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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery: DiCamillopalooza!

November 6, 2012

HEY! Check out 826NYC’s auction of great spooky, monstrous art by big names in the kidlit world like Brian Floca, Dav Pilkey, Mo Willems, Lane Smith, Adam Rex, Brett Helquist, Tony DiTerlizzi, and more!

Just a few weeks until the New York screening of the second annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival on December 2! I’m co-hosting it with Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man) along with special guests Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Margi Preus. We’ll also have picture-book behemoths Dan Yaccarino and Brian Floca on hand for Caldecott-related tomfoolery. Just you wait!

Speaking of Kate DiCamillo, here are some great recent 90-Second Newbery movies of her 2004 Newbery Medal winning A Tale of Despereaux and 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie.

The first one, above is, is by Chicago theatrical group Play Mechanics. It’s of A Tale of Despereaux, and it’s first-rate, with lots of satisfying details: the costumes (those huge ears for Despereaux!), the cauliflower attached to Miggery Sow’s head (in the book she’s described as having “cauliflower ears”), the awkward way Despereaux reacts when the princess talks to him, the wonderful mugging of “no rats, no more soup!” and not one but TWO grisly mouse-tail mutilation scenes. Cleverly resourceful special effects, too—watch for where Despereaux is made too look as though “falling” down the stairs by running the footage of him walking up the stairs backwards and at a higher speed. Inspired! Well done, Play Mechanics!

I also have not one but two versions of Because of Winn-Dixie to share. The first is from “Abby Kelly’s Book Club” at a charter school in Worcester, Massachusetts:

It was a great choice to give it a flying start with the energetic, violent scene of the dog going crazy (and I like the mustache!). Almost terrifying! This is by far the most enthusiastic, committed dog performance I’ve ever seen in a 90-Second Newbery movie. I also like how the story is presented like an impressionistic series of climactic scenes, rather than laboriously linking all the causes and effects. Great fun and a winner!

The other Because of Winn-Dixie is by Jacqueline and friends at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. (which I visited this past spring and got to speak to the students—I had a great time!):

Having the story be narrated from the point of view of the dog was a marvelous twist. The dog costume was well-done, too; kind of reminded me of “Blue” from Blue’s Clues? The music going throughout was a good touch and propelled the story along nicely. The parrot costume was glorious; you should hold on to that for next year’s Mardi Gras. Well-shot and well-acted all around. Another excellent adaptation!

Thanks, everyone! And remember, the deadline for entries is November 10. Keep ’em rolling in!

Help out THE TALENT FAMILY in a time of need

October 31, 2012


An unexpected perk of being an author is the chance to meet a lot of swell folks. I’ve met enthusiastic readers. I’ve met talented young artists. I’ve met first-rate teachers and librarians and other authors and illustrators. I even got to meet my longtime writing hero.

One of the best guys I’ve met since becoming a writer is Aaron Zenz, pictured with his kids here. He’s the author/illustrator of Chuckling Ducklings and The Hiccupotamus and more. He produces an excellent children’s literature blog with four of his six (!!) children called Bookie Woogie.

Here’s the problem. Aaron’s wife Amity is struggling from multiple brain surgeries she had to undergo in the past few weeks. The surgeries were to relieve pressure on her spinal column and brain, but it has caused more pain, blackouts, and nausea. I imagine it’s challenging enough to keep a family of eight (!!) running smoothly in the best of times, but the Zenzes need help now. Friends and family have set up a site, Friends of Zenz, where you can show your support.

I first met Aaron because he submitted a video for our
90-Second Newbery Film Festival. It remains one of the best videos I’ve ever received for the contest, a 90-second retelling of Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, done entirely with shadow-puppets:

(Here’s my original rapturous blog post upon receiving this astonishingly good video, which went on to win a School Library Journal Trailee award.)

But that’s not all. Aaron and his daughter Lily followed this up with a hilarious 90-second Newbery video for Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron:

(Here’s my original very appreciative blog post of this movie. It’s always a crowd favorite whenever I show it at 90-Second Newbery screenings!)

Later on the kids at the Bookie Woogie blog gave The Order of Odd-Fish a glorious review, and the kids all did exquisite fan Odd-Fish art, which you can find below.

This is all to say: Aaron Zenz is that rarest of combinations, an artist and a mensch. The way he draws his kids into his creations is an inspiration to me. I feel lucky to have met him. I fervently hope his wife makes it out of her medical problems happy and healthy again, and that the medical bills aren’t overwhelming.

Again, you can help out the Zenzes at Friends of Zenz here.

Get well soon, Amity!

90-Second Newbery: The Graveyard Book and Hoot

October 23, 2012

Rochester, New York has found a special place in my heart. I’ve spoken twice at its justly-famous Teen Book Festival (run by the miraculous Stephanie Squicciarini), did a fun interview with Rochesterite-become-friend Dina Strasser on her blog, and made quite a few other friends from there too, including one Debra Ross, who put together this free guide to making a 90-Second Newbery movie (and whose daughters made gave an excellent 90-Second Newbery treatment of Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard).

Now I am proud to feature two more top-notch 90-Second Newbery movies from Rochester! These two are by Justine, Aubrey, Danielle, Emily S., Emily H., Rachel, Nicole, and Jake. The first, above, is of Neil Gaiman’s classic Newbery Medal winner The Graveyard Book. Now of course we all know that Neil Gaiman and I have had our differences over the Newbery, but recall that we did have a public reconciliation in which I sang him Katy Perry’s “Firework” in front of about 1000 people, so I think it’s safe to say it’s all water under the bridge now.

As for this version of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, what a stunner! It starts with a suitably gruesome murder scene and even uses fun hand-drawn animation to do ghosts. I like the touch of the “Goshgarian” gravestone in the background—that’s a name I’ve got to use in some future book. The accents are quite amusing and I liked the careful attention to detail: when Mrs. Lupescu starts speaking in that Charlie Brown “bwa bwa bwa bwa” adult-nonsense voice, and using the chicken dance for the “Danse Macabre” scene, and the offhanded display of the bowl of “what’s left of” Mrs. Lupescu. The Sleer at the end is a pretty scary surprise, too! I’m looking forward to showing this great version at the screenings!

The same group also did a 90-Second Newbery version of Hoot by Carl Hiassen:

Another winner! It was a nice touch to use the stuffed owl as a narrator. Just like The Graveyard Book, it starts with compelling violence. This movie also features the happiest, most gleeful confession of vandalism. Good use of the Law and Order “bonk-bonk” sound. I also like the way some characters underplay their roles: the guard dog, for instance, seems decidedly unimpressed by the fearsome snakes waved in his face. There’s an odd nod to My Little Pony in one scene—is there actually a My Little Pony reference in the book, or is this a sly sideways reference to bronies? There’s a scene in which someone gets mooned, but don’t worry, according to the credits, “no derrieres were actually exposed nor animals mistreated in the making of this film.” A relief! But that means they had to actually invest in a fake butt? I wonder how many times Spielberg had to do that? Who are we kidding, he probably has a warehouse full of them.

Great work, Rochester! I’m looking forward to meeting you in person when I come to your town in late November!

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