90-Second Newbery project condenses classic kid-lit
A Chicago author encourages readers of all ages to make short films of beloved books.
In short, it’s about keeping it short. That’s the theme for participants of local author James Kennedy’s 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, a showcase that challenges budding directors of all ages to condense Newbery Award-winning novels into digital shorts no more than a minute-and-a-half long.
In conjunction with the Chicago Public Library and the New York Public Library, in January Kennedy established an engaging contest—open to all kids, parents, teachers, and kid-lit enthusiasts through October 17. By imposing strict CliffsNotes confines on the beloved winners of Newbery medals and honors (among the most prestigious U.S. awards for children’s literature), Kennedy hopes to inspire some entertaining interpretations. It all culminates in a public film—er, digital video—festival November 16 in the Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library.
“Any book, no matter how worthy and somber, becomes pleasingly ludicrous when compressed into 90 seconds,” says Kennedy, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Lincoln Square.
Early entries to the contest (some of which are posted at jameskennedy.com) display a range of innovative interpretations, including the live-action drama of A Wrinkle In Time, the musical melee of The Twenty-One Balloons and the subtle humor of shadow puppets in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. With the Newbery tradition stretching back to 1922, participants have plenty of books to choose from—and “every book I’ve received a submission for, I read,” Kennedy adds. If not already familiar with it, he checks it out from the library.
The process of (re)discovering classic kid-lit is a joy for Kennedy, whose acclaimed young-adult novel, The Order of Odd-Fish, tells the story of a young girl who finds herself caught between two worlds. His next book, The Magnificent Moots, which he’s editing now for a hopeful 2013 release, is a sci-fi comedy about a family that plays in the Interplanetary Olympics.
With this project, Kennedy says he aims to promote a healthy exploration of both reading and technology. At its heart, however, is the fun of a shared experience. “People who’ve read the books represented in the movies will have the pleasure of marveling at the filmmakers’ ingenuity of abbreviation,” he says. “Those who haven’t read the books will be agreeably befuddled at the seeming barrage of accelerated nonsense. Everyone wins.”
Experience the thrill of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival on November 16.