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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery, Chicago Onslaught: An American Plague, Savvy, and Belling the Tiger

January 21, 2013

The Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is coming! Co-hosted by me and Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer)! It will be Sunday, February 10, from 2-3:30 pm at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. It’s free, but you have to reserve your seat ahead of time. You can reserve your place here. Do it now—we already have so many reservations that it’s clear this thing is going to sell out soon!

And so today, let’s look at three great 90-Second Newbery videos I’ve received from right here in the Chicago area. The one up above is of 2004 Honor Book An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy. This movie is by the talented and inventive crew at Chase Elementary in Humboldt Park, Chicago, led my Larissa Zageris (And hey! Humboldt Park! I used to live there!). It’s all about when Yellow Fever struck Philadelphia. This one, I predict, is going to rock the house on February 10. Never has there been so much puking in a 90-Second Newbery! The music cues are very well done, and I particularly like the repeated soulful, slo-mo looks-over-the-shoulder of Dr. Benjamin Rush, and the immortal exchange: “People are dying all around us, they’re turning yellow and they’re puking blood!” “That’s gross. I don’t want to be around.” Also a wonderful “NOOOOOOOO!” Top-notch, Chase Elementary! See you on the 10th!

The next video is of Ingrid Law’s 2009 Honor Book Savvy—but with a reality-TV twist. Here it is: Savvy in the style of The Real World:

This is yet another video from the Aurora Library, Eola Road Branch headed up by Katie Stringwell, who last year did a fantastic silent-movie version of Avi’s Crispin: The Cross of Lead. This great take on Savvy proves they haven’t lost their touch! The girl playing Mibs is a natural. I love how the movie plays on all the reality TV tropes: Mibs’ self-regarding declaration of “And I’m taking this chance,” the way she touches her head when she says “negative negative negative,” and how when the mean lady at the end is accused of not telling the truth (“You’re lying!”) she answers in what she imagines is an oh-so-withering way (“Am I? Am I really?”) Bobbi’s talking-head segment is pitch-perfect, too. Nice fake unibrow of the mean lady. I like how the Dad waking up is underplayed. Great job all the way around!

Finally, another movie made by the 90-Second Newbery veteran team of Chris Norborg/Alice Setrini and Domingo, Amalia, Graciela, and Sofia. They did last year’s musical version of Wanda Gag’s ABC Bunny and a great “The Dream” from Frog and Toad Together. This year the Norborgs are once again reaching far into the Newbery past—this time for 1961 Honor Book Belling The Tiger by Mary Stolz:

At 35.2 seconds, this is the fastest 90-Second Newbery ever! But it packs a punch, telling the story simply and elegantly. Great makeup work for the mice and the tiger, and the elephant costume is an unexpected elaborate treat! Extra points for the clever songs used: Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and ABBA’s “Tiger.” This is one of those 90-Second Newbery movies where the credits last longer than the movie itself.

See you all at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening in Chicago on February 10!