order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


Downers Grove Author’s Festival and Frank Reade Book Review

February 19, 2012

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!

Pulsating Brains, Erudite Karp, Florida Drama, and Other Miscellany

February 9, 2012

Observe the pulsating brain in the jar. Observe IT! Bow to IT! KNOW ITS INSCRUTABLE POWER!

This was my nephew Theo’s Christmas gift to me. What a doozy, eh? The flashing lights! The subaqueous cogitations! I keep it on my writing desk now. I will bring it everywhere I go for the rest of my life. I love it. Thanks, Theo!

Speaking of nephews and disembodied brains: Theo, if you remember, played Charles Wallace in our 90-second version of A Wrinkle in Time that kicked off the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival last year. Actually, did you know this year is the 50th anniversary of Wrinkle? To commemorate this, this Saturday (2/11) Thalia Kids’ Book Club at the Symphony Space in New York is putting on a blowout event. There will be readings of Wrinkle by Jane Curtin (!), as well as appearances by NYPL librarian and my partner-in-crime Betsy Bird, as well as 3 Newbery medalists: Rebecca Stead (of When You Reach Me, who also appeared at our 90-Second Newbery screening in New York), Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) and Lois Lowry (The Giver)! And also R.L. Stine (Goosebumps), whom I remember not in his 1990s horror-writer incarnation, but when he was Jovial “Bob” Stine back in the 1970s and 1980s, turning out hilarious books that I read and re-read again and again: The Absurdly Silly Encyclopedia & Fly Swatter and Don’t Stand in the Soup: The World’s Funniest Guide to Manners. What tragic thing happened to that changed “Jovial Bob” to “R.L.”, from laughter to horror? The mind boggles . . . then wanders . . .

Oh, wait! What I wanted to say is that they’ll be showing our 90-Second version of A Wrinkle in Time at this event. I wish I could be in New York to be in the room for that. It’s an honor. I hope it gets at least a chuckle from Jane Curtin, who is in my personal Quadrivium of Awesome Stern 1970s Ladies (joining Sigourney Weaver, Candace Bergen, and Jodie Foster).

Remember the Order of Odd-Fish fan art gallery show / costumed dance party? Perhaps you remember how a marvelous stranger jetted in from San Francisco, showed up at the party dressed as Sefino, and proceeded to stay in character the rest of the evening (he’s on the left):

His name is John Karp, and on his blog St. John Karp this week, he has a very insightful essay about The Never-Ending Story that also happens to mention The Order of Odd-Fish a few times. It’s worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of The Never-Ending Story, and baffled at how the movie is so different from the book. It’s a fascinating take on the story overall. Thanks awfully for the kind words in there, John!

So . . . the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Portland is coming up, March 3! Co-hosted by me the lovely and talented Laini Taylor, author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Lips Touch, and much more. The deadline for entries from Portland is Monday, February 13. I’ve already received some great ones. Keep them rolling in!

In the meantime let’s enjoy a two videos from the previous screenings that I haven’t had a chance to post yet. These are from the Lighthouse Homeschoolers Drama Club in Lakeland, Florida. The first one I received from them is of Richard Peck’s A Year Down Yonder, adapted by Kyle, his brother, Bridgette, and Sarah. The book is about a girl during the depression who must go down from Chicago to downstate Illinois and live with her tough, eccentric grandmother. Here we see when Grandma Dowdel foils some local boys who want to vandalize her “privy”:

The olde-tymey sepia effect was a nice touch, and all the acting was great. Grandma Dowdel! What a juicy role that is. ALSO: the cream in the face, and the instant replay, was a hoot.

The drama club also did When You Reach Me, adapted by Evie, Kyle, Kurt, Alvaro, Sarah, and Lili:

Another superior entry from the Lighthouse Homeschoolers club! The “Laughing Man” totally stole the show. I like how Julia strolls up, “explains” time travel, and then saunters away as Miranda gives a completely baffled look. And even a well-placed “Wilhelm” scream! Plus, the way Miranda looks at the camera at the end is priceless.

Thanks, Lighthouse Homeschoolers!

Laini Taylor co-hosts Portland 90-Second Newbery Film Festival with me March 3!

January 25, 2012

So the 2012 Newberys have been awarded! I’m looking forward to reading Jack Gantos’ Dead End in Norvelt and all the Honor books too. Congratulations, all! (UPDATE: You really have to hear Jack Gantos talk on NPR about how he ended up serving 18 months in the federal pen for drug smuggling when he was in his twenties. Hilarious!)

Speaking of Newbery―some of you know that I’m bringing the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to Portland, Oregon on March 3. It’ll be at the Central Library (801 S.W. 10th Avenue) from 3-5 pm. I’m also doing other events at area libraries the week leading up to the event; check out the sidebar for details. (Don’t know what the 90-Second Newbery is? Here you go.)

I’ve been lucky enough to have superstar co-hosts for other screenings of the 90-Second Newbery: the hardest working man in children’s literature Jon Scieszka for the New York screening (with a special appearance by Newbery medalist Rebecca Stead!) and the next-big-thing comedian Seth Dodson for the Chicago screening. So who would I get to co-host in Portland?

The answer was obvious: National Book Award nominee and noted pink-hair-flaunter Laini Taylor, the author of the rightly much-buzzed-about and thrilling Daughter of Smoke and Bone (as well as her similarly great Lips Touch and her two Dreamdark books, Blackbringer and Silksinger). I first came to know Laini when she posted a fabulous review of The Order of Odd-Fish on her blog and I’ve since read all her books and become a friend and admirer. We finally met in person a couple months ago when she was blowing through Chicago to promote Daughter (that’s when the above photo was taken).

Portlanders! The deadline for entries to the Portland screening is February 13, 2012. You can find complete rules and details about the contest here. (Hey, aren’t Beverly Cleary’s books set in a thinly veiled Portland? Ramona Quimby, Age 8 won a Newbery Honor in 1982 and Ramona and Her Father won a Newbery Honor in 1978. These definitely need to be done by Portlanders!)

I’ve already received some great videos from the Portland area (check them out here), but here’s the latest―a quite good 90-second version of Sid Fleischman’s 1987 Medal winner The Whipping Boy, adapted by Kieran and his little brother Ackley, along with their friends Lach and Christian. The storytelling is brutally efficient, and I especially liked the doleful way in which the whipping boy gripes “I hate this job” and the resourceful use of Legos for the outside scenes. (Also, is it me, or don’t their “lady” voices sound like Cartman?) We’ll definitely be screening this on March 3, and I’m told Kieran and the rest will be in attendance:

And this is also a good time for me to call attention to some great 90-Second Newbery videos I got last year from the Field School, an all-boy school in Charlottesville, Virginia. I received five videos from them, which I’ve featured on a special page here. But you can get a taste of their moviemaking prowess here, with this adaptation of Avi’s 1992 Newbery winner Nothing But The Truth:

Click through here to see all of the Field School’s great 90-Second Newberys. Great job, and congratulations!

And Portlanders, I’ll see you on March 3!

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