order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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Joke Book, 90-Second Newbery Update, and Where Am I?

August 28, 2014

What is that cartoon above? A few months ago I was invited to contribute to a joke book for the 7- to 10-year-old crowd called Do You Smell Carrots?. The book is supposed to support California Bookstore Day, a celebration of brick and mortar indie bookstores stores as well as the physical beauty/fun/coolness of books. The book was only available at the indie bookstores participating, not at online booksellers or chain stores.

I was honored to be asked to contribute a joke-and-illustration in a book that also featured the likes of Lemony Snicket, John Scieszka, …. Here’s what I didn’t realize, though: almost every single other contributor—including bona fide artists—only used one page of the book, or a double-page spread max. For some reason I drew this excessively long meta-joke above (based on a conversation that my 5-year-old Lucy Momo and I had) and it took up 8 pages. Ay yi yi.

So, I’m back from my usual summer hiatus with several bits of news. First of all, good news on the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival front—we are now under the fiscal sponsorship of Northwestern Settlement. Want to make a donation to keep the film festival going? Now you can do so here!

Upcoming events! Live in the Atlanta area? This weekend (August 30-31, 2014), I’ll be at the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, GA speaking about The Order of Odd-Fish (with other writers Peter Lerangis and George Hagen) and doing a best-of screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Details in the events sidebar.

Also, for you hometown Chicago folk, I’m once again co-hosting the annual Adult Spelling Bee at the Book Cellar with Robbie Q. Telfer and Kelsey Huff. It’s on Thursday, September 4 at 7 pm. This is the kind of bookstore that has a wine bar, and the spelling bee always a sloppy happy hilarious mess, so do come! Words will be misspelled! Prizes will be flung wildly about! Elementary school humiliations will be revisited! Register to compete at words@bookcellarinc.com or just show up and watch, it’s a good time. And heck, buy some books while you’re there at that worthy independent bookstore.

Ah! See how I brought it full circle, there? That’s true blogging mastery. I still got it!

Odd-Fish Art Roundup

June 11, 2014

I haven’t been blogging lately because I’m hard at work writing! But I thought I’d come up for air and share some really fantastic pieces of Order of Odd-Fish art I’ve come across lately.

First of all—check out that TATTOO above! It belongs to Katherine Megna, one of the wonderful women who runs the Laurel Village branch of Books Inc. in San Francisco. That bookstore has been extraordinarily supportive of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, and I’ve also done a reading there. That’s when I first met Katherine, and she told me she intended to get a tattoo of a line from Odd-Fish . . . and lo and behold, the next time I saw her, there it was! Sir Oort’s line, “It is my job to be wrong in new and exciting ways,” tattooed right below the back of Katherine’s neck! I can’t tell you how honored I am by this. Never would I have dreamed that someone would get something I wrote tattooed on them. And what a beautiful tattoo, too! Thanks so much for this, Katherine. You make me feel legit!

Back in April, I had the pleasure of doing an author visit at Dubois Area Middle School in Dubois, Pennsylvania. (That’s pronounced “due-boys,” and not “due-bwah,” as I was quickly corrected.) Dubois was a bit out of the way: first I had to fly from Chicago to Cleveland on a normal plane, but then from Cleveland to Dubois in a small 16-seat plane, where the only passengers were me and an old lady. The pilots made the old lady and I sit on opposite ends of the plane, to balance the plane’s weight out. I loved it.

I loved Dubois, too! I got a great welcome from the teachers and librarians, and the students there were not only a friendly and receptive audience, but a few weeks after my presentation, they sent me all this great Order of Odd-Fish fan art! It’s an impressive haul!

I’ve posted all the Odd-Fish art I’ve received from Dubois here. There are way too many pieces of art for me to do detailed comments on each one, but just let it be said, I’m blown away by all the talent and craft on display here. Thanks, Dubois! I’m looking forward to coming back again someday. (And for those passing through, the wings at the airport are pretty good.)

