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90-Second Newberys from RCTV in Rochester, NY: Ella Enchanted, Dear Mr. Henshaw, and Our Only May Amelia

January 10, 2014

I’m happy to report that Rochester, NY is a hotbed of 90-Second Newbery enthusiasm. I’ve received as many videos from there as I have from Chicago. In particular, the local cable access channel, Rochester Community TV, offer a summer camp in which participants learn how to make their own 90-Second Newbery movies. The movies from RCTV’s camp last year were impressive. Would this year’s movies measure up?

Absolutely! I received three superior movies from RCTV’s 2014 camp. The first is above, a version of Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted that is done in the style of an “almost musical.” The running joke of how Ella keeps trying to burst into song, only to be hushed up by everyone else in the scene, is well done, especially when it gets to the point where folks are literally bonking her over the heads with pots to keep us from hearing her, or even stopping the movie entirely! Lots of cool touches: the dancing at the ball, the amusing prince (“Hey! I’m a prince and I’m charming! Wanna marry me?”), the Mission: Impossible-style escape from the school, and the flashy special effect when the curse is broken. Great stuff all around!

Next, Beverly Cleary’s 1984 Medal winner Dear Mr. Henshaw:

Dear Mr. Henshaw is an epistolary novel, told in a sequence of letters between an author (Mr. Henshaw) and a student. I like how they modernized the story by not doing it through letters, but emails, blogs and cell phones. I was startled by how good the acting was from both the kids playing Leigh and Henshaw. The smaller roles were also done with just the right note of comedy. The running joke of the lunch being stolen was really well done, and the best part of all was the post-credits reveal of the lunch thief shamelessly and calmly eating all the stolen lunches in the empty room. Ha!

Speaking of laughs, here’s Jennifer Holm’s 2000 Honor Book Our Only May Amelia, but done in the style of a standup comedy routine:

What a unique, creative, and effective way to tell the story! It’s such a good idea I’m surprised nobody else has done their movie in that style for the 90-Second Newbery. The cutaways to the grandmother throwing tea at her, the “dramatic” dialogue between her and her brother, or even “your grandmother’s dead!” “yessssss” all really made the story, and kept everything zipping along too. A fun concept, and artfully done!

Thanks, RCTV-TV! I’m looking forward to seeing you at the screening in New York City, and to what you’re cooking up for next year’s film festival!