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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Ghosts of Newbery Past, Present and Future? Welcome to This Year’s 90-Second Newbery Film Festival

Last night I received the announcement that due to an abundance of concern about COVID-19 (I never thought I’d be using the phrase “an abundance of concern” as often as I have in the last week) my children’s public school has closed for the next month. We live in unprecedented times. My husband pointed out to me recently that when the Spanish Flu hit American back in the early 20th century, that was probably the last time a pandemic reached this level of national concern. And if you’d like to know more about that, I’d highly recommend reading Don Brown’s Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918. Cause at least it’s not like that right now.

Of course, what this means is that my family will be spending more time indoors for a while. Your family will perhaps be doing the same. And until Spring comes we’ll all be watching screens for some of that time. Well, guess what? It is fortunate for all of us that there is some amazing stuff to watch out there right now.

Last weekend I had the privilege to see what may well be the last 90-Second Newbery Film Festival of early 2020. The screenings in Boston, Utah, Boulder, and Minneapolis have been cancelled, but that doesn’t mean that YOU have to miss out! Today, I present to you my absolute favorite videos of this year. Created by kids, these are short versions of Newbery Award winning books.

The beginning consisted of a jaded James Kennedy having to learn the true meaning of the Newbery ala Scrooge. And there’s singing too!

To kick it out of the park right from the start, I’m showing you the one that just stole my heart.

That’s right. Someone made a video of Crown. And that someone was the kids of Play In A Book & South Shore Fine Arts Summer School of Chicago, IL

Did your heart just grow another three sizes? Bet it did.

That’s a hard one to follow-up, so why don’t I show you the latest Zenz Family creation? Do you know Aaron Zenz? He’s a picture book illustrator (his Monsters Go Night-Night, in particular, has an unexpected subversive panache) and every year his family creates a video so good you want to just roll around in it for a while. Remember the Newbery winner Lincoln: A Photobiography? One of the very rare straight-up Nonfiction books to win the gold Newbery outright? Well, I hope you like Hamilton-style antics because now you get to meet . . . Abrahamilton.

Oh yeah. Now you’re hooked. But it gets better. Because what do you think of when you think of The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander? Personally, I think of the Zenz family video made back in 2011, but now a new video has come out and it combines a D&D game with a fantasy classic. The Leland Street Players of Chicago, IL give you . . . The Black Cauldron as you’ve never seen it before.

When I attended this year’s screening I took, for the first time, my 8-year-old and my 5-year-old. And the 5-year-old did okay. Some videos made more sense than others. Some were way over his head. But the one he loved without question? Frog and Toad Together… only the one where Frog is a Marine and Toad is a Ninja.

You’ll see. From locals Porter, Alec and friends of Hinsdale, IL:

Mind you, his love of this one was closely followed by his love of Last Stop on Market Street. You know. The one where a pistol-toting Granny has to bust Gramps out of jail? Ah, the classics . . .

That was from a workshop held at the Treehouse Museum of Ogden, Utah.

Sometimes a video is submitted that’s almost too beautiful for the festival. Such, I would argue, is the case with the little remember Newbery Honor title Annie and the Old One, rendered here in magnificent cut paper by Alinne Romero-Torres and Brenda Romero-Torres of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, San Antonio, TX.

Speaking of paper, those kooky Friends of Hinsdale, IL struck again with this version of Charlotte’s Web:

To end this post on just the right note, I’d like to give a nod to a video for a book that was submitting to the festival, played in the festival, and is NOT based on a Newbery book. But for anyone out there who has ever hated The Giving Tree (“We’re in a whole forest and I’m the only tree here who feels pain so . . .”), this one goes out to you via Ella and Friends of Brooklyn, NY:

Many thanks to James Kennedy for pulling these links together for me and for pretty much creating the entire festival out of his headspace in the first place.

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. Thank you so much for featuring this, Betsy! I’m glad that the Chicago screening got in just under the wire. (And if anyone’s interested in participating in the 90-Second Newbery next year — and indeed, making 90-Second Newbery movies might be the perfect homebound activity while so many schools are closed — you can find all the details you need at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival website.