order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery: Savvy (2009), The Giver (1994), and Riverside-a-palooza!

For those of you who are interested in my occasional book reviews for the Wall Street Journal, I reviewed Jeff Ryan’s history of Nintendo, Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America, last Saturday. Capsule: an enjoyable survey, but fell short for me as an in-depth history. Read the review if you want to watch me fact-check Mr. Ryan on the true nature of “Yars’ Revenge.”

More entries for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Above is a charming, action-packed 90-second version of Ingrid Law’s 2009 Newbery Honor book Savvy. It’s done by the “Filming in the City” camp run by Wordplay, the same folks in Toronto who brought us the silent movie version of The Graveyard Book and the Supertramp-fueled When You Reach Me, so you know it’s good. Bonus points for the stop-motion animation! Even Ingrid Law herself loves it!

I also recently received an amusing version of Lois Lowry’s The Giver from Paris Cal, Margaux Arntson, Tori Smith, and Zoe Keskey from Tacoma. Some pretty funny mugging in here―and what a ludicrously elaborate costume for the Giver! Loved it! He looks like a drag queen Gandalf!

(I also enjoyed the harmony-singing of “The Giver, so beautiful” at the end. Great work, Tacoma!)

Now, the next chunk of videos I want to share might be slightly overwhelming. You see, the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival really took off in Riverside, Illinois, and in consequence I received no fewer than forty-nine entries from that one school district. Thanks so much, Riverside!

I usually write a paragraph or two about every 90-Second Newbery film I receive . . . but with a ton of movies like this, that’s simply too much work. But I still want to showcase these great short films on my blog! So that’s why I’ve gathered all forty-nine films from the Riverside district together here on one page. Check them out!

Thanks again, students of Riverside, and I hope you can come to the screening of the 90-Second Newbery film festival on November 16 at the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago!

And now, the Riverside films! They come from Mrs. Wright’s class at Ames Elementary, Mrs. Brackett’s class at Central School, Mr. Elgeness’ fifth grade class in Riverside, Ms. McCarthy’s fifth-grade class, and Ms. Whaley’s fifth-grade class at Central Elementary. Let ‘er rip!

Odd-Fish Fan Art Round-Up! And Magnificent Moots art preview

Back in April of this year, I had an Order of Odd-Fish fan art show at the creepy, sprawling, gorgeously ruined Hegeler Carus mansion in La Salle, IL. (You can read all about it, and see pictures of the insane mansion and the show, here.)

One of the great things about having these art shows is that I get to meet the artists in person.

One of the artists was the delightful Katie Vesco, known as Miss-Artist on DeviantArt. She drove eight hours from Ohio to come to the show! And brought brand-new art, which I was thrilled to put it up immediately!

Above is a scene of Jo waiting tables at the Dust Creek Cafe in chapter 3, and a scene from Aunt Lily’s costume party in chapter 1. I love how the frazzled Jo is overpouring her coffee, and the old lady replies with an irritated >:( emoticon. And the sassy boy dressed as a refrigerator chatting up a girl dressed as an earthworm is similarly fun, especially how “fridge” is spelled out in refrigerator magnets. But as good as these are, my favorites of Katey’s art are these:

It’s Eldritch City gangster boss Oona Looch when she first gets a shine for Jo’s best friend Ian Barrows―and the crucial moment when Jo “saves” Ian from Oona Looch by kissing him on the dance floor at the Dome of Doom. There’s something almost pathetic about Katey’s Oona Looch that I particularly like. The poor lady! Then again, Oona Looch is inappropriately old for Ian. And come to think of it, she did crush that one’s guy skull like a grape. So, okay, let’s not feel too sorry. Still: great work, Katey!

What is this armored ostrich, you ask? It’s a little sculpture made by Diana Todd, who had three absolutely gorgeous pieces in the Odd-Fish art shows of 2010 and 2011. It was a nice surprise to get a picture of this from her, reminding me of all the cool art she’d done in the past, and a exquisite piece in its own right. Thanks, Diana! (And those of you who don’t know who she is, you really should check out her art, which includes a tableau of most of the major characters, Dame Delia’s field notes for the Schwenk, and some of the best ostriches I’ve seen drawn for Odd-Fish.)