I link to all the art from Dubois above. But just to whet your appetite, here’s an impressive rendering of Sefino, by Jacob Rupert:

Jo and Ian ride an elephant around the streets of Eldritch City, by Alexis Maze:

Jo, Ian, and Colonel Korsakov hunting the Schwenk, by Blaze Welpott:

The Ichthala rampages around Eldritch City, by Josiah Connor:

Again, you can find the rest of the Odd-Fish art from Dubois here.

Thanks so much, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the summer.

90-Second Newbery: Glorious Hodgepodge Edition!

April 24, 2014

It’s been quiet on the blog as of late, since I’ve been doing a bit of traveling, a bit of school-visiting, a bit of book-writin’, a bit of ruminatin’, a bit of walkin’ the open road, searching for adventure—and yes, searching for a little thing I like to call “America” . . . Wait, what? I’ve just been lazy. That’s all.

In the meantime, while I’ve been away, here’s the LAST few stray entries for the third annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival that wrapped up just a few weeks ago . . . a few movies that, for no good reason, I haven’t featured on the blog yet. They’re good ones too, so let’s check out this glorious hodgepodge!

Chase Elementary in Chicago wowed us last year with their gross-out horror version of Jim Murphy’s American Plague. This year they chose to adapt Steve Sheinkin’s great 2013 Honor Book Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Check out the result, above!

From the very first line (“I did it! I split the atom!”) I knew it was going to be good. The music was quite appropriate and I liked the dead-seriousness of the narrator, the Cold War dread, and the repeated motifs of the exchange of documents on staircases and the kids running up and down the halls. (Oh, and I liked especially the neologism in “scientists and spyentists”!)

Next up: any Doctor Who fans out there? I’m sure there are many. OK, any fans of the 1923 Newbery Medal winner The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting? At least a few. Well, Play Mechanics of Chicago wondered, how about combining the two . . . into DOCTOR WHO-LITTLE:

What a delirious sprint through the book! I loved the copious Dr. Who references (“bigger on the inside,” Daleks, the way everyone lurched as the TARDIS rocked from side to side) and the great Matt Smith style of the kid playing the Doctor. And for some reason my favorite part was when . . . the Doctor was very seriously listening to the lobster? All in all, a triumph!

Next up, the Kids Book Club at the Villa Park Library in the suburbs of Chicago did this great take on Richard Peck’s 2001 Medal winner, A Year Down Yonder:

The girl who played Grandma Dowdel nailed it, don’t you think it? I loved the down-home accent, the cantankerousness, the joy she put into the performance! “It’s all right! It’s a Burdick!” “Now go home! Git!” The other performances were great, too. “A Chicago girl? Playing the Virgin Mary!” “We are the D.A.R.” “I studied in Paris!” All very funny. And resourceful use of green screen!

Next up, Beverly Cleary’s 1978 Honor Book Ramona and Her Father by real-life father-daughter team Greg and Jill from Mundelein, IL:

Wonderful! Ramona and her Father is one of my favorite Beverly Cleary books. Not nearly enough people have done a 90-Second Newbery of it. It’s especially fitting that they two did it as a father-and-daughter project! The script was tight and kept the story flowing along smoothly. The pictures were spot-on and really served the story too. I especially appreciated how the script carefully tracked the ups and downs of Ramona and her father’s emotions. Well done!

Some Newbery winners are books of poetry. Hannah & Maegan Scheib from Indianapolis decided to do one of the poems from Joyce Sidman’s 2011 Honor Book Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, in which each poem is about a different nocturnal animal. The poem they chose was in the voice of an eft, which is a kind of newt:

Fantastic! Resourceful and ingenious use of the hot tub, and the romping in the field at night was quite funny (and I liked the acrobatic flip or handspring or whatever that was thrown in there)! Great voiceover reading of the poem too. Thanks, Hannah and Maegan and friends!

And with that, I believe I have covered most of the publicly available 90-Second Newberys I received for the third annual season. Thanks everyone who submitted! Remember, the deadline for the fourth annual 90-Second Newbery is December 20, 2014, so get cracking!

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