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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery: A Journey Through Newbery and My Father’s Dragon

November 16, 2012

Remember, the New York screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is coming up December 2! Co-hosted by me and Jon Scieszka, with special guests Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Margi Preus. And picture-book world stars Dan Yaccarino and Brian Floca. Complete details here. Get your tickets now!

Rochester Community Television and Writers and Books in Rochester, NY have a summer camp that teaches media literacy through video production. A perfect match for the 90-Second Newbery! Today we’ll look at two videos produced by that camp.

The first one is from the older kids’ camp, ages 12-14. It’s called “A Journey Through Newbery,” and instead about being about just one Newbery award winning book, it is (allegedly) about four. Can you guess which four Newbery books are being referenced?

But wait! There is an egregious error in it. Scroll back up, watch the video, and see if you can’t spot it.

That’s right, the first book referenced is 1988 Honor book Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, the second is Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal winner Holes, the third is C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the fourth is Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winner The Giver—yes, that comical sound of a record needle scratching in your brain is the cognitive dissonance of seeing C.S. Lewis on that list. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe never won a Newbery, nor could it, as only United States citizens or residents are eligible for the award (that “and residents” clause is how the perfidious Neil Gaiman squeaked through).

Never mind though, this video is great! I love it when a movie has a gripping start that throw you right into the action. The kids accomplish that and then some with this special-effects-heavy crash scene from Hatchet! The kid who plays the hero has natural comic timing and demeanor. The segue from that to Holes is quite amusing, especially the offhanded way they react to the digger’s death, and the sudden appearance of the lizard was great. And even though the Narnia book isn’t a Newbery winner, I can’t deny the power of the line “Mmm, suspicious Turkish Delight! My favorite!” Another favorite detail: that in the “perfect society” of The Giver, babies are just laying in the street for anyone to pick up. Splendid work!

The camp for ages 10-12 chose a rather obscure title for their video, 1949 Honor book My Father’s Dragon by Ruth S. Gannett. I always like it when folks make movies for Newbery winners that are off the beaten path:

Wonderful! The story is well told, the production values high. Another plus: many 90-Second Newbery movies don’t make any sense if you haven’t read the book . . . but this one totally makes sense! (In fact, it inspired me to go read the book, which apparently you can download for free, and I’m glad I did. It’s a quick read, maybe a half an hour). The boy playing Elmer is hilarious, and so is the “yeah! get out of here!” mom popping up. “Bag of seemingly useless items” was a funny line. The puppets were charming and I love the way they interacted with Elmer. The transitions and the music give everything a snappy feel. A TRIUMPH!

Remember, just a few more short weeks until the New York screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, December 2! Details on the screening here.