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The RADIANCE and ROWDINESS of the 2024 Rochester 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

April 23, 2024

The 90-Second Newbery relies on donations to bring our free public screenings and book-to-movie workshops to libraries and schools nationwide. You can make your (tax-deductible!) donation here. Donations are handled through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

After a four-year hiatus, we brought the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival back to Rochester, New York! We did it at the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman Museum, thanks to Eliza Kozlowski. Thanks also to the Irondequoit Public Library for sponsoring us, especially Amy Holland and Matt Krueger (and thanks to Amy and Arthur for putting me up while I was in town). Big thanks to Carol White Llewellyn and Deb Ross for promoting, and KidsOutAndAbout.com being our media sponsor. Major thanks to Shari, Alyssa, and Eric at the Dryden Theater, who fixed our last minute tech problems. And of course, thanks to our audience and the young filmmakers behind the movies, along with their families, teachers, and librarians who showed up. We had a lively, fun crowd of nearly 300 folks!

The screening was co-hosted by me and the legendary Bruce Coville (author of My Teacher Is An Alien and dozens more fantastic kids’ books). Being onstage with Bruce is always a treat—check out our opening skit at the top of this post, in which we meet “Lil’ Newby,” a redesigned talking Newbery Medal who can’t stop lying about past Newbery winners (did you know about Beverly Cleary’s stint in a criminal motorcycle gang?). Here’s Bruce and I arguing about the script before the show, and signing books for fans afterward! Thanks, Bruce!

In the days leading up to the screening, I spoke to students at Johanna Perrin Middle School, Martha Brown Middle School, Taylor Elementary School, Bernabi Elementary School, Canal View Elementary School, and Munn Elementary School (whew!). A few days before that, I also spoke at the Good Neighbor Bookstore in Lakewood, NY. A busy week!

One of the great things about returning to Rochester is seeing old friends. Eian-Gabriel Sinclair has been making stop-motion movies for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival for almost ten years now (you can see them all here). Here we are here:

And here’s Eian-Gabriel’s stop-motion movie for this year, a Claymation adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Newbery Medal Winner The One And Only Ivan—done in the style of King Kong!

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Entertaining and adroit . . . The background music and voiceover narration were artful and felt period-specific, as well as the black-and-white cinematography. I thought it was clever how it swapped out the roaring lion in the iconic Twentieth Century Fox logo for a fluidly animated Ivan the gorilla.”

Speaking of stop-motion, we also received a splendid stop-motion version of Kelly Barnhill’s 2017 Newbery Medal Winner The Girl Who Drank The Moon, by Opal Knight and her family in Rochester:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This movie had stupendous stop-motion animation with Calico Critters all throughout, and the well-designed intertitles did a fine job keeping the story clear and on track . . . I was also really amazed by the scene of the moon and stars, here ingeniously represented by white and yellow yarn that get entangled.”

The next movie is based on Christina Soontornvat’s 2023 Newbery Honor Book The Last Mapmaker, as adapted by Anna Mathews and her family in Savannah, New York:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This movie sprinted through the plot of the book with a lot of charm! All the actors were compelling and believable in their performances . . . I especially relished the combat scenes: an energetic swordfight on the boat, and a fistfight with dramatic music near the end!”

And hey, here I am with these great filmmakers after the screening!

The next movie is another adaptation of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, this time by the kids of Munn Elementary in Spencerport, New York:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “From the very beginning I knew this movie would be a banger, with a creative hand-drawn title screen and a dramatic first scene in which baby Luna is taken away from her mother . . . All the performances of the characters were fun to watch, effectively conveying each characters’ emotions and situations. Great work!”

Bernabi Elementary of Spencerport submitted this wonderful version of Erin Entrada Kelly’s 2018 Newbery Medal Winner Hello, Universe:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This movie worked well because of the strength of the performances: Kaori’s pushy confidence, Virgil’s frustrated timidity, Chet’s bullying snottiness, and Valencia’s tentative charm . . . This movie zoomed through the most important plot points of the story quickly and accurately, and making sense even if one hadn’t read the book.”

Taylor Elementary School in Spencerport submitted four great movies, including three different versions of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Newbery Medal Winner Holes, each with its own weird twist. For instance, this first one (by Isaac, Sean, Luca, Becca, Charlie, Greyson, and Chase) has Stanley going to a prison camp not in the middle of the desert, but on the moon:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “There was a creative use of green screen to put us in the various locations of the story: not just on Earth, but also in the spaceship, on the moon, and in a sci-fi space station . . . this movie zipped through many of the plot points from the story in an intriguingly sci-fi style, and it looked like everyone was having a great time making it!”