Remember how I said I had been teaching a class in Science Fiction and Fantasy at Northwestern University for 7th and 8th graders? The class is over, but I’m still in contact with the students. The last day of class, I read the first three chapters of my still-being-edited novel The Magnificent Moots, which is about an Interplanetary Olympics. In the first chapter, there are vicious dragon-wasps and many-tentacled, sword-wielding squid-worms (yes, it’s that kind of book).

One of my favorite students, Shelly Tan, whipped out two illustrations of those creatures on the spot, as I was reading the story:

Amazing work! This is pretty much exactly as I imagined the dragon-wasps and squid-worms. Actually, even a bit better than I imagined.

But Shelly wasn’t content to limit herself to in-class sketches, and a few days later I received these two full-color, polished pieces in the mail:

Stunning work, Shelly! I am delighted to be getting fan art for The Magnificent Moots even before it’s published. One nice thing about reading the chapters aloud to the my students is that they were able to turn the tables and critique me, especially since I had been so vigorously critiquing their writing for the past three weeks. Their criticisms were very helpful, too―and I was surprised to find some of my own advice to them turned around and used against me! Touché, gifted students of the CTD program!

Speaking of The Magnificent Moots―I’ve got to get back to work on these edits. Adios, and thanks, Katey, Diana, and Shelly!

90-Second Newberys from Toronto! The Graveyard Book (2009) and When You Reach Me (2010)

The entries for our 90-Second Newbery film festival keep rolling in! As I mentioned in my last post, the films will screen at the New York Public Library main branch on November 5, and at the Chicago Public Library Harold Washington branch on November 16. Complete details about our 90-Second Newbery video contest, including how you can participate, here.

These two doozies are courtesy of “Filming in the City,” a two week summer camp run by Word-Play, a Toronto-based community-based non-profit. Word-play works with elementary school children to foster a love of reading and creative writing. It’s run by Rachel Van Harten, Claudia Hebert, Cam Woykin and Kelly O’Brien. From the looks of it, they’re doing a first-rate job!

In this camp, students got to read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me and create 90-Second Newbery films for them!

(Yeah, yeah, these two films are both slightly longer than 90 seconds, but we’ll let that slide.)

It was a stroke of brilliance to film The Graveyard Book as an homage to the 1920 German expressionistic silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (What? Dare you second-guess me in this game of Spot-The-Reference? Check out the similarities. Checkmate, old bean!)

Doing it as a silent film is also a canny way to get the right atmosphere―even a sunny day seems dreadfully creepy when shown in black-and-white grainy film. Another advantage: thanks to the intertitles, exposition is handled swiftly and naturally! Great makeup and performances too. For the descent into Ghulheim, it was very resourceful to use that funky backdrop and tilt the camera ninety degrees. A winner!

Neil Gaiman himself already tweeted about it, so it even has the stamp of approval from the man himself!

But wait, that’s not all! The camp also filmed 2010 Newbery winner When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and it’s just as good:

From 1920s German horror to 1970s kitchen-sink realism! Is there nothing this camp can’t do? These kids are natural performers, the filmmakers nailed the understated grittiness of the book, and . . . wait for it . . . Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger”! Wonderful casting, especially the Laughing Man. (I still think The Laughing Man would’ve been a better title for the book than When You Reach Me, but apparently that’s already a Salinger short story.) Also: I also like how two kids are listed in the credits as “bullies and set decorators.” And why is it that the basketball sticks in the net both times Sal makes a basket? Hmmm. Basketball must’ve been very frustrating in the 1970s.

I met Rebecca Stead when she breezed through Chicago back in 2010, and she is actually slated to be part of the between-film entertainment for the 90-Second Newbery film screening in New York. I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do with her yet, but I promise it will be good!

Thanks so much for these wonderful 90-Second Newbery films! The bar is set high!