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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery, New York edition: Because of Winn-Dixie, Summer of the Swans, and The Whipping Boy

January 18, 2013

Don’t miss it! In just a few weeks, on February 10, the Chicago screening of the second annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival will happen, co-hosted by me and Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer). That’s Sunday, 2/10/2013, from 2-3:30 pm at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. Reserve your free seat here. Quick! It’s selling out!

Our first screening of the second annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival was on December 2, 2012 at Symphony Space in New York City. I haven’t yet gotten my act together to properly recap it, but here are some movies from various schools in New York state that contributed to the festival!

The first, up above, is of Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie, done by the fourth grade at Hillside Elementary in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. I always like it when participants put a genre twist on the material, and they sure did: they adapted Because of Winn-Dixie in the form of a late-night talk show hosted by the dog of the book, Winn-Dixie, herself! Masterstroke! The additional framing device of the top ten list really made this work. But most importantly, what kids! They’re all such assured and enthusiastic actors! (I especially loved the disorienting spectacle of a room of fourth graders all yelling “PATHOLOGICAL!!!” at the top of their lungs.) And ingenious, resourceful touches throughout: showing the thoughts of the candy-eaters with thought-balloons, the class dressed up as a thunderstorm, the costumes and hats and props, live bird on the shoulder of the guitarist—I loved the attention to detail. Every kid really nailed their character, especially Gloria Dump with her over-the-top accent. I smiled at the suspicious realization that the names of the “Dewberry” kids rhyme with “Newbery,” and I snorted, yes, actively snorted with glee, when all the kids immediately yelled “blooper!” when the P.A. did a school announcement. A winner!

Here’s another winner: 1971 Newbery Medal winner Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars, adapted by Isabel Honigman & Co. from Brooklyn Friends School in New York:

I love how Charlie’s lollipop falls apart almost immediately after Sara “fixes” it. The dancing of the “swans” was a great segment too! And I laughed at the way she screams “noooo” after being informed that after “the color’s called puce.” Another pretty funny bit: when she says, “Charlie’s missing. . . your son?” as if he didn’t recognize the name of his own son. I especially enjoyed the action-packed chase scene at the end when they’re looking for Charlie. Great job, Isabel and friends!

This last one is of Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Medal Winner The Whipping Boy, done by St. Thomas the Apostle School in Delmar, New York:

All these kids were such great actors—the “put me down, you scoundrel!” line was particularly well done—and the kid who played the Whipping Boy himself really shone. I really liked the rapport between Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy. The special effects with the bear, the potato truck, the rats, and the ship sailing away were resourceful and charming!

Thanks, New York, for all these great videos! I had a wonderful time screening them back in December!