order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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“90-Second Newbery” Film Festival at the Chicago Public Library, November 16!

August 4, 2011

The “90-Second Newbery” Film Festival is spreading! For those of you who don’t know: the “90-Second Newbery” is a video contest in which participants are challenged to create 90-second films of Newbery award-winning books. No book trailers! The idea is to compress the entire plot of the book in 90 seconds or less. Complete details here.

The film festival will premiere on November 5 at the New York Public Library.

But that’s not all!

We’ve added another screening of the 90-Second Newberys in Chicago! It will be at the Harold Washington Library on November 16, from 6pm-8pm. Chicagoans . . . RISE!

In celebration, let’s feature some super 90-Second Newbery videos I’ve been receiving lately. Above, a 90-second version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, sent to me by Alice McKee-Smith, the same lady in Portland who helped make the definitive Witch of Blackbird Pond I received a couple weeks ago. With that as a precedent, my expectations were high!

And I wasn’t disappointed! This is a great Frankweiler. I love the girl playing the “angel” statue. The “mother always said I came from heaven” scene was very well played. Good acting all around! Especially the girl who played Frankweiler herself―she does “stern dowager” well. Most importantly, we get Frankweiler’s tart letter to Saxonberg. I always liked poor Saxonberg. He’s the Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern of children’s literature.

Hey, here’s an idea for a movie: a version of The Mixed-Up Files done entirely from the point of view of Saxonberg . . .

Moving on, here’s another standout 90-Second Newbery I’ve received, for A Bridge to Terabithia:

This one is by the multitalented Orion DeYoe. He’s fifteen years old, and self-described as a game engineer and beekeeper. Add filmmaker to that list!

Orion did well in nailing every significant detail about Terabithia in a super-short format. Not easy! I like how Jesse’s subjectivity changes the scene―how everything turns blue when Leslie reads about scuba diving, or the sound of clanging swords when he and Leslie are playing with sword-sticks. Seemingly small details like that make a movie zip. The scene where Jesse learns Leslie dead was handled well. Excellent job!

Let’s wind up today’s post with nine different 90-second versions of The Giver. Whaaaaaat, you say? NINE versions of The Giver?

Yup. They’re by the sixth graders at Worcester Preparatory School in Berlin, MD. You can see all nine versions of The Giver here, but here’s one of them to whet your appetite.

Good acting, and I thought the way they handled the flashes of memories at beginning was particularly deft, especially using a first-person shooter to illustrate “war.” The use of the paper airplane, with the subtitles and freeze-frame, was very resourceful and clever! Thanks, Worcester Prep! Again, you can see all nine of the versions of The Giver here.

Thanks so much for all these videos! Keep them coming in. The deadline is October 17!

Odd-Fish Art From My Teaching Gig

July 31, 2011

Check out this beautifully detailed Odd-Fish ring fan art I received the other day! What? Where did it come from, you ask?

Friends of the Internet, I’ve been keeping a secret from you. For the past two weeks I’ve been teaching a class on Science Fiction and Fantasy at Northwestern University!

It’s a three-week course. This week is my last week. It’s for Northwestern University’s Center For Talent Development, a program for gifted students (the CTD first crossed my radar when my protegee Freya participated a couple years back).

My class is fifteen seventh and eighth graders, most of whom are living on-campus for the three weeks. It’s been a blast so far, although grueling―it’s 8:30am-2:45pm, Monday through Friday, for fifteen days. I realize that real teachers do this all the time, but I haven’t taught in years, so it takes some getting used to.

Still, I love the students. Why do I love them? Because these are my people. One of them wears a black cape to class every day. Another has a collection of hissing cockroaches at home and knows string theory. And how about the sweet, quiet girl who on the first day told us all about her extensive knife collection? Did I mention they can also write like angels?

Due to the program’s reasonable privacy rules, I haven’t really been able to talk about the class, or share pictures. Suffice it to say that this class is turning out to be the highlight of my summer!

Last week, I spoke to a joint class of my group and another creative writing class. The other creative writing class had read The Order of Odd-Fish, but most of my class hadn’t. (By design. It would be unforgivably Gilderoy Lockhart of me to assign Odd-Fish as required reading. And I want to be Remus Lupin. Except for getting killed part. Wait, doesn’t Lockhart end up in the insane asylum? Maybe, deep down, I’m really just Slughorn. That sounds about right.)

Anyway, I received some great Odd-Fish fan art from the other class. Look at that amazing Odd-Fish ring above, by Karen G.! It’s gorgeous! But that’s not all:

Yup, it’s the hedgehog with a gun from the costume party in the first chapter! Great job by Melinda L.!

And here’s the washing machine in which the infant Jo was found at the ruby palace, by Anna M. I particularly like that the “wash mode” is set to “dangerous baby”!

Finally, we have a model of the Odd-Fish lodge from Trize, and a picture of Fiona Fuorlini. Great art from everyone, and very much appreciated!

I’ll be back in reasonable blogging form in a week or so, once I can catch my breath from this class. It’s a thrill, but it’s exhausting!

DOME OF DOOM this Friday in Wicker Park!

July 26, 2011



This FRIDAY, July 29th, join me, theatrical spectacle rabble-rousers Collaboraction, and circus punk rock marching band Environmental Encroachment at the DOME OF DOOM at the “Polish Triangle” in Wicker Park in Chicago! That’s the intersection of Division, Milwaukee and Ashland. We’ll be there from 5-7 pm.

It’s part of Out of Site Chicago, Wicker Park/Bucktown SSA #33 and Walkabout Theatre Company’s series of unexpected performances in unexpected places.

Wait, what is the Dome of Doom? It’s a real-life recreation of the scene in The Order of Odd-Fish in which knights don costume armor and fight in a gladiatorial arena!

We will supply the geodesic Dome and the costumes (although you’re invited to come in your own costume!). Competitors―that is, anyone who walks by and wants to join in―put on a costume and dance-battle each other to the delight of judges and a raucous crowd of spectators.

You’ve got 60 seconds to show off your best moves and take your opponent down, all to the marching-band music of Environmental Encroachment. All ages! (Don’t have a costume? We’ll have plenty on hand for you to use.)

TWO DANCERS ENTER. ONE DANCER LEAVES!

Collaboraction, Environmental Encroachment, and I have been throwing these Dome of Doom dance parties since last spring, when it was the centerpiece of the Order of Odd-Fish fan art gallery show..

Since then, we’ve done it in Logan Square (that’s the video above) and in the Loop next to the Harold Washington library.

It’s always ludicrous fun. And I used to live in Wicker Park, so this will be a kind of homecoming for me.

Still confused about the Dome of Doom? The video below, made to explain the original dance-fighting costume party, will demonstrate to you what we mean:



See you Friday, I hope!

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