This post is an article from the Spring 2018 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Sonja Somerville at the Salem Public Library.
A momentary hush fell over the room as the screen sprang to life. It was a big moment for seven members of the Salem Public Library Teen Advisory Board — a moment months in the making. They were about to see all 90 seconds of their creative retelling of Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine on the big screen, during the official screening of the annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.
They were ready, and perhaps a bit sheepish, as the audience met their Ella (played by an eggplant with glued-on googly eyes) and Prince Charmant (a poblano pepper with with glued-on googly eyes). But as it turns out, this madcap creative effort was a good fit for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, an annual project organized by James Kennedy, author of The Order of Odd-Fish.
Our TAB video — filmed entirely on one December afternoon — was called “a fun romp” and “bonkers” by the judges, which seems about right. Even the most enthusiastic participant in its creation wouldn’t exactly call it “good,” but it was fun to watch and a heck of a lot of fun to make.
The idea of telling the story using google-eyed vegetables started, as is often the case with these things, as a joke by a brilliant TAB member, Samantha. But I thought it would work in their favor because … uh … who else would be doing it? A mere $30 worth of produce later, the team was ready to roll.
We submitted the final video not expecting much, so it was a bit of a thrill to be invited to the screening at Open Signal in Portland. A group of ten TAB members and adults made their way up from Salem. The screening was really fun. James and his Portland co-host, Dale Bayse (author of the Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go) were funny, entertaining emcees that approached each short film with great respect and enthusiasm. Also some were genuinely and astoundingly good. I highly recommend the adaptation of The Crossover by Kwame Alexander submitted by a group from Lincolnwood, IL and Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens by Patricia Lauber told in Lego stop-action by a student in Paris, France.
We also gathered some tips for ourselves or others who might be interested in entering videos in future years:
- Remember that the challenge is to tell the entire story of a Newbery Award winner or honor book inside 90 seconds. It’s a good exercise in finding the essence of a narrative.
- You’ll stand out more if you choose an obscure book, but you really can do any book you want to from the Newbery list.
- Put your own spin on it. Creative license is freely given in this contest.
- Be wacky if the mood strikes.
- It doesn’t need to be slick, but it should come from the heart.