero Roy. We immediately are on Roy’s side as we see him escape. I like how ‘Mullet Fingers’ is disguised in an Iron Man outfit, and Beatrice is a cosplaying Hermione from ‘Harry Potter,’ complete with Hogwarts robes and spell-casting ability (‘Protego!’) . . . Great work!” You can read the complete review here.

Orem Elementary also turned in this fun adaptation of Richard Peck’s 2001 Medal Winner A Year Down Yonder, although the kids who made it weren’t able to attend the screening:

As the judges said, “An exhilarating sprint through the book! That was a fun performance of the crusty, cantankerous ‘Grandma Dowdel,’ and I like how the story was modernized from the 1930s to today by having the characters text each other. The part with the tornado was resourcefully managed by using a storm sound effect and flashing the lights on and off . . . Fast and fun to watch.” You can read the full review here

Orem Elementary also made this adaptation of Sharon Creech’s 1995 Medal Winner Walk Two Moons:

As the judges said, “I like how this movie portrays Sal and her grandparents as sock puppets, serving as a framing device for the story that Sal is telling about her and her friend Phoebe, who are played by real-life actors. Excellent cinematography as well—this movie is very well shot! . . . A fun romp through the book.” The full review is available here here.

Also check out these other movies from Orem Elementary that we showed at the screening: The Westing Game, another version of The Westing Game in the style of “Cluemanji,” a movie of Bridge to Terabithia, and a movie of Bud, Not Buddy. Great job, Orem Elementary School!

I loved my time in Utah, and I can’t wait to come back. Thanks to Michael McClane and the folks at Utah Humanities, Lynne Goodwin and Robert Goodwin and everyone at the Treehouse Museum, Liesl Jacobsen, Sarah Daenitz, Rebecca West, and Aleko Campos of the Salt Lake City Public Library, the Printed Garden bookstore, and all of those young filmmakers and the parents and teachers who supported them.

Here’s to next year! Remember, although movies for next year’s film festival are due in January 2020, you can turn them in anytime! Complete information, including how-to guides and tips, at the 90-Second Newbery website.

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Thanks, San Antonio, for another amazing 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening!

February 11, 2019

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

What an incredible day! On Saturday, February 9 we kicked off the 2019 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in San Antonio, at the beautiful Witte Museum. Over 600 people registered for the screening, and we filled the auditorium up:

(That’s filmmaker Robert Rodriguez doing an intro of our show.)

I was lucky enough to have as my co-host the hilarious, game-for-anything Texas author Nikki Loftin (Wish Girl), who really belted out the song in the opening skit—a skit that also featured the super-talented Kiera Ocampo of Vale Middle School.

Thank you so, so much to Laura Cole and her crew at Bibliotech, Christa Aldrich and her people at HEB Read Three, and Judge Nelson Wolff and Tracy Wolff of the Hidalgo Foundation. It’s because of their support and friendship that the 90-Second Newbery has taken off so splendidly in San Antonio.

I was lucky enough to have San Antonio journalist Robert Rivard himself introduce me to the crowd before the show. And I was very much honored to have Judge Wolff speak beforehand too. AND even the mayor of San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg, gave an introductory speech! San Antonio knows how to roll out the red carpet!

Thanks also to Erika Prosper, JSAV Productions, Say Si, the Witte Museum, and Whataburger for their support and help. I couldn’t do this without you! (And most of the photographs on this page are courtesy of Say Si.)

Speaking of Robert Rivard, his reporter Nicholas Frank did a great write-up of the screening in the Rivard Report.

It was so great to watch the kids’ movies, and then meet them in real life. Here we are watching an adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes by the group called “Chosen GEMS,” and here are the Chosen GEMS themselves:

San Antonio is unique among the 90-Second Newbery screenings in that there’s competitive aspect to it, and prize money for the schools of the winners!

This year, first place (and $1500!) went to this adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver by APAP Productions of Boerne, Texas:

Our full review is on the 90-Second Newbery webite, in which judges say the movie has “a rich and beautifully worded script that was expertly narrated. The camera angles, editing, and music were all well-chosen to add to the overall mood and pacing of the story … especially when the Giver was giving to Jonas his memories, and the camera whirled around and around, using the brief darkness that occurs when going behind the head to cut to the specific memories. The acting was committed, engaging, and believable!” (And, I found at the screening, they composed the music themselves!)

