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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Introducing the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival

How it all began is anybody’s guess, but it probably started with YA author James Kennedy.  On a day like any other I received an email from him with a proposal: Why not have a contest where kids created videos of their favorite Newbery books.  The catch?  All the videos must be 90 seconds or less.

What would that look like?  Well, James made a sample video of his own.  I bring you . . . The 90-second version of A Wrinkle In Time:

And before you say it, yes Meg isn’t wearing glasses in this video.  Aside from that, you have to admit it’s a lot of fun.

Well, obviously I was gonna be on board with James and his plan.  So we put our heads together and came up with a plan.  Why not have an honest-to-goodness film festival of the kids’ films here at the main branch of New York Public Library as well?  Obviously kids from around the country wouldn’t be able to necessarily attend, but maybe some of them would.  And certainly the kids here in New York would like to see other kids doing their thing.  Heck, James and I could even put up a website with the various submissions!  He’s always been good at displaying the art of his book’s fans, after all.

And so it shall be!  This fall (date to be determined very soon) we will present the 90-second Film Festival.  Know some kids (or a class) interested in participating?  In that case, pilfered from James, here are the rules in brief:

1. Your video should be 90 seconds or less. (Okay, okay: if it’s three minutes long but absolute genius, we’ll bend the rules for you. But let’s try to keep them short.)

2. Your video has to be about a Newbery award-winning (or Newbery honor-winning) book. Here’s a list of all the winners.

3. Your video must condense the plot of the book in 90 seconds or less. Again, exceptions will be made for something really ingeniously bonkers, but it has to be related to a Newbery winning book.

4. Upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo or whatever and send me the link at kennedyjames [at] gmail [dot] com. Make the subject line be “90 SECOND NEWBERY” and please tell me your name, age, where you’re from, and whatever other comments you’d like to include, including whether you’d like me to link to your personal site. You can give an alias if you want; I understand privacy concerns.

5. Sending the link to me grants me (James Kennedy) the right to post it on my blog and to other websites where I sometimes post content (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and to share at public readings, school visits—and hopefully the 90-Second Film Festival at the New York Public Library in the Fall of 2011.

6. Deadline is September 15, 2011.

I’ll add in some details of my own.  Participants must be between the ages of 0-18.  Yes, we will take teenage versions of these books, if they want to participate.  Everyone is welcome.

New York Caveat: The film festival will consist of Newbery videos, yes.  BUT, New York kids are not restricted to just the Newbery.  If your kids want to do one of the books listed on the Children’s Books 2010: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list, that is a-okay.  Equally, if New York teens would like to do any videos you can chose from the Stuff for the Teen Age list.  We will present these videos as a secondary party of the film festival.  Such submissions, however, should be sent to me rather than James.  You can do so by clicking on my name at the beginning of this (or any other) post on this blog and that will take you to my email.

For a series of highly amusing suggestions of how to approach the Newbery part of the contest, head on over to the 90-Second Newbery page and read through Mr. Kennedy’s suggestions.  And for those of you working in places where YouTube is blocked, you can see the video at Vimeo too.

Have fun!

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Is anyone else just dying to be a kid living in James Kennedy’s neighborhood? Sigh.

  2. Oh! This would be perfect for my class (the ones who did the video of our book the Fuzzy Philosopher that you posted on Sunday) but they are college students! Most are 19 and 20, but because Chinese students are VERY sheltered by their parents they are really more like 15 or 16 emotionally. Does that count?

    They want to make some more films next semester so maybe we’ll do this anyway, and it will be so great that you will want to include it in your festival. 🙂

    Great idea you guys!

  3. What a great idea! I can’t wait to see what people come up with. 🙂 e

  4. @RyanMCFC My instinct is, the more the merrier! To be sure, I did the camerawork and editing on this version of “Wrinkle,” so I think it’s inevitable that there will be some participation of those 18+. As long as it doesn’t devolve into videos of 35 year old guys sitting around their apartments reciting bits from “Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village” in a high-pitched shriek, I think we’re OK.

  5. Just checked. The 35 year old guy in the “Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!” video is me. My bad!

  6. So could I organize a video with some of the 5th graders in my class? Assuming they do 99% of the script writing, condensing, summarizing of plot, costumes, etc?

    Didn’t know if my involvement (filming, organizing) would be an issue . . .

    And why can only New York kids pull from the Children’s Books 2010 list?

  7. @Mr. H: Yes, you can organize a video with 5th graders from your class. That sounds great!

    As for New York kids — I believe that “Children’s Books 2010” list is a NYPL thing. I guess there’s no law against non-NYC kids pulling from the “Children’s Books 2010” list, but I’m hoping to get many more Newbery entries, because I think that would be far weirder.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yeah, I only said it was for New Yorkers so that (as James said) the entries could be kookier, but if your heart is set on summarizing, say, A Tale Dark & Grimm, you are free to do so.

  8. Okay, that video was frakking GENIUS. I would like to parent and/or marry all of those kids. (Except not, you know, in a creepy way.)

  9. Hmm . . . A Tale Dark & Grimm . . . the MPAA won’t be checking these short films out will they?

  10. Kristin McIlhagga says:

    What a brilliant way to have kids, er younger readers (per my pre-teen daughter) to combine reading along with technology. Technology projects that have no audience or meaning are so tiresome and too common in classrooms. I’ll definitely be passing this along to some teachers that I know and keeping my eyes open for more of this.

  11. These kids are hilarious and they did a great job condensing Wrinkle in Time. What an awesome idea for a contest–you are going to get some great entries. Makes me wish I were a kid again so I could enter one. I can’t wait to see the film festival at NYPL!

  12. @Melanie Thanks for the compliments! Though, to be sure, I did help them out. It was a collaboration between me and my niece, nephew, and their friends. Everyone has a couple of those hanging around, right? Please enter!

  13. Oh please, somebody, do Julie of the Wolves. 🙂

  14. Sam Bloom says:

    This is a wonderful idea, and I love this video. So funny! Can’t wait to see what some enterprising young people do with Story of Mankind!

  15. @Karen Yes, somebody please make “Julie of the Wolves” before all the snow melts!!

    @Sam My prediction: whoever does “The Story of Mankind” will be the surprise hit of the film festival. Talk about compressing a lot of info into just a little time…

  16. I’m so glad I came back to watch this! And even reading the comments so far has me cracking up. So much fun. I may have to convince the kids at my library to take part.

  17. Wonderful. You really have to understand a book well to be able to condense it like that. A teacher at the high school where I am a librarian has her students do a video project. The question of music and copyright always comes up: what you can and cannot use, and how making your project public changes the fair use rules. Of course, you see how many times a song like Telstar comes up on UTube and you can’t imagine that you should worry about it…

  18. This is really great and I hope it will inspire film making AND reading! I’m going to post on this to get the word out. Thanks!


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