order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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Odd-Fish Art Show at the Hegeler-Carus Mansion, April 2!

Holy cannoli, Cory Doctorow just posted a marvelous review of The Order of Odd-Fish on BoingBoing! “An extraordinary and delightfully weird romp that’s one part China Mieville, one part Lemony Snicket, with trace amounts of Madeline L’Engle and Roald Dahl.” Thanks, Cory!

And now, back to our previously scheduled program—an announcement of the new Odd-Fish fan art show:

Last April we threw an Order of Odd-Fish fan art extravaganza. It was epic: not only a gallery show of marvelous Odd-Fish fan-made art, but also a costume party recreating the book’s Dome of Doom scene. We had circus punk marching bands! Ritualistic parades! A battle-dancing competition culminating in a bloody sacrifice! (Here’s all the details of the night, complete with lurid pictures and video.)

We’re going to restage the Odd-Fish fan art show this April 2—but in a rather different way.

The building pictured above is the Hegeler Carus Mansion in La Salle, Illinois. I first learned about it through Tricia Kelly, whom I met at the Princeton Kidlit Festival last year. She took me on a tour of the place. I was blown away—first, because it’s an amazing, rambling, decaying, eccentric house of treasures—and second, because it’s a dead ringer for what I imagine the Odd-Fish lodge to look like. Photos don’t do it justice, but let me try:

Edward Hegeler—the fellow in the portrait in the upper left—made his fortune in zinc smelting. He and his wife Camilla went on to found Open Court Publishing, and started the children’s magazine empire that includes Cricket, Spider, Muse, and more, which were once published out of this very mansion. Their daughter, Mary Hegeler, married Dr. Paul Carus, editor of Open Court, and the mansion became a hub of intellectual activities, including the dissemination of Buddhism in the U.S., the promotion of Jungian thought, and other ventures.

Oh yes, and the basement has a bizarre old gymnasium which might be the oldest gym in America:

The house is packed with not only nineteenth-century architectural peculiarities but also old Asian artifacts, printing plates from back issues of Cricket, enough books to choke a library, perfectly preserved rooms that (until recently) hadn’t been opened in decades, other rooms crumbling apart with holes in the plaster and peeling paint, and a basement full of antique printing presses, priceless art, unclassifiable knickknacks, and so much garbage it’s like the trash compactor scene from Star Wars:

Basically, it’s glorious. In the same way that Tolkien, upon visiting Venice, described it as “elvishly lovely—to me like a dream of Old Gondor, or Pelargir of the Numenorean Ships, before the return of the Shadow,” so the Hegeler Carus mansion seemed to me like a dream of old Eldritch City.

So we’ve decided to restage the Odd-Fish art show at the Hegeler Carus! Of course, you can always see the Odd-Fish art just by browsing our online gallery, but it’s much more fun to do so in person.

During the day on April 2, I’ll run some Dome of Doom writing workshops. That night there will be a gallery-opening party for everyone. A kind of wine-and-cheese affair. I’ll do some dramatic readings from the book. There will be entertainments. Persons will commit merriments. Here’s the schedule for the day:

11:30 am – 1:00 pm: Theatrical readings from Odd-Fish, guided gallery tour, and writing workshop.
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Same as the 11:30 program.
7 pm – ???: Reception with readings and refreshments.

It’s $25 to participate in the afternoon events; the evening reception is $10 (wine ain’t free, people). That $25 also buys you a signed paperback of The Order of Odd-Fish and a copy of Muse magazine. Make your reservation with Heather Wallace at execassistant@hegelercarus.org or call her at (815) 224-5895, Monday through Thursday, 10am – 4pm.

As for the fan art gallery—it’s worth repeating, there’s some amazing Odd-Fish art to be seen! Not just illustrations. But a bizarre cake of a fish vomiting the lodge. A homemade Apology Gun. Japanese-style, Hello-Kitty-esque dolls of Jo. A stained glass window of Sefino. Even home-brewed beer based on the Belgian Prankster. Max Pitchkites of Indianapolis even did a stunning series of 28 mixed-media illustrations, one for each chapter. A small random sampling (click for larger images):

So come on out to La Salle, Illinois on April 2! Here’s information about the Hegeler Carus foundation that runs the mansion. It’s at 1307 Seventh Street, La Salle, Illinois. Their general phone number is (815) 224-6543.

