order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery: 3 Ways of Filming When You Reach Me

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Portland is swiftly approaching! This Saturday, March 3, 3-5 pm at the Central Library. My co-host Laini Taylor did a nice write-up of it on her blog. Did I mention that Dale Basye of the Heck books will also be a special guest? And Portland band Great Train Robbery will provide some music. How will we fit it all in 2 hours?

I’ve been having a great time the week I’m here. On Monday night, my friends and hosts Joe and Madaleine (and her delightful sister Martha) invited over for dinner Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan, whom I met after I reviewed their book Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention in the Wall Street Journal. Also in attendance was my co-host for Saturday’s screening, Laini Taylor, with her artist husband Jim DeBartolo and their very cute daughter Clementine; and author Sara Ryan and graphic novelist Steve Lieber. A rollicking group! And on the same day, I took a walk and found myself randomly on Klickitat Street (where Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and friends live). Portland is a place of wonders!

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting Laurelhurst School, the source of this slam-dunk great 90-second version of Witch of Blackbird Pond. It’s all due to Alice McKee-Smith, whose kids and friends are also behind this very good From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Here’s Laurelhurst’s latest: Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery Medal winner When You Reach Me. Let’s watch:

What a blast! The Einstein quotes were an inspired framing device. And Laurelhurst has a convincingly crazy Laughing Man, which is always crucial. The post-it notes (“book”, “bag”, “pocket”, “shoe”) followed by quotes from the Laughing Man’s letters were a nice way to separate the scenes. I liked the explanation of time travel by Julia, too. Another Laurelhurst winner! I’m looking forward to meeting you all on Thursday.

But that isn’t the only When You Reach Me I’ve received from Portland. This one is from Confederation Park School in Burnaby, British Columbia:

Wonderful! The music cues were apt (the Twilight Zone and the authentic $20,000 Pyramid theme) The plot was very efficiently compressed. I particularly liked the maniacal guffawing of the Laughing Man. (But the best part, for me, is almost certainly when Sal gets run over by not a car . . . but a rolling garbage can. You make do with what you’ve got.) Some of these filmmakers from British Columbia will even be coming down from Canada for the show. Looking forward to meeting you, too!

And here’s one more When You Reach Me from Portland. It’s by Claire Thompson from the Northwest Library:

Lots of nice touches: the way Miranda shouts “Why, Sal, Why?!?” and the Laughing Man’s gesticulations were my favorite parts (he seemed to take inspiration from the Ministry of Silly Walks). The Laughing Man also really seemed to enjoy dying there . . . Thank you!

Indeed, thanks to everyone, and see you at the film festival on Saturday!

90-Second Newbery, Lego Edition!

I’m in Portland now! I’m staying with my friends Joe and Madeleine, who are being very good to me. I’m in town to screen the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival on Saturday, March 3, at Portland’s Central Library from 3-5 pm. (With co-host Laini Taylor! Special guest Dale Basye! Other surprises! More on that later.) Leading up to the event I’m appearing at schools and libraries in the Portland area; details on my events page.

So all this week I’ll showcase 90-Second Newbery videos I’ve received from the talented folks of Portland. Today’s theme: LEGOS.

Let’s start with the video above, Kieran, Lach, Christian, and Ackley’s adaptation of Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Newbery Medal winner The Whipping Boy. They use a mixture of Legos and live action to tell the story of the kingdom in which it is “forbidden to spank, thrash, or whack the heir to the throne.” A poor boy, Jemmy, is plucked from the streets to serve as “whipping boy,” and his job is to take the physical punishments really deserved by the arrogant and spiteful Prince Brat. I enjoyed this movie! Especially the doleful way in which the whipping boy says “I hate this job” and the resourceful use of Legos for the outside scenes. The story was briskly and amusingly told. Great job! The filmmakers will be at Saturday’s screening, I’m told. Looking forward to meeting them!

The next video is also done using Legos—and it’s of E.L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Newbery Medal winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The attention to detail, and the way they male the Legos “act,” is masterful! Good spoken performances all throughout, and of course the dance at the end was choice.

And like any good film, it ends with someone being eaten by a dinosaur:

This was done by by Molly, Rachael, Matt, Grant, and Miriam; you can check out Molly’s website here. Thanks so much for this video! They will also be attending the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Portland on Saturday.

The next one is by Clay, Craig, and Ryan at Robert Gray Middle School in Portland. It’s a Lego-animated version of Jerry Spinelli’s 1991 Newbery Medal winner Maniac Magee:

I thought the “baseball” sequence in here was particularly resourceful. Clearly a lot of labor and ingenuity went into this, and it shows! Well done! (The school has done several more videos for the film festival, too! You can see all the 90-Second Newbery videos submitted by the Robert Gray Middle School here.)

Finally, here’s a stop-motion Lego version Where the Mountain Meets the Moon that is not from Portland, but Utah—and I just realized I had not yet featured it on my website! It’s by the ambitious young Parker Todd. His musical choices (“Eye of the Tiger,” etc.) were quite appropriate, and he did a smooth job of boiling down the plot to a short amount of time—not an easy task! Well done, Parker!

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival this Saturday in Portland! Here are the complete details of the day.

Downers Grove Author’s Festival and Frank Reade Book Review

I’m a day late telling you, but yesterday’s Wall Street Journal ran the review I wrote of Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention, a steampunk fake history coffee-table book by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett. My verdict: a “retrofuturist visual feast!” Read the review here.

What is that intriguing hand-drawn version of the paperback cover of The Order of Odd-Fish above? It was done by sixth-grade girls at Pierce Downer School, one of the five schools I visited for the Downers Grove Author Festival last week. I was beyond delighted when the girls presented me with this poster-sized cover! Thanks so much!

The Downers Grove Author Festival was Thursday and Friday of last week, and it was exhausting but exhilarating. With several other authors, I spoke at O’Neill Middle School, Henry Puffer School, Herrick Middle School, Pierce Downer School, and Lester School. The event wound up on Friday night with book signings at the Downers Grove Public Library. Thanks to Gwen Box, Lara Vazquez, and the countless others who made it possible!

The above is not the only fan art I received while speaking at the Downers Grove schools. Selma of Lester School drew this fun cartoon of Jo facing Fiona in the Dome of Doom, each in their costume armor as Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit and Ichthala, the All-Devouring Mother respectively:

Thanks a million, Selma! (I love the discombobulated look on Jo’s face . . . ) And here’s a rather nightmarish, conceptual take on the Ken Kiang introduction chapter, in which Ken Kiang sells his soul “to any supernatural being who cared to bid on it,” in one case for as low a price as a bag of barbecue-flavored potato chips. It’s by Aidan, also from Lester School:

Kind of chillingly maniacal! Is Ken Kiang transferring his soul to the balloon-like devil head via a homunculus-sized version of his own head, or . . . ? There’s some intriguing theological territory to excavate here.

And finally, here’s a choice Commissioner Olvershaw, by Ben of Lester School:

I have to admit, I feel this guy’s eyes follow me around the room. I keep the paper face down. At any rate, I received much more art than just this―but too much to include it all in one post! I certainly appreciated it all. Thanks, Downers Grove, for a great couple days!

As for the Portland screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival: the deadline for submitting films has passed, and I am now going through them! I’ll feature as many as I can on the blog in these next two weeks leading up to the 90-Second Newbery screening on March 3 in Portland. Thanks everyone who submitted!