Here are the guys of APAP Productions accepting their grand prize from Judge Wolff:

Second place (and $750) went to this adaptation of Russell Freedman’s 1988 Medal Winner Lincoln: A Photobiography by Alinne and Brenda of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy:

As the judges said, this movie is “resourceful, polished, and comprehensive! . . . The olde-tymey piano background music sets the right mood, and the olde-tymey sepia backgrounds situate us right in the era (and serve as an effective foil for the more-colorful puppets). I liked the extreme acceleration of the dialogue: ‘I shall run for state legislature.’ ‘Sir, you’ve lost the election!’ ‘I guess I’ll just have to try harder next time.’ . . . Fantastic job!”

Third place, and $500, went to this adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Winner The Tale of Despereaux by Rome, Andrew, Manuel, Mac, Maddie, and Edrick of St. Anthony Catholic School:

The judges said, “Great illustrations and great acting, but most importantly . . great rap battle! The use of subtitles was smart, too, because the rapping is so admirably fast. I liked the clever rhymes and the fun tangents they went on (Tony Stark!) and it was a great choice to throw a barrage of fun illustrations at the viewer, broken up every once in a while by the occasional live-action bit. This was joyful, ingenious, and so much fun to watch!”

There were also two honorable mentions, with prizes of $250 each! The first was for this adaptation of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet by Utopia ISD of Utopia, TX:

The judges said,, “It was a stroke of brilliance to tell the story using a news story perspective. The video and sound quality are excellent and the use of videography tells the story effectively and efficiently . . . High quality stuff!”

The second honorable mention was for this adaptation of Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together by Galileo of the Advanced Learning Academy in San Antonio:

The judges called this “a wonderful, charming, impressive movie! I loved the combination of elaborate stop-motion paper puppets, expressive spoken narration, and sound effects and music.”

There a few more movies I’d like to highlight. The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival received lots of entries from JSTEM Academy in San Antonio, all of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winner The Giver. We couldn’t feature them all at the screening, but each of the movies had great moments. So here at the 90-Second Newbery, we edited them all together, and put over it a rap about The Giver that was also done by one of the JSTEM students. Enjoy!

I also wanted to draw attention to this great Charlotte’s Web by Celeste, Jose, Sebastian, Adrian, Lydia, Emmanuel, Kaleb of Pershing Elementary that we used to kick off the San Antonio show. In fact, I’m going to use it to kick off the show through all the cities in the 2019 tour. It’s perfect in its own way.

You can read the review of it here, which says “the fantastically detailed paper puppets, the vibrant colors, and the galloping music all combined to make a compelling, kinetic piece of animation.”

We received over 160 movie submissions from San Antonio this year. There were so many great entries, it was very hard to choose! We only had time to show 20 on Saturday. Here are the others we featured that day (click to watch!):


Hatchet by Joe A, Peter K, Kayla M, Aimee A, Valerie A, Yara L, Bryan T. of Woodlawn Hills Elementary

The Giver by St. Luke’s Episcopal School

Because of Winn-Dixie by Nevaeh, James, Benjamin, Dalton, Jonelle, and Alana of the Frederick Douglass Academy

Old Yeller by Ryanna and Phoenix of Madison Elementary

Last Stop on Market Street by Louis V., Artemio R., Carlos C., Nathaniel Y., Abel A., and Emanuel C. of Kindred Elementary

The Tale of Despereaux by Alexander, Gabriela, Beatrice, Cameron, Jimmy, and Aiden of Bonham Academy

The One and Only Ivan by Damien G. and Emiliano R. of Miller Elementary GATE

Holes by Jimmijha, Ranevaeh, Danna, Shermiya, A’morie,Frankie, Faith, Nevaeh, and Hattie of “Chosen GEMS”

Holes by Vale Middle School

Frog and Toad Together by Mel, Bella, Devyn and Eugenia of Young Women’s Leadership Academy

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Aliya Macknojua of Colony Meadows Elementary, Sugar Land, TX

Hello, Universe by Emma Dixon, Dripping Springs, TX

The Whipping Boy by Rhodes Elementary School



Thanks so much for a great 90-Second Newbery screening, San Antonio! I’m looking forward to seeing what you make next year—and it’s not too early to start making your movies now! You can find lots of help at the 90-Second Newbery website, especially screenwriting, cinematography, and editing help at our Video Resources page. See you next February!

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

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