Oh—and did I mention that, while I was walking around in the attic of the mansion, I randomly opened a drawer and found—a stuffed baby alligator?

Trust me, it’s that kind of place. Come!

Pirka Gives Me a Surprise

CHICAGOANS! This Sunday, for the first time in public, I’ll be reading the first two chapters of my just-completed sci-fi novel, The Magnificent Moots, at the Orange Alert Reading Series at the Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL). Other readers: Fred Sasaki, Laura Yes Yes. The event starts at 6.

A pleasant surprise this week! Emily Bricker, also known as Pirka (here she is on DeviantArt), sent me the above Order of Odd-Fish fan art. It’s gorgeous! (Click on it for a larger view.)

I particularly like “Candy Kiang” and “Belgian Piester” (characters dressed up as their favorite foods should become a meme). And Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit, perched on Jo’s head is kawasugiru. It’s also quite clever how Pirka references Max Pitchkites’ picture of Ken Kiang in her own Ken Kiang (notice the official Max-imagined Ken Kiang emblem, and how her composition tweaks on the layout of his picture). Pirka’s Aunt Lily is adorable, too . . . aw, it’s all adorable. The whole tableau is great cute fun.

Here’s the weird thing, though: Pirka hasn’t even finished the book yet. She found out about Odd-Fish from Rob Weston’s blog (he’s a fellow JET alum, and the author of the immensely enjoyable Zorgamazoo). But she couldn’t find Odd-Fish in her local bookstores. So she read the bits of Odd-Fish that are on Google Books, browsed the fan art already on my website, and began making her own! (If this is what Pirka can do now, imagine what she might create when she finishes the book . . . !)

Thank you, Pirka, for this fantastic work. Which foreshadows nicely my announcement next week! Hint: it’s another Odd-Fish art event (though perhaps not as raucous as last year’s costumed dance party). Stay tuned . . .

P.S. Pirka’s YouTube channel is quite entertaining too. I particularly enjoyed this Flipnote animation that she made. Pirka invites us, “Watch me beating the crap out of a shadow thing in a nondescript cityscape!” and how can we resist:

All this talent, and so young! PIRKA: APPROVED.

90-Second Newbery: The Higher Power of Lucky (2007)

We got our first entry for the 90-Second Newbery film festival, and it’s hilarious! Especially if you’ve been keeping up on recent controversies in the children’s librarian community . . .

It’s by Lynne Kelly, of whom you soon soon be hearing much, much more. She’s the author of Chained, which will be published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux in 2012. Here’s her blog.

Those inside the children’s librarian community need no introduction for this video. But for those outside, a little background is necessary to fully appreciate this 90-Second Newbery, of the 2007 Newbery medalist The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron.

When The Higher Power of Lucky won the Newbery, there was a hoot-and-holler because some librarians objected to the fact that the book contained the word “scrotum.” The heroine, Lucky, overhears an AA meeting in which one of the recovering alcoholics tells a story of how a rattlesnake bit his dog’s scrotum. Lucky doesn’t know what “scrotum” means, and the text goes on to say:

Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important, and Lucky was glad she was a girl and would never have such an aspect as a scrotum to her own body. Deep inside she thought she would be interested in seeing an actual scrotum. But at the same time—and this is where Lucky’s brain was very complicated—she definitely did not want to see one.

Tame stuff, and an accurate representation of how a child processes mysterious new words. Your mileage may vary. Here’s the New York Times article about the whole “scandal.”

To fully enjoy this video, you also need to know that this year, the Today show broke a long-standing tradition of interviewing the Newbery and Caldecott winners after the announcement. Ludicrously enough, winners Clare Vanderpool and Erin Stead were bumped in favor of interviewing Snooki of Jersey Shore, who had just put out a ghostwritten book called A Shore Thing. The children’s literature community blew up with indignation, of course. Details of the infamous “Snooki snub” here. Can America ever trust Matt Lauer again?!

To say any more would over-explain the video (if I haven’t already). But I just have to add that I’m really impressed by the comic timing and deadpan underplaying by these computerized actors. I almost feel like the brilliance of the script would be ruined if it were done by actual human actors.

If this 90-Second Newbery video is any indication, Lynne’s book is going to be hilarious. Unfortunately, it will be published in 2012, and by then the world will have ended. Joke’s on you, Lynne Kelly!