order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


Second Annual 90-SECOND NEWBERY news, plus Heart of a Samurai (2011)

June 7, 2012

Preparations for the Second Annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival are underway! The 90-Second Newbery is a film festival I curate in which filmmakers of any age are challenged to make movies that tell the story of a Newbery award-winning book in 90 seconds or less. Full details here. The deadline for video submission is October 29, 2012. Details about screenings in New York and Chicago—including special celebrity guests—below!

But first, check out the latest submission above! It’s of Margi Preus’ fantastic 2011 Newbery Honor book, Heart of a Samurai. The movie is by Alex, Amy, Izzy, Asher, and Zach from Burley Elementary in Chicago. Full disclosure: I helped with this one! And here’s our twist: we did the film in Japanese, even though the students, er, don’t know Japanese. I helped with the script and pronunciation. There are storms at sea! Whales! Burning beards! Fistfights! It’s also slightly longer than 90 seconds. Oh well. ENJOY!

So where will the Second Annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival be screened? So far we’ve nailed down the New York and Chicago dates.

The New York City screening will be Sunday, December 2, 2012 from 3-5 pm at Symphony Space. Just as last year, it will be co-hosted by me and former Ambassador for Children’s Literature Jon Scieszka. I’m also thrilled and honored to announce our two special guests: Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo (2001 Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie and 2004 Medal winner A Tale of Despereaux) and Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer, 2011 Honor Book). Whatta lineup!

The Chicago screening will be Sunday, February 10, 2013 at the Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Public Library from 2-3:30 pm. My co-host will be New York Times bestselling author Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, The Calder Game, The Danger Box, and more).

Whoa! This is some serious kidlit literary firepower! It’ll be an honor to share the stage with these leading lights children’s literature. Just as before, we will feature not only movies, but also a kind of singing, dancing live Newbery cabaret show. Don’t miss it!

Curious about how the screenings went last year? Here are recaps of the screenings in New York City with Jon Scieszka and Rebecca Stead (2010 Medal winner When You Reach Me), Chicago with comedian Seth Dodson, and Portland with Laini Taylor (Lips Touch, Daughter of Smoke and Bone).)

Want to make your own 90-Second Newbery film, but feel daunted by where to start? You can download a step-by-step guide on how to make a 90-Second Newbery movie here. It’s by Debra Ross, the mother of the superfamily that made one of the best 90-Second Newbery videos I’ve received, an adaptation of Linda Sue Park’s 2002 Medal winner A Single Shard done in the style of Sijo (a traditional Korean poetic form).

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Debra and her family (including Madison and Ella from the movie) in real life at the Teen Book Festival in Rochester, New York. Debra’s also the mastermind behind Kids About And About, an events resource for Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, and Fairfield County, CT.

What book will YOU adapt for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival? Learn all about the film festival here!

Odd-Fish Art From the TALENT FAMILY, Fanfic, more!

May 7, 2012

I am deep in writing mode, and so this post will be short. Above are two brand-new pieces of top-notch Order of Odd-Fish fan art I’ve received. On the right: a graceful Sefino, resplendent in his exquisitely tailored “fifteen-piece suit,” courtesy of Diana Todd, also known as Loki God of Tricks on DeviantArt. I love the jaunty manner in which Sefino doffs his hat, the insouciant way he grips his walking-stick, the subtly stylish flare of the trousers . . . and best of all, he looks like a true, honest-to-goodness cockroach! Back in 2010, Diana had graced me with three other fantastic pieces. It’s a delight to see how her style has evolved. Thank you!

And the piece on the left, above? It’s a gorgeously colorful illustration of Ken Kiang riding the Schwenk! This comes from Isaac, one of the kids at Aaron Zenz’s Bookie Woogie blog, which just gave a wonderful positive review to The Order of Odd-Fish here.

Not to be outdone, Isaac’s sister Lily did a similarly awesome drawing of the scene where Jo, Ian, and “Nick” are riding squids in the flooded underground cathedral:

And his other sister Gracie drew a hilarious picture of when Mr. Cavendish’s head is flying around the Dust Creek Cafe:

The maniacal expressions on everyone’s faces make this picture so awesome. I love them all!

Longtime readers of the blog will remember that it’s the Bookie Woogie blog that did this flat-out incredible shadow-puppet 90-Second Newbery video of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which went on to win the School Library Journal’s Trailee award. Lily also went solo and made another 90-Second Newbery, this time of Lloyd Alexander’s classic The Black Cauldron, and it always gets a great response from audiences—a true 90-Second Newbery classic.

Good gravy, is there nothing THE TALENT FAMILY can’t do? But I wouldn’t expect anything less of the children of Aaron Zenz, whose books you must check out. Do it!