Also from Taylor Elementary, here’s another version of Holes—but in this one, instead of going to Camp Green Lake, Stanley goes to the North Pole! This one is by Noah, Henley, Carter, Sadie, Isaiah, Chloe, Penny, and Zachary:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Stanley’s amusingly over-the-top acting was fun to watch . . . this was a fun idea done with enthusiasm and infectious high spirits!”

The last version of Holes we got from Taylor Elementary was by Logan, Dom, Lylia, Dakoda, Chelsea, Tessa, and Heidi. In this one, when Stanley is given the choice between Camp Green Lake and jail, he chooses . . . jail!

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Resourceful and ingenious green screen work throughout, and I loved the fun costumes . . . Made with a lot of humorous energy, and even if it doesn’t really follow the book much, it is still entertaining to watch!”

Joel, Luca, Sadie, Andrew, and Willow of Taylor Elementary also did this version of Jerry Craft’s 2020 Newbery Medal Winner New Kid:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This movie resourcefully used computer graphics to represent the characters, which look very similar to those in the original book . . . The fight scene in the cafeteria at the end was well-staged, using a combination of visuals, dialogue, and narration to make it clear what is happening, and bringing the whole story to an effective climax. Great work!”

Finally, Canal View Elementary submitted this movie of Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery Medal Winner When You Reach Me:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This movie made effective use of computer graphics to tell the story, brought to life with engaging voiceover performances from the kid actors . . . my favorite part was when the Laughing Man gets hit by the car, and flies up through the sky, out into space, and up to heaven! Very creative!”

And those were the local entries for the 2024 Rochester 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! I’m so glad that we’ve brought the screenings back to Rochester. Here’s to many more years of this!

The 90-Second Newbery relies on private donations to keep going! It’s only through your generosity that we can continue bringing our free public screenings and book-to-movie workshops to libraries and schools nationwide. You can make your (tax-deductible!) donation here. Donations are handled through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

The BRILLIANCE and BOMBAST of the 2024 Boston 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

April 14, 2024

We’re back in the saddle in Boston! On April 6 we brought the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival back to the Boston Public Library. And hey, this year we got a big write-up in the Boston Globe! Not too shabby! You can read the article here.

The screening was co-hosted by me and the YA author Rebecca Mahoney. She and I also did a bookstore event at Porter Square Books that Thursday, in which we did an authors-in-conversation thing about my book Bride of the Tornado and her latest book The Memory Eater, which was a YA Staff Pick of the year at Porter Square Books! Both of our books have a lot in common, actually: they’re both about girls in small towns that are threatened by emotion/memory-devouring supernatural entities. If you get a chance, read The Memory Eater and Rebecca’s other book The Valley and the Flood, they’re both really good.

It’s always a great show with Rebecca, and she really killed with the opening skit! Unfortunately I don’t have a video to share, because the sound in the video is unusuable. If you want to see it, here’s what the skit was like when I performed it in Brooklyn with Rita Williams-Garcia. Here’s a picture from when Rebecca and I did it in Boston:

We got one locally-made video from the Boston area this year, so I was expecting a low turnout, but we actually got a pretty respectable crowd (probably due to that Globe article). So most of the movies in the screening were “best-of-the-best” 90-Second Newbery movies I’ve received from around the country over the years.

That one local entry was by the Berkshire Country Day School’s fifth and sixth grade English Class in Stockbridge, MA, and it was based on Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 Newbery Medal winner A Wrinkle in Time. Check it out!

As the reviewers said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I enjoyed the smart-aleck insolence of the script . . . This movie was funny, resourceful, and well-made, with fantastic performances by everyone!”

Thank you to Laura Koenig, Bailey Watroba, and everyone at the Boston Public Library for all their support for the film festival. Thanks also to Kate Gilbert for her tireless work for the 90-Second Newbery and Jessica Kent for helping to promote it. Thanks to the folks at Trident Bookstore for selling books after the show. And thanks most of all to the young filmmakers who created the movies, and the teachers, librarians, and family who helped them!

I hope we get more movies from the Boston area for next year! The movies are due in January 2025, but you can turn them in any time. You can find complete details about the film festival, including tips on how to make your own movies, at the 90-Second Newbery website. Go and do it!

