order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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I meet the cast of Mary Poppins

June 17, 2009

First, a couple links! I was interviewed by Amy Alessio for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Read about my experiences as a junior high school science teacher—in particular, of how the entire faculty was mysteriously menaced by a obscene note-writing student known only as “The Foggy Wiener.” I also talk about my participation in Japan’s violent “Naked Man” Festival, and how I discovered the President of the ALA is a whimsical hobo.

I was also interviewed by Melissa at the Book Nut blog. I talk about the difficulties of getting The Order of Odd-Fish published, my high school friend who was the inspiration for Jo, the idea of an “urban Narnia,” and the origin of the All-Devouring Mother character. (Just for the record: not my actual mother.)

And now let me tell you about one of the happiest experiences I’ve had as an writer.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Kim Tobash, the on-set schoolteacher for the young actors in the Chicago production of Mary Poppins. She had bought The Order of Odd-Fish and given it to one of her students as an opening-night gift. He loved it. Kim told me about this, and I offered to come and meet the cast and talk about the book.

I’m so glad I did. With my sister-in-law Jennifer, and my protegees Freya and Theo, I ventured down to the Cadillac Theater to meet Ms. Tobash and the charming, hilarious, articulate, intelligent, marvelously talented actors Aida, Bryce, Chris, Justin, and Kirrilee (the other actor, Abby, unfortunately wasn’t there).

Such gracious hosts, such accomplished kids! I must admit I was jealous. What was I doing at their age? I’ll tell you what: playing crappy video games on my Atari 800, watching reruns of The Jeffersons, and half-heartedly torturing my dog. These kids are touring the country in a huge Broadway production! It’s insanely impressive! I was humbled to talk to actors who have come so far at so young.

I read to them from Odd-Fish, I answered their questions, I asked them some questions (and heard some amazing stories; for example, Kirrilee is the daughter of a Rockette!), and then they took us for a full backstage tour. We met the wig-makers, gawked at the costumes, marveled at the ingenious set, visited the dressing rooms, and generally had a great time.

From left, here’s Theo with Bryce, Chris, and Justin in their dressing room:

And here, from left, we have Aida, Kirrilee, and Freya in the other dressing room:

Each of them had made a gorgeous shrinky-dink of a character or scene from Odd-Fish, which I will show in a later post. And they made a huge Odd-Fish stained-glass window! You can see it in the picture below—it’s of Sefino being outraged by an article in the Eldritch Snitch. So cool! It’s now hanging in Lucy Momo’s window. Courtesy of Kim, I’ll be bringing Freya and Theo to Mary Poppins next Wednesday. I can’t wait!

I will never forget this. Thank you, Kim—and thank you to Aida, Bryce, Chris, Justin, and Kirrilee, for making me so happy. You are stars.