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90-Second Newbery CHICAGO This Wednesday! Plus Wringer and The Higher Power of Lucky

November 14, 2011

Our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is screening in Chicago this Wednesday, November 16! It will be at the Harold Washington Library from 6-8 pm. A word to the wise: if you’re coming, come early! This is definitely going to fill up, just as it did in New York. Wondering what it might be like? Check out Betsy Bird’s recap of the 90-Second Newbery screening at the New York Public Library last week.

We had great special guests at the New York screening, including Jon Scieszka, Rebecca Stead, Ayun Halliday, and more! The Chicago screening’s lineup is just as illustrious. My co-emcee will be the hilarious Chicago comedian Seth Dodson. We’ll be featuring a 90-Second Newbery Theme Song and musical improvisations by Abraham Levitan of the band Baby Teeth. And there’s more! Legendary Chicago theater group the Neo-Futurists will perform, as well as children’s theater Elephant and Worm (who are responsible for the great Twenty-One Balloons 90-second Newbery), the children’s theater Hogwash, young-adult author Adam Selzer, and many more surprises! It will be raucous.

Speaking of raucous, check out the 90-Second Newbery above of Jerry Spinelli’s 1988 Newbery Honor book, Wringer. This is one of the Newbery books I hadn’t yet read, but after this video, I’m really looking forward to it, because it’s one of the bloodier premises I’ve heard for a Newbery book. It’s set in a small town that has an annual tradition of releasing pigeons and shooting them to raise money for charity. The boys of the town are taught to wring the necks of the wounded birds to put them out of their misery. The hero secretly has a pet pigeon named Nipper, but he is pressured to take part in the ceremonies by his “friends.” The story ends with the hero carrying Nipper off the field in the midst of gunfire! At the end, he hears a kid tell his father he wants a pigeon for a pet.

If the book is anywhere near as good as this movie, it’s well-deserving of its Newbery Honor. I love the rapid-fire delivery of all the lines, the speech from the old man, the climactic shootout at the end, and of course the PIGEONS! It turns out that the creators of the movie, sisters Donera (14) and Deralyn (10) Owen of Boise, Idaho, raise pigeons―they have over 100 of them!―and they specially trained some of them for the movie. The movie is a triumph, and was a big favorite at the New York screening. I’m sure it will be a hit at the Chicago screening, too!

Speaking of Chicago, here’s a late entry from Burley Elementary School of Susan Patron’s 2007 Medal winner The Higher Power of Lucky. I didn’t get it in time for New York, but we’ll definitely play it in Chicago:

Great work, Burley! (Full disclosure: I do a weekly after-school writing seminar with some students at Burley, who appear in this video). The Higher Power of Lucky is about a girl, Lucky, who lives with a French foster mother in a small desert town, where she does things like hang around outside the Wind Chime museum eavesdropping on Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, helping her friend correct traffic signs, and dealing with snakes in the washing machine. This is a great sum-up of the story! The acting is good, I liked the “sandstorm,” and the music, voiceovers, and audio cues are all excellent. Thanks for a great entry, Burley, and I’ll see you on Wednesday!