The 90-Second Newbery relies on private donations to keep going! It’s only through your generosity that we can continue bringing our free public screenings and book-to-movie workshops to libraries and schools nationwide. You can make your (tax-deductible!) donation here. Donations are handled through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

The WONDER and TERROR of the 2024 Chicago 90-Second Newbery Festival!

March 13, 2024

We had a ball last Saturday with Chicago’s 13th annual 90-Second Newbery Flm Festival at the Harold Washington Library Center downtown! Thanks so much to Alexa Hamilton, Ana Santoyo, Michael O’Connor, and everyone at the Chicago Public Library who helped make this event happen. Thanks also to Emma Oxnevad, who wrote a fabulous article about the 90-Second Newbery for the Chicago Reader, and Web Behrens who also did a great write-up about us for Block Club Chicago. Thanks to them, we had a nice big crowd!

And big thanks to my co-host Mary Winn Heider, author of kids’ books The Stupendous Switcheroo, The Mortification of Fovea Munson, and The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy. She lit up the stage in our opening skit, in which we come face-to-face with the new, redesigned, anthropomorphic Newbery Medal—”Lil’ Newby”—a talking award who has an unfortunate tendency to make up bizarre lies about past Newbery winners. E.B. White, shoplifter? Arnold Lobel, arsonist? Check it out:

Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of Cricket magazine, kind of the New Yorker of children’s literature. Thanks to Blouke Carus from the Hegeler Carus Mansion for giving a short speech in which he read aloud fan letters to Cricket magazine from throughout the years. (Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of that.) Blouke even brought copies of Cricket and its spinoff magazines, and they were available for free in the lobby after the show! They all got snapped up pretty quickly, too!

It was kind of a harrowing day, actually. It was my birthday too, and I nearly didn’t make it to my own birthday party afterward, because my car died while zipping along on Lakeshore Drive on my way home from the screening—my brakes stopped working, the engine halted, I could barely control it—but luckily I got off to safety. Then I had to wait for three hours for a tow truck while missing my own birthday party! But all’s well that ends well. Thanks to everyone who came to the party, especially those who stuck around to when I finally got there!

All right, let’s check out the actual movies!

Just as every year, house team The Leland Street Players turned in a movie, and this one is based on Katherine Paterson’s 1978 Newbery Medal winner Bridge to Terabithia. The book is about Jess (a boy who loves running) becoming friends with Leslie (the quirky new girl in town). Together Jess and Leslie create an imaginary land in the woods they call Terabithia, which they access by swinging across a river on a rope. But one day the rope breaks, and Leslie falls into the river and dies. This movie’s twist: it tells the story from the point of view of the monsters who inhabit in the imaginary land of Terabithia. And they’ve got a problem: apparently Leslie isn’t the only kid who has met a grisly end there. What happens when the Terabithians can’t keep their fantasy realm safe, and they come under investigation by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services?

Check out the full review of the movie on the 90-Second Newbery website.

Chicagoan Lily Manning has been making astonishingly elaborate stop-motion movies for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival for years: My Father’s Dragon in 2021, Along Came a Dog in 2022, Shadow of a Bull in 2023, and now her most longest and most ambitious movie, based on Robin McKinley’s 1985 Newbery Medal Winner The Hero and the Crown:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “This movie is an all-time great for the film festival, and an astonishing capstone to an impressive 90-Second Newbery career!”

The next movie is by Mack and Archer from Elk Grove Village, Illinois. It’s based on Paul Fleischman’s 1989 Newbery Medal Winner Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. The original book features poems about insects that are intended to be read aloud by two people. Now, poems about bugs may be interesting, but what’s even more interesting are poems about ninjas, dragons, and throwing stars!

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the complete review here), “This movie replaces the book’s poems with new poems about a ‘ninja’s quest,’ resourcefully using green screen to put the characters at a beach, in a hand-drawn battle or castle, and other locales. There’s even a wonderfully animated stop-motion Lego dragon—super cool! . . . Everyone looked like they were having a good time, and that feeling is infectious, and gives the movie its charm.”

The next movie is by Lauren, Frances, and Thuan from Chicago, and it’s based on Lloyd Alexander’s 1969 Newbery Medal Winner, the sword-and-sorcery epic The High King:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “All the performances were full of fun energy and committed emotion, and I was amused at how Eilonwy was played by a dog! . . . Elaborate and colorful costumes, hilarious acting, exciting action scenes, a tight script, lots of humor!”

