order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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Odd-Fish art show at mansion this Saturday!

It’s been busy few weeks! I had a smashing time at the Warrensburg Children’s Literature Festival, spoke about interactive fiction at the Illinois Reading Conference with the brilliant and hilarious M.T. Anderson, and this weekend the Wall Street Journal published another one of my book reviews—this time about Discoverers of the Universe, Michael Hoskin’s biography of brother-and-sister astronomers William and Caroline Herschel.

Now I’m getting ready for another Odd-Fish fan art show, this Saturday, April 2 at the Hegeler Carus mansion in La Salle, IL! Here’s all the details about the event. There will be writing workshops during the day and a reception that night starting at 7 pm.

Above is another stellar piece of Order of Odd-Fish art—a picture of Eldritch City—by Sebastian Beaghen, whom I met at a recent school visit in Oak Park, IL. It’s really worth clicking to look at the larger view. I love the maniacal detail of the squished-together buildings, the bit of land untethered from the ground trailing a rope ladder, and the numerous people and creatures all coming and going, like looking into an anthill. Search closer and you can find the Odd-Fish lodge, the Schwenk, a zeppelin called the SS Hazelwood, and other surprises. Sebastian is also in the middle of writing a fascinatingly inventive novel called The Goings on of 766 Peachtree Avenue, which is so insane and absurd it makes Odd-Fish read like Raymond Carver. Sebastian’s going places.

The formidably talented Pirka (previously featured here and here on the blog) has also turned in yet another gem of Odd-Fish art! Here Pirka has taken the kitchen-sink approach (which I love) and filled the page with delightful pictures of scenes from throughout the book—Korsakov hiding behind a plant, the urk-ack, Ian insisting on his mustache, Audrey-as-Nick, Dame Isabel huffing at a gas mask—and some scenes that aren’t in the book: various characters in bathing suits, for instance, and a monster idea for a sequel! Again, it’s really worth clicking on to see the larger version.

This Saturday, April 2, much of this Odd-Fish art will be featured at the Hegeler Carus mansion in La Salle, IL! And I know some of the artists will be attending, too. It will be a strange and interesting time. You should come.

I’ll leave you with a final piece of Odd-Fish art from Pirka—this time, a rather creepy-but-weirdly-cute one of Jo turning into the Ichthala. The cloudy green swirls in the eyes! The hellish, fiery background! Ah-h-h-h!

Odd-Fish meets Monty Python and the Holy Grail (plus more), courtesy of Pirka!

Back in February, I was lucky enough to meet the super-talented and effervescent Pirka, who sent me this cute and ingenious collection of Odd-Fish character sketches. Little did I know that this was just the beginning!

The best ideas are the ones that, when you hear them, you think, “Of course!” Please, please do yourself a favor and watch the above video—an ANIMATED SHORT in which Pirka has the knights of The Order of Odd-Fish sing and dance to the song “Knights of the Round Table” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail! There’s so much to love here: the cockroach band; Korsakov, Lily, and Sir Oliver belting out the chorus; making the ostriches squawk on cue; and the Ken Kiang solo! The squires’ high-kicking line! I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS. Thank you so much for this amazing animation, Pirka!

But that’s not all I’ve received from Pirka! She asked me what scenes I wanted to see illustrated. I mentioned Ken Kiang and Hoagland Shanks’ encounter at the evil patisserie in Paris, eating avant-garde pie. Pirka turned around and gave me this doozy, which is flat-out awesome:

Here I particularly appreciate Ken Kiang’s evil touching-the-fingers-together gesture (which, I am sure, he assiduously learned out of a textbook on “evil person gestures”) and the TOWER OF PIES was a great touch (especially the gold pie that seems ready to take flight and the French flag—and I like the biohazard sign on what I presume is the Phosphorescent Fascination). Pirka said she was afraid that Hoagland Shanks looked too much like a Mario brother, but I think it works here—as well as the dreamy look in his eyes from being in pie heaven (and blushing and eyes watering too). Superb!

But the glory that is Pirka just keeps giving and giving. Here is another miscellany of Odd-Fish characters:

The Schwenk, bounding and romping merrily! Nora McGunn squee-ing over Audrey Durdle! The terrifying glow of the Belgian Prankster’s goggles—Ken Kiang seeming slightly doubtful about his devilishness—and a totally nailed-it Aunt Lily and Colonel Korsakov. I love seeing the Odd-Fish universe filtered through Pirka’s chibi sensibility.

And yet, all of this almost didn’t happen. Pirka had a hard time finding The Order of Odd-Fish in the bookstores. (Pirka lives in Canada; perhaps Canadian bookstores took exception to the ridiculous Canada jokes in Chapter 4?) Pirka has a different theory: that the Belgian Prankster absconded with all the books (and check out her marvelous Sefino below as well):

Yesterday was my birthday! I’m 38 years old now. That’s pretty old! It was a restrained birthday—nothing near like my thirty-fifth birthday surprise party, in which I was ambushed and “roasted” by my best friends AND WIFE before an audience of what seemed like 100 people. This time, Heather and I took Lucy to the butterfly room in the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and later had quiet cocktails with the upstairs neighbors. Truth be told, I’m feeling rather low for reasons that I don’t want to go into on my blog; but I was very much perked up by this birthday doodle from Pirka:

Thanks so much for ALL of this, Pirka! I’m lucky to have met you! And for the rest of you: remember, we’re having an art show of Order of Odd-Fish fan art at the Hegeler Carus mansion on April 2! Do come!

90-Second Newbery: Hatchet and Tale of Despereaux. Plus: Giver Trailer!

The entries for the “90-Second Newbery” film festival have started rolling in! For you newcomers: it’s a video contest I’m doing in which participants are invited to make videos that tell the full story of a Newbery award-winning book in 90 seconds or less. Complete details about the contest here.

Today, I’m happy to share with you three short films from the Latin School in Chicago. The first one (above) is a 90-second version of Gary Paulsen’s 1987 Newbery winner Hatchet, by Isabel, Molly, Kate, Abigail, and Audrey. Here’s some resourceful filmmaking! Don’t have hatchet handy? A wire clothes hanger will do. Not having a pitiless wilderness to use, they used the back hallways of their school. Favorite line: “Oh look, a bird. Let’s kill it and eat it.” The bird obligingly dies. Well done! They even thoughtfully included a blooper reel!

Next up: Susan Dicamillo’s Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, the 2004 Newbery award winner. It’s by Chris, Charlie, and Sydney, also of the Latin School:



I particularly liked the close attention to audio and music here, with Despereaux having a suitably “mousy” voice. The action zips from lyrical yearning to an extended action sequence! Tails are lopped off! Hairsbreadth escapes! And there’s something pleasingly absurd about the king going from roaring “Rodents know nothing of honor!” to sententiously declaiming “I approve” within a minute. You know, I don’t think I’m ever going to take The Tale of Despereaux seriously again. Great job!

The last video I want to share today is by Jordan Bialik (and friends Yonatan and Ben). It’s of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Newbery winner, the dystopia The Giver. Jordan’s movie is a trailer, not a full retelling of the story in 90 seconds, so unfortunately it’s not admissible for the contest! But I wanted to share it anyway, because Jordan has some impressive special effects in here, and it’s entertaining. (But please, in general, no trailers!) Jordan told me in an email that he’s a budding filmmaker, making videos since the age of seven. This summer he’s making a 30-minute movie called “The 217 Secret.” Good luck, Jordan — I’ll be interested to see it when you’re done! And now, a trailer for The Giver:



Thanks for all the videos so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing even more!