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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newberys from the Riverside School District

I’m delighted to report that the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival really took off in Riverside, Illinois. In consequence I received no fewer than forty-nine entries from that one school district. Thanks so much, Riverside!

Now, I usually write a paragraph or two about every 90-Second Newbery film I receive . . . but with a ton of movies like this, that’s simply too much work, although I tried to comment on as many as I could. But I still want to showcase ALL these great short films on my blog. So that’s why I’ve put all the films from the Riverside district together here on one page. Thanks again, students of Riverside, and I hope you make it to the Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery film festival on November 16 at the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago!

And now, the films! They come from Mrs. Wright’s class at Ames Elementary, Mrs. Brackett’s class at Central School, Mr. Elgeness’ fifth grade class in Riverside, Ms. McCarthy’s fifth-grade class, and Ms. Whaley’s fifth-grade class at Central Elementary.

Let ‘er rip:

From Mrs. Wright’s class at Ames Elementary in Riverside, Illinois:

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Film by Fiona B. Cute mouse costumes, and what a great opening line! “Where are my babies?” “They all died.” And so the heartwarming tale begins!

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. Film by Anthony E. I have to admit, I kind of loved it when the bully tripped after pushing Maniac. Nice intertextualitity in that the book Maniac borrows is . . . Maniac Magee itself!

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Film by Vivian R. Those are some pretty fearsome Nazis!

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Dubois. Film by George C. Loved the bit where, by the magic of green screen technology, Professor Sherman is blowing up a hot-air balloon with his own mouth . . . !

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Film by Paul G. and Xavier S. I like the ingenuity of the special effects when they’re trying to catch up with the train. (But who’s the dude with the rainbow clown wig?!)

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss. Film by Chloe C. Again, good use of the green screen, and another fearsome Nazi!

From Mrs. Brackett’s 5th grade class at Central School in Riverside, IL:

Holes by Louis Sachar. Film by Thomas D. Great, economical opening scene! And a very convincing “Ahh! My face! It’s burning! It’s burning!!” Great work!

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Film by Alexander M. I liked the enthusiasm with “It’s Brussels sprouts soup!” The most comically perfunctory “running away” scene I’ve ever seen. “I don’t believe you. Don’t do that.” (with almost infinite resignation) “I’m getting out of here.” I also liked “you are now part of the band” and he says “yay!!” and then falls down and recovers with a quick “I’m okay.” Well done!

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Film by Brendan S. Choice line: “Oh no, it’s a letter from my mom. Oh no, she’s never coming back from Idaho.” I thought it was pretty funny when he said “I found a fireplace” in front of a green screen and then the main character looked at the audience as if we were the crazy ones! I’m not sure what the Star Wars-style intertitle said – it flew by too small and too quickly for me to read, even when I paused it and went slow-mo! But I get what you’re doing. A worthy effort!

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Film by Jackson H. The offstage “Come back here now, boy!” I found pretty funny, for some reason. Usually when a book gets boiled down to only 90 seconds, it makes no sense anymore, but the way they did it, the plot actually makes sense! And the way the kid in the Blackhawks T-shirt looks dubiously at the camera when Bud plays the saxophone, is a comedic moment worthy of The Office. Super!

Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer. Film by Sam D. Wait a second – there are no roller skates in this movie! That’s a rather bold avant-garde move. Like Star Wars with no stars, and no wars either. “I’m going to have so much fun being a temporary orphan” is a pretty funny line. The funniest tragic scene I’ve ever seen: “Trinket’s not with us anymore!” she wails, and then it looks like they’re cracking up laughing. And then apparently Lucinda gets called for lunch, and she forgets all about it. The callousness of youth! I enjoyed this one very much.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Film by Joseph C. Great first scene, so much passion! The “special effect” of flying chalk dust was satisfyingly ludicrous. Some amazing performances of “military wives” getting ill from eating invalid pastries. (yes I mean you, Ms. Brackett!) Favorite moment is the Shakespeare play: he says “I’m really going to regret doing this” as he walks onstage – and then disappears like a magician! And the crowd goes wild! I don’t remember that scene, but maybe it should’ve been in there. Then everything’s solved with a big race! Just like in real life. Awesome job!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koningsburg. Film by Bennett R. Great delivery on these lines: the exchange of “I can trust you because you have the most money around here.” And “okay.” And “I think I’m falling in love with her” followed by “not literally.” The look on the angel’s face is priceless. Frankweiler has a pretty amazing Susan-Sontag-esque wig. A very hearty “THE END!” too. Great!

Savvy by Ingrid Law. Film by Alli P. Amazing one-man car crash scene! Also a good scene in the bus. I appreciate that you took the time to make a steering wheel instead of just miming it! And you managed to get a lot of the plot in there successfully too.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Film by Catherine L. I loved this exchange: MEG: “I love you, Charles Wallace! I love you!” CHARLES: (flatly) “I was so scared.” MEG: (with barely restrained impatience) “C’mon, let’s go home.” Funny accent on Mrs. Whatsit, too! Enjoyed!