The next two movies were made in cooperation with the Chicago arts organization Play In A Book. This first one, by Grades 5 – 8 In Ms. Bradley’s class of Harold Washington Elementary, is based on BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford. The original book is about the real-life Henry Brown, who in 1849 escaped slavery by hiding in a wooden box and mailing himself from Virginia to Philadelphia. This updated version has a futuristic twist: instead of Henry Brown, it’s “Henrietta Brown,” and instead of escaping slavery in a box, Henrietta is teleported off of Earth into outer space:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “Impressive visual effects throughout, from use of stock footage for the establishing shot of the ring spaceship orbiting Earth, to the plentiful green screen that portrayed the aliens in their ship as well as various places on Earth where the enslaved people are being held . . . The acting performances were committed and engaged and charismatic . . . A creative, resourceful, and emotionally affecting movie!”

Play in a Book also helped to make the next one. It’s by Ms. O’Neal’s students in Grades 5 – 6 at South Shore Fine Arts Academy, and it’s based on Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 Newbery Medal Winner A Wrinkle in Time:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “An atmospheric, sometimes creepy, but ultimately uplifting retelling of the story . . . The performances of the various characters tracked accurately with the characters in the book: Meg guarded and hostile but ultimately embracing love, Calvin level-headed and supportive, Charles Wallace guileless and abstracted.”

The next movie is by the fifth graders at Elgin Academy in Elgin, Illinois, and it’s based on Carl Hiaasen’s 2003 Newbery Honor Book Hoot:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “This movie hit most of the plot points of the book quickly and entertainingly, with superior cinematography and brisk editing! . . . There was an effusive energy in the performances that made it fun to watch.”

Just as every year, we received a great crop of videos from Lincoln Hall Middle School in Lincolnwood, Illinois! This first is based on Kate DiCamillo’s Tale of Despereaux by Jessica L. and Jessica K., and it’s done in the style of a retro point-and-click computer game:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “The computer graphics look authentic to that kind of retro game, and the quick frequent changes to the scenes kept up the visual interest . . . All the voice performances were clear and energetic and told the story compellingly. I loved the original concept behind this and its ingenious execution!”

Here’s another one from Lincoln Hall Middle School, based on Louis Sachar’s 1999 Newbery Medal Winner Holes, by Tristen N, Hylan L, Yianni F, and Ali M.:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “This movie really stood out because of its superior cinematography and editing . . . This movie was fun and entertaining from beginning to end.”

The next one is by Peter T. from Lincolnwood, and it’s based on Donna Barba Higuera’s 2022 Newbery Medal Winner The Last Cuentista:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “From the very beginning I knew this would be a good movie, with the stylized, horror-movie-feeling titles with scary music in the background . . . There were a lot of creepy and atmopsheric choices that worked very well, like the reverse exposure effect on the leader character’s speech, and the use of the medbay from the video game Among Us to represent when Petra is working in the lab . . . Entertaining and cool!”

Finally from Lincolnwood, we have Jerry Craft’s 2020 Newbery Medal Winner New Kid as adapted by Leila, Chii, Ruth, and Yusuf:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “A goofy, brisk, frequently funny animated adaptation of the story! I liked the simple, black-and-white style of drawing, which was close enough to the characters from the original graphic novel to be recognizable, but done in your own style.”

We started this movie roundup with a Bridge to Terabithia adaptation, so let’s end with one! This one is by East Lake Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “The script sprinted through the story efficiently and sometimes very amusingly . . . The strength of this movie came from its engaging and believable performances, especially with Jess, who held the movie together with credible adolescent prickliness, tenderness, and angst, and Leslie, who had a free-spirited charisma.”

And those were the local entries that were featured in the Chicago 90-Second Newbery Film Festival this year! Thanks to the young filmmakers who created the movies, and the teachers, parents, librarians, and other adults who assisted them.

I hope everyone makes a movie for next year! Anyone can do it. The movies are due in January 2025, but you can turn them in any time. You can find complete details about the film festival, including tips on how to make your own movies, at the 90-Second Newbery website! See you next year!

The 90-Second Newbery relies on private donations to keep going! It’s only through your generosity that we can continue bringing our free public screenings and book-to-movie workshops to libraries and schools nationwide. You can make your (tax-deductible!) donation here. Donations are handled through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

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