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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery 2018: BOSTON!

June 6, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

We put on the final screening of our 2018 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Boston Public Library on April 28! It made for a fantastic conclusion of a season of an unprecedented fourteen (fourteen!!) screenings all over the country.

Laura Koenig and all the folks at the Boston Public Library were fantastic hosts. In fact, Laura hosted in more than one way: my Airbnb fell through at the last minute, and she generously hosted me at her place for my Boston stay. Thank you so much, Laura!

Thanks also to Kate Gilbert for enthusiastically organizing many of the behind-the-scenes details, just as she did last year. Thanks to Trident Booksellers for selling books at the event too. In addition to the Boston Public Library, thanks also to ArtWeek Boston and Writers Room of Boston for their sponsorship and support. And thanks to authors Susan Tan and Becky Mahoney for coming to staff the Writers Room table!

Special thanks to my co-host, M.T. Anderson! Here I am with him as he throttles me in front of some of the kid filmmakers featured that day. It’s a friendly throttle.

Now, you know M.T. Anderson from his classic novels like Feed, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Whales of Stilts, and his more recent books like Landscape with Invisible Hand or the graphic novel Yvain. But did you know this National Book Award winner is also an accomplished showman and singing-and-dancing comedian? I knew I had to get him to co-host again with me this year after he nailed last year’s performance at the Boston-area 90-Second Newbery.

Check out the video below of this year’s opening skit, in which he and I explore video game adaptations of Newbery winning books, review weird 90-Second Newbery movies of years past, and top it off with a song-and-dance inspired by the Donny Osmond song “Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan:

Thanks most of all to the filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who showed up for the screening! Let’s highlight some of their movies here.

Judy Epstein, Julia D’Amato, and Phoebe D’Amato from Cambridge did this musical version of E.L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Medal Winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler:

As the judges on the 90-Second Newbery website said (full review here), “Energetic and ingenious! . . . It was a brilliant idea to tell the story of the book through rap and song and spoken rhyming verse. The lyrics were tight and flowed well, and they were performed with flair. On top of that, the shots were well-composed and the edits were brisk and propulsive, quickly moving the story forward from location to location and idea to idea, sometimes many within just a few seconds!”

Tiffany Begin-Stearns of Haverhill, MA organizes kids to make 90-Second Newberys at her HC Media’s Moviemakers Camp every summer. Here’s the entry from their July camp, by Aidan, Christian, Dominic, and Julianna. It’s Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats made in the style of Star Wars:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Such an insane and hilarious idea to change it from ‘Millions of Cats’ to ‘Millions of Stormtroopers’! I like how Darth Vader goes searching for his stormtroopers not only throughout the galaxy, but also throughout different franchise universes . . . My favorite part might have been the rapid-fire audition scene. The green screen work added a lot to the movie, especially with the spaceship-flying-around scenes . . . Entertaining and anarchic!”

The August session of the same moviemaking camp did an adaptation of Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins. This one is by
Addison, Chris, Christian, Cooper, Dominic, Donny, Ellie, Emily, Hanna, Laura, and Marcelina. This one also had a sci-fi Star Wars vibe:

As the judges wrote (full review here), “Inspired, wacky, and full of personality! I loved all the penguin costumes, as well as their various dances in their show . . . The narrator voiceover kept the increasingly unhinged plot on track. . . . An inventive script, good acting, well-shot and deftly edited. Great work!”

Those were all pretty big productions, with large casts. But you can make great 90-Second Newberys on your own. Jordan Whitney did a great job with Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Newbery Medal Winner One and Only Ivan, which she narrates herself over the beautiful pictures she’d drawn inspired by the story:

As the judges wrote (full review here), “Good use of voiceover and drawings to tell the story! The young elephant Ruby was drawn in a particularly cute style (with that adorable little flower in her hair!). The movie tells the complete story very proficiently and accurately. The picture of Ivan at the end is particularly well-executed. A satisfying and entertaining entry!”

The kids of the Central Branch of the Boston Public Library did this adaptation of Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street:

As the judges wrote, “A fun, quick romp through the story! I liked all the little touches, like Nana’s crazy white wig and the bus driver’s beard and the backdrop on the bus itself . . . Nice attention to details, too: the rain sound effects at the beginning and the way CJ lurches when the bus ‘brakes’ to a stop!”

Thanks again, all you filmmakers! I hope you make even more movies for next year’s screening! In fact, you can start making your movies for next year now . . . They’re due January 11, 2019, but you can turn them in anytime. Go to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival website to find out more about the film festival. New at making movies? We’ve got tons of resources to get you started, including step-by-step instructions on how to make your own 90-Second Newbery.

Thanks again, and see you next year! Here’s the final montage of this year’s Boston screening:


Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.