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Film by Jason B. As soon as it started, I got excited because it said “A J-Man Production” – I love everything from J-Man Productions, so I knew this would be good. I liked how after they said, “We’re sleeping in the tent. You’re sleeping on the ground.” “That’s not fair,” they reply – especially since, because of the green screen running out, they seem to be sleeping OUTSIDE OF REALITY! Favorite part: when they say “I guess Mrs. Baker wasn’t so bad after all” – and then stand around for a moment, dubiously – clearly Mrs. Baker was so bad, and perhaps worse than one could express! The terror in their eyes!

Hoot by Carl Hiassen. Film by Joe M. What a whirlwind of action! And of course the teleportation is perfectly suited for the green-screen technique! I was intrigued by the bizarrely quick wrap-up: “Quick, go save the owls. I’m out of here” followed by the other kid covering his mouth with a cloth as he spoke into the mic. Why . . . ? Mysterious and interesting!

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Film by Jane F. That’s a pretty tough fighting scene at the beginning. Great delivery on these lines: “He is dead!” and “Die, Todd! No, live Todd!” and . . . well, pretty much every line that girl did was hilariously adorable. Great job, everyone!

Savvy by Ingrid Law. Film by Julia D. Good sound design overall, and cool image for the hurricane! I liked the dramatic orchestral flourish before “WHAT?!” (And the mom in the scene is actually reading . . . Savvy? Ah! Self-referential and postmodern! )This movie actually summed up the plot quite efficiently. Good job . . . and in particular, great acting by the girl playing Mibs!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Film by Mariana M. Amusing: “Here’s a string and here’s an insect.” “Go away!” I liked the sci-fi background and sound effects. “You’ll never find your brother!” was well acted. And after that emotional outburst of Meg’s at the end, Charles Wallace’s “It’s fine, we’re safe now” was properly anticlimactic.

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray. Film by Skye O. I liked the background music. I liked this line: “Ha ha, his horse is lame. I must steal your dog now.” Also the “WHAAAAT” was pretty funny. The chase scene was rather ghostly, with the background coming through as they yelled “Give me my dog back!” Fun and entertaining!

Sounder by William H. Armstrong. Film by Averie R. Great dog performance! I liked the delivery of the lines “Give me your dad!” and “I’m going to kill your dog!” Nice “rain” special effect too. Wrapped up the plot nicely. Well done!

Savvy by Ingrid Law. Film by Jayden D. Good cut to the hurricane! And I liked the dropping of the newspaper and horror movie music cues. I particularly liked how the mind-reading scene at the end worked. Liked it!

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Film by John D. This is a great, brisk, efficient rendering of the story! Good job! I liked the performance of Winn-Dixie too!

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Film by Tatum B. Creative use of the thought-balloon over Mrs. Baker’s head. Enjoyable!

The Giver by Lois Lowry, film by Olivia L. Nice beard! Also, a very effective telling of the story… good work.

From Mr. Elgeness’ 5th grade class in the Riverside School District:

Penny From Heaven. by Jennifer L. Holm. Film by Jack D. I liked the stentorian narrator. The way that it’s shot, I feel like someone punched me out and a bunch of people are gathered around me — but instead of asking me if I’m all right, they’re performing a book! Surreal! They seem to be peering at me with alien curiosity! When the ceiling fan went on in the middle of the scene, it felt like it became a character of its own, whirling faster and faster as it tried to say its lines. A bit longer than 90 seconds, but a worthy effort! And then everything is wrapped up with a voiceover at the end. Good job.

Savvy by Ingrid Law. Film by Anna S. Good use for limited resources for the car crash scene! If only highways had people floating on pillows all over! Good script and performances. Particularly Mibs! I notice “Lester” must be driving down a particularly twisty road. I’m surprised he can drive so well when not looking at the road, ever. Who knew that Mibs slapping her dad on the knee would wake him up? Why, that’s her savvy!

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo. Film by Ella G. Good use of “mouse” voices and mouse ears! And such an enthusiastic screaming of “to the dungeon!” for Desperaux.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Film by Paulina L. A very enthusiastic Charles Wallace! As for tessering: “Is it dangerous?” “Not really . . . well . . . Let’s go.” Ha! I liked the use of dramatic music for the big confrontation. And it’s all resolved by pushing down someone draped with a black tablecloth! Liked it.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Film by Naomi G. I was totally into the story, and then . . . the last thirty seconds are nothing but darkness with “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” in playing in the background? Strangely avant-garde!

Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff. Film by Hailey J. The enjoyable chocolate-eating scene made me . . . hungry for chocolate. Abrupt end! I’m left wanting more.

A rather mysterious one by Tatiana G! What was the book? Sarah Noble . . . I think? I think it got cut off midway through . . . ?

Ms. McCarthy’s Fifth-Grade Class

The Giver by Lois Lowry. Film by Radka P:

Holes by Louis Sachar. Film by Caitlin L:

Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff. Film by Michaela E:

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer. Film by Karoli E:

The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis. Film by Sumner F:

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Film by Grace F:

Holes by Louis Sachar. Film by Conor:

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koningsburg. Film by Massimo F:

Lily’s Crossing Patricia Reilly Giff. Film by Amy K

Whittington by Alan Armstrong. Film by Michael L.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. Film by Evan G.

Savvy by Ingrid Law. Film by Anthony P.

Ms. Whaley’s 5th-grade class at Central Elementary:

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo. Film by Sofia K.

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech. Film by Emily T.

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. Film by Jake V.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Film by Joey K.