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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery: Three versions of The Whipping Boy

January 16, 2014

Deadline for this year’s 90-Second Newbery is coming up—January 20! Get your entries in! And make your FREE reservations at the screenings (see event sidebar) before they’re all sold out!

It’s weird. Every year the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival experiences a mysterious convergence. A bunch of unrelated groups, all over the country, decide to adapt the same book. The first year, many folks decided to do Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winner The Giver. Last year, I got lots of versions of Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor book Frog and Toad Together. This year? It seems like our winner is Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Medal winner The Whipping Boy, the tale of a poor boy whose job it is to be whipped whenever the prince misbehaves (since it’s against the law to strike the prince). Apparently this was a real thing in the 15th-16th century.

The first adaptation, above, is by the teens at the Schaumburg Township District Library. But there’s a twist—they did the story in the style of Star Wars! So instead of a whipping boy, it’s a whipping droid (who gets smacked around with a light saber). It’s a little longer than 90 seconds, but there are light saber battles, spaceship dogfights, and explosions! (Full disclosure: I helped out with this one.) Also, want to put light saber effects in your 90-Second Newbery? SaberFX is really easy to use.

But that’s not all! The next Whipping Boy was created by rising 4th and 5th grade students at Carolina Day School, a summer day camp in Asheville, NC (they did a great version of Natalie Babbitt’s 1971 Honor book Knee-Knock Rise last year). Take it away, Carolina Day School!

Tremendous! As last year, they read the book, created the script, scouted locations, created props and special effects, and filmed in eighteen hours in only FIVE DAYS. Wow! I’m told it was directed by a teenaged assistant who is now at NC School of the Arts. Really good cinematography on this one, and the story was pushed along efficiently and amusingly by an ace script. The voice-over was a crucial addition to make it all comprehensible. And . . . so many awesome mustaches! And what a bear! And those wagon wheels! And that fair! And who wouldn’t love a bunch of dancing singing hot potatoes at the end! (Completists can checks ou their bloopers and outtakes).

Last but not least in this great lineup, another Whipping Boy from middle school students at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, NY:

Such committed and enthusiastic acting! In particular, the way the prince recovers his dignity after being saved by Petunia in the middle of the whipping was a nice moment. I’m glad they took the time to nail the music and sound effects—that always makes a movie shine. Same with the costumes, including Cutwater and Hold-Your-Nose’s fantastic furry accoutrements, and Petunia’s marvelous costume (is that a mascot costume?). The fast-motion running-around-the-forest bit was knockabout fun, and I liked the mix of location shooting and green screen. Very resourceful! (I was particularly amused how, in the first 8 seconds, EVERYONE who stands up loses their wig, including the king.)

Thanks for all these great versions of The Whipping Boy! Looks like we’re shaping up for a great 90-Second Newbery season.