order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


Invite Me To Your School or Library!

Pictures by Paul Goyette.

I’ve done countless author visits to libraries, book festivals, and classrooms from as young as 5th grade to as old as 12th grade. (Check out the glowing testimonials to the right!) I’ve been a junior high school teacher and I’m trained in improvisational comedy, so I know how to talk to a room full of students.

I have 4 programs: the Author Visit, the Dome of Doom, the Real Japan for Anime Fans, and the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening. Details below. If you want to do a writing seminar or workshop, I can do that too: I’ve taught writing at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development and in after-school programs in Chicago Public Schools. I’ll tailor my program to meet your needs. Email me at kennedyjames@gmail.com to get started.

In the Chicago area, one-session appearances of up to 60 minutes are $500. All-day visits to schools (many sessions in one day) are $1000. For visits outside of the Chicago area, it’s $1200 a day and includes travel and accommodations. (Prices too steep for your budget? Email me anyway. We can work something out.)

Teachers and book clubs: check out this Classroom Guide to Odd-Fish, a treasure trove of creative project ideas, discussion questions, chapter worksheets, and further resources!

Author Visit. I start with theatrical, laugh-out-loud readings from my fantasy novel The Order of Odd-Fish (one of the Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children 2008, which Booklist called “hilarious”—oh heck, just go ahead and read the tons of fantastic reviews right here). I talk about where ideas come from, tell strange anecdotes about living in Japan for three years, show off some amazing Odd-Fish fan art I’ve received from teens, answer questions, and much more. This can be anything from 45-90 minutes.

The Dome of Doom. It’s the Author Visit, except with this addition: we then launch into the “Dome of Doom” event, in which students invent mythological monster-gods from my book, dress up as those monster-gods (I even bring the costumes!), learn how to write insults in the classical Eldritch City style, and perform them against their friends in fighting-dancing duels with insane battle music. Wondering what that looks like? Check out this exciting video of my Dome of Doom workshop at 826CHI! About 60-90 minutes.

Real Japan for Anime Fans. The worlds we find in Japanese manga and anime are fascinating. But the real Japan is just as weird and wonderful! I lived in Japan for three years, in Tokyo and the countryside, and I’ve experienced some amazing things. Learn about the Hadaka Matsuri, a Buddhist festival in which thousands of nearly-naked men fight for holy sticks. Come along me on the pilgrimage to the 88 temples of Shikoku. Explore the neon streets of Tokyo and tour the temples of Kyoto. Learn how how the real Japan ties into its pop culture—for instance, did you know the bathhouse of the gods from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is based on a real bathhouse? I’ll show it to you! Participants will also learn some elementary Japanese phrases, and how to write their name in Japanese characters. About 45-60 minutes.

90-Second Newbery Film Festival Screening. In 2011, I founded the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, in which filmmakers of any age (but mostly children) are challenged to make hilarious short movies that tell the entire story of a Newbery award winning book in 90 seconds or less. We have annual screenings of the film festival in New York City, Chicago, and Portland (click links to see recaps of the festivals), but you can bring a version of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to your school, library, or book festival! Especially recommended if you want to inspire your students to make their own 90-Second Newbery videos.

“James Kennedy is one of the most talked about authors we have had! Teens who had the chance to meet him at TBF have been overheard telling others about him and what they missed. His presentation style is engaging, interactive, and hysterical. And his sense of humor is infectious! Find a way to get James to your library or school . . . you won’t be disappointed!”
—Stephanie Squicciarini, librarian and organizer of the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival

“James brings his own unique sensibility, brilliant wit, and engaging humor to his presentations for students. When visiting our school, he had the students immediately captivated, even on a Friday afternoon when many of them might be eager to flee the building. James loves creating characters and playing with the language, and he inspired our students to think creatively. In a world where many people talk down to young people, James challenges them and drags them willingly into his elaborate world. They have been carrying around his books ever since!” —Lori Kloehn, English Teacher at the Latin School of Chicago

“James engaged all of my students throughout his visit with his elaborate and colorful personality. Many of them have a newfound excitement and joy towards reading and writing a novel. He was a great visitor to my class and hopefully we can have him back.”—Michael Eng, 5th Grade Teacher, Oak Park, IL

“James’ programs are as unique as they are engaging. The teens at my library continuously ask me when he is coming again! I have rarely seen such creative dramatic energy in a teen program. Even my shyest teens were hurling creative sallies in the Dome of Doom. James is a professional and an utter pleasure to work with, as he has such respect for both libraries and teens.”—Amy Alessio, Teen Coordinator, Schaumburg Library, IL

“I have never seen my students as engaged as they were during James Kennedy’s visit to my classroom. He is an incredible speaker—my students were on the edge of their seats. Not only was his reading fascinating, my students also enjoyed his explanation of how he became a writer. His story proved to them to them that everyday people can become published authors.”—C.L. Underwood, High School Teacher, Chicago

“James Kennedy, as well as being a talented author, is a natural entertainer. The audience hardly had a chance to stop laughing during his readings and Q & A session. Most importantly, he was an inspiration to the teens—taking time to talk to them personally and encouraging them in their creative endeavors.” —Kricket Hoekstra, Teen Librarian, Rochester Hills Public Library

“James’ dramatic and energetic interpretation of his intelligent and witty writing was beyond entertaining. He left my students with a plethora of intrigue and inspiration for their own writing!” —Kim Tobash, Teacher, Mary Poppins National Tour

Video clips from previous programs! In this first one I’m cavorting with the teens of the Schaumburg Township Public Library, when they caught me in the wild, tied me up to the reference desk, and tried to “tame” me. The School Library Journal’s Elizabeth Bird concluded that “James Kennedy is the greatest physical comedian/writer of his generation.” Are you seriously going to disagree with Betsy Bird of the School Library Journal?!

And here is my Dome of Doom writing workshop at 826CHI:

I have a special place in my heart for librarians: I’m married to a librarian, and my speech at the 2009 American Library Association conference in Chicago—in which I stripped Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book) of the Newbery Award, winning it for myself fair and square in a fantastical series of trials—was hailed as a surprise highlight. Check it out here.