order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery Vets Return: NIMH, Terabithia and The Dark Star of Itza

September 25, 2012

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is now in its second year. It’s fun to see how returning filmmakers have developed from last year. Today let’s highlight three recently-received 90-Second Newbery films made by veterans from last year’s film festival!

Above, check out this year’s wonderfully elaborate and entertaining musical version of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Elephant and Worm, the same Chicago theater group that brought you last year’s brilliant 90-Second Newbery musical adaptation of The Twenty-One Balloons. Ahhh! The rat rap, the mad scientists, the catchy music, breaking of the fourth wall, and resourceful use of green-screen, the wonderful cat-chase . . . my expectations for Elephant and Worm were high, and they definitely delivered. Great job, everyone involved (and particularly brilliant acting by “Mrs. Frisby” and “Nicodemus”)!

Hold on, your say. What is the 90-Second Newbery . . . ? It’s a film festival I started last year in which filmmakers of any age make movies that tell the entire story of a Newbery award-winning book in 90 seconds or less. The film festival has star-studded annual screenings in New York City, Chicago, Portland, St. Louis area, Tacoma, and more! Complete details of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival here. This year, the deadline for movie submissions is November 10.

Last year the Bainbridge Island Public Library made a wonderful Charlotte’s Web adaptation. This year they did A Bridge to Terabithia:

Another winner, Bainbridge! Whenever I get a Terabithia, I always look forward to the death scene and its aftermath, since they are (by necessity) hilariously abrupt. “I’m home!” “Your girlfriend’s dead.” “NOOOOOO!” Another line I liked: “Hello Jess, this is the music teacher you secretly love.” Ha!

Our final returning filmmaker featured today has taken a turn for the avant-garde. I first met the multi-talented Max Pitchkites when he did these fantastic cut-paper illustrations for all the chapters of my novel The Order of Odd-Fish. Max is not only a visual artist, but a filmmaker. For the first 90-Second Newbery Film Festival he made this a scathing version of Onion John and it remains one of my favorites.

This time out, Max went in an artier direction. The book he chose was The Dark Star of Itza: The Story of a Pagan Princess, which won a Newbery Honor in 1931. This is one of the most obscure Newbery winners: it’s so rare that used copies sell for hundreds of dollars, and it’s even unavailable at most libraries—even in the mighty Chicago Public Library system, not a single copy exists. What a strange and fascinating choice! Did Max get his hands on a copy of this mysterious book? I certainly have never read it, and so therefore I don’t know how closely Max’s video hews to the plot. I do know that Max’s film packs a unsettlingly weird punch:

What the what the what? I have a feeling this went way off-text. But satisfyingly strange and mystifying. Particularly good sound design. Dare I say, this experimental piece reminds me of early Lynch? (And how’d you like those last few seconds? PURE TERROR!)

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival: Now In More Cities! Plus, a new Wrinkle in Time

September 17, 2012

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival has now expanded to more cities! For this second year, we’ll be screening not only in New York City with co-host Jon Scieszka and special guests Kate DiCamillo, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Margi Preus (December 2, 2012), Chicago with co-host Blue Balliett (February 10, 2013), and Portland, OR (February 24, 2013) BUT ALSO Tacoma, WA (February 23, 2013) and Florissant, MO (March 25, 2013). I’ll also be doing a screening at the Sheboygan Book Festival in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on October 12, 2012 with co-host children’s book author and illustrator Dan Yaccarino! You can find the complete details, including times and venues, on my events page.

Speaking of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, check out the stellar Wrinkle in Time video above I received from 7-year-old Berlyn and her friends Sophie, Kate, Aby, Alexa, Ruby, and Mia! I appreciated how it’s a totally different take on the book than my Wrinkle in Time video that kicked off the festival way back when. It’s more complete in plot, and the pulsing IT brain was ingenious, as well as the “black thing” eating up the planet (with salt! awesome!) and I love the way Mrs. Murry admonishes, “Watch out for the 2-dimensional planet!” (Also, in this version Meg has glasses, a detail I totally muffed in mine. Duh.) I also liked how when everyone is snuggling together at the end to prove how important love is, someone keeps peevishly muttering “Ow!” and “Stop sitting on me!” . . . And those witch costumes were amazing. Great acting and editing, too. Congratulations all around! See you at the festival!

Remember, the deadline for entries this year is November 10, 2012! You can find out all the details about the 90-Second Newbery, including rules and other great entries, here.

Odd-Fish video and cover art!

September 14, 2012

During the summer I tried to spend as much time as possible away from the Internet. Writing was heavy and blogging was light! That’s the way it should be! But autumn is here, and soon the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, and so now bloggery shall resume in full force. (Next week I’ll talk about the screenings that have been added to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Tacoma, Portland, and St. Louis.)

To tide you over in the meantime, I’d like to quickly share two pieces of Order of Odd-Fish fan art I’d recently received. Above is a great recreation of the hardback cover of Odd-Fish by Jess Janisse. Quite impressively accurate, all the way down to Lily Larouche’s biscuit-sword and the jeweled eyes of the Odd-Fish ring! Thanks, Jess!

This next one is a video by my old friends Chloe Levine, Joy, and Amanda at Brooklyn Friends School. It’s rather epic at almost nine minutes. It reminds me of movies-based-on-books I made in high school. (Actually, it’s better. I’ll always remember when we tried to make a Beowulf-by-way-of-Kids in the Hall epic, and only after the shooting was done did we realize the camera got held in a different orientation for almost every shot: some shots were upside-down, others were tilted ninety degrees to the left, others tilted to the right . . . )

This is better! It’s an appreciation of The Order of Odd-Fish done in the style of a TV talk show. We get to meet Lily Larouche, Oona Looch, the All-Devouring Mother, Sefino (complete with antennae and monocle), and Ethelred the ostrich (played by a bunch of feather dusters who bursts into singing Justin Bieber, and turns into a girl dancing with a dust mop for about a minute or so . . . ). There’s an intriguing flirtatiousness between the host of the show and Lily Larouche. There’s a commercial for Ken Kiang’s villainous services and for Oona Looch’s place (“We’ll give you soup and beverages. Yah! Boy! Another drink? Yeah so, we’ll give you soup sometimes … You’re family at Oona Looch’s until we kill you”). I enjoyed it. Thanks, Brooklyn Friends School!

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