The last time we heard from Kristen Atwood, I had shown off her charming comic strip that told the Ichthala’s legend of how the universe began. Now Kristin is back with a monstrous illustration of the nang-nang—the spastic, fingernail-devouring creature that gets loose in the Municipal Squires’ Authority. Wonderfully done! I like how this mirrors the ostriches-with-necks-tangled-up chapter emblems on the book, too:

Thanks, Kristen! I’m proud to share this with everyone. And even prouder to link to Kristen’s piece of Order of Odd-Fish fan fiction! It’s called “The Ritual of the Rising Moon” and you can read it here. Ever wondered about other Odd-Fish specialties, such as “ridiculous headgear” or “whimsical dances”? Or an eyewitness account of one of the ancient disasters of Eldritch City told about in the tapestry? Kristen’s got you covered. She promises more fan fiction on the way. Her writing chops are excellent. I foresee great things for Kristen Atwood.

We started out today’s post with Ken Kiang mounted on the Schwenk. So let’s wrap it up with Ken Kiang dancing his very own EVIL DANCE, courtesy of Emily Bricker, also responsible for plush-doll Sefino and much other gloriousness:

Ken Kiang’s manic twitchiness makes me want to get up and move. I’ve got to get back to work! But thanks everyone for all the creative work you’ve sent my way. I am very appreciative, and I’m impressed by your talents.

Back from Pennsylvania, D.C., and Virginia

April 25, 2012


I’m still reeling from my lightning April tour. A tour that started thrilling and surprising, and ended kind of weird and melancholy. Not in a bad way!

I started out at Abington Friends School in Pennsylvania, whose movie of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was featured in our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival last year. Felix Chen and the other teachers made me feel right at home, and we even got to do a costumed Dome of Doom insult-dance-battle with the fifth graders!

Then I popped over to Tredyffrin Public Library, whose adaptation of Holes was also in the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. I was the guest of the librarian Angela Newman, who showed me a great time and delivered a real turnout. Thanks, Angela!

Then it was off to Springfield High School and Junior High, thanks to superstar librarian and blogger Joyce Valenza. I got the treat of seeing a play written by Jelli, one of the Springfield High students, and hang out with their “Somewhat Virtual Book Club” (that’s them in the picture at the top; Jelli is directly behind me) after speaking at the high school and junior high that day. The junior high school students thoughtfully greeted me with props they made from The Order of Odd-Fish:

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After that it was off to Washington, D.C., where I spoke at the Sidwell Friends School, whose Claymation version of Island of the Blue Dolphins has also been a favorite at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Heck, let’s show it again now—it has the distinction of being simultaneously the most violent and most relaxing 90-Second Newbery movie:

Weird story: Many people know Sidwell Friends as the school where Presidents’ children often go. Amy Carter went there, Chelsea Clinton went there, and now so do Sasha and Malia Obama. I’m such an idiot, I didn’t realize that I was doing my presentation to the President’s daughter! In my defense, I hadn’t seen pictures of Sasha before I spoke to her class. But when I saw a Secret Service agent standing around between presentations, I concluded one of the daughters was in the next class, so I said to my host teacher Becky Farnum, “My presentation involves a lot of lurching around and bellowing— should I change that so I don’t get tackled by that Secret Service agent?” and Becky was like, “Uh, you just spoke to Sasha’s class.” Nice, Kennedy.

I also got to speak at the Field School near Charlottesville, Virginia who had submitted several of their own videos for the 90-Second Newbery. It was thanks to their teacher Jen Wilson, and their write-up of the visit pretty much sums up what I do: “literally running around the room, shouting and gesticulating (maybe even spitting).” I am what I am, people.

At last, I spoke at St. Catherine Laboure in Wheaton, MD—which is where I actually worked as a science teacher from 1995-96 (yikes, that’s a long time ago . . . ) It was my first “job” out of university, but I wasn’t actually paid. I’d decided to be a volunteer science teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. They had me living in a convent with actual nuns, which is the wrong place for a 22-year-old man to be, and teaching science to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders—about 150 kids a day—a task I was not prepared for, and that I must admit, I was terrible at. This is the job in which I actually blundered into killing a live snake in front of the 7th-grade class. (I taught for just a year and quit. This is consistent with my usual pattern of dithering.)

It was a real time-warp crazy feeling going back to St. Catherine Laboure—indeed, back to D.C. at all. Luckily, I have friends living there whom I was able to stay with an hang out with, but returning to D.C. always makes me feel wistful and weary. It’s not you, D.C., it’s me!

Then again, while I was walking down the street, I unexpectedly saw the Space Shuttle piggybacking on a 747, and it was jaw-dropping! So let’s end with that:

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