Guest Post: James Kennedy on the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival

By James Kennedy

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is an annual video contest in which kid filmmakers create movies that tell the entire story of a Newbery award-winning book in 90 seconds or less.

We’re now starting our third year!

We’ve received hundreds of entries from all over the world, in a
dizzying variety of styles — from a shadow-puppet version of Grace
Lin’s 2010 Honor Book Where The Mountain Meets the Moon (view) to a full-scale musical of William Pene du Bois’ 1948 Medal Winner The Twenty-One Balloons (view)

Bookie Woogie: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon from Z-Dad on Vimeo.

The film festival screens annually in New York City, Chicago, Portland, Tacoma, and other cities.

Here’s a recap of this year’s screening in New York, co-hosted by me and Jon Scieszka, with special guests Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux), Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer), and Margi Preus (Heart of a Samurai), as well as Dan Yaccarino and Brian Floca. Worth checking out if you want to see Jon Scieszka sing, or arm-wrestle with Kate DiCamillo…

Here’s a recap of this year’s screening in Chicago, co-hosted by me and Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer). Here you
can see the questions and answers of our audience participatory game
show, “The Dark Side of the Newbery,” in which unsavory truths of
Newbery winners come to light . . .

The film festival typically screens for free at the main branch of the city’s public library. We’ve had sold-out shows right from the start, with crowds of hundreds turning out, including the young filmmakers themselves — who in some cases, get to meet in person the author who wrote the book they filmed!

Here are some of the standouts of this year’s films. Must be
seen to be believed! Feel free to embed or link to these if you want:

  • A hilarious live-action puppet reenactment of Frog and Toad Together (Arnold Lobel, 1973 Honor), by Aaron Zenz and family of Spring Lake, MI (watch).
  • A bonkers Claymation sprint through the very first Newbery winner, The Story of Mankind (Hendrik Willem van Loon, 1922 Medal) by Max and Jennings of Tacoma, WA (watch)
  • An Akira-Kurosawa-inspired, all-Japanese-language, subtitled version of Heart of a Samurai (Margi Preus, 2011 Honor Book) by Burley Elementary School of Chicago, IL (watch)
  • An ingeniously resourceful one-man-show of The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal) done by Leo Lion of Brooklyn, NY (watch)
  • An elaborate musical of Mrs. Friby and the Rats of Nimh (Robert C. O’Brien, 1972 Medal), by Elephant & Worm Theater Company of Chicago, IL (watch)
  • One of the most interesting things about curating this film festival is seeing the different ways different groups approach the same material. Here’s another Frog and Toad Together, but this time interpreted as a Wes-Anderson-style/French ye-ye music video, by Sara Truscott of Tacoma, WA (watch)

Cynsational Notes

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is founded and organized by James Kennedy, author of the YA fantasy The Order of Odd-Fish.

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