bride of the tornado cover dare to know cover order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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I’m at Emerald City Comic Con this Friday—and I’m on some podcasts!

February 26, 2024

I want to take a quick break from 90-Second Newbery Film Festival updates to give some news about upcoming Bride of the Tornado appearances!

This Friday, March 1, I’ll be at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. I’m speaking on the “It’s Getting Dark” panel with authors Autumn Krause, Peter V. Brett, and Claire Legrand. This panel will be at 5:15 pm in Room 434 of the Seattle Convention Center Summit Building, followed by a book signing at 6:15 pm on Level 2 at the University Book Store (Booth #20627). The last time I was in Seattle was marvelous, so I’m really looking forward to this!

And I have other events coming up all over the country. On Thursday, March 7 I’m in conversation with big-deal Chicago horror writer Cynthia Pelayo (my third event with her!) at Bookie’s Bookstore (10324 S. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL) at 6 pm. And two days later, on Saturday, March 9 (my birthday!) I’m hosting the Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival with Mary Winn Heider.

Further down the line, I’m doing author events at Porter Square Books in Boston (on Thursday, April 4) and Good Neighbor Bookstore in Lakewood, New York (on Wednesday, April 17) leading up to the 90-Second Newbery Boston screening and Rochester, NY screening respectively. Check out my events page for the full rundown!

In the meantime, here are some online appearances I’ve made recently! I first met philosopher Greg Sadler when my sci-fi novel Dare to Know came out. He dug it, we became friends, and he ended up doing an excellent interview with me on his “Worlds of Speculative Fiction” podcast.

Now that Bride of the Tornado is out, Greg has had me on for another episode, in which he reads from passages of both Dare to Know and Bride of the Tornado and teases out the philosophical ideas of both books. As Greg says in his post about this episode, “I had the chance to interview him about his influences, his novels, what role philosophy plays, and a number of other subjects, and clips from that are woven into the video itself.” Check out the video, but put aside some time for it—it’s almost two hours long!

In Greg’s interview with me, I mention the influence that G.K. Chesterton’s short, weird, visionary novel The Man Who Was Thursday had on me. And that made me remember that I had been on a different podcast, called The Legendarium, in which they invited me to speak about that very book . . . but I had never mentioned it on this blog!

This episode is a somewhat shorter than the above. In it, I talk about my personal life in a bit more detail than usual, and use it to make my own idiosyncratic points about Chesterton’s very strange book. Watch and listen here:

(Actually, I’ve been a guest on The Legendarium twice; the first time, I gave a talk about “Determinism in Science Fiction and Fantasy,” and I floated my theory that there are four distinct types of predestination in fiction: “Durable,” “Fragile,” “Volitional,” and “Broken.” You can listen to that here.)

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today. See you in Seattle, I hope . . . or at some other event in the next few busy months!

The AWE and EXALTATION of the 2024 Ogden, UT 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

February 21, 2024

The 13th season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival continued with our second show at the Treehouse Museum in Ogden, Utah this past Saturday! I am so thankful to Lynne Goodwin, Rob Goodwin, Wes Whitby, Caden Ware, and everyone at the Treehouse for bringing our screening back to their venue yet again. And of course, big props to Keir Graff (author of Minerva Keen’s Detective Club of many other great books for kids and adults) for being such a brilliant co-host.

Since our audience is younger at the Treehouse, we did a less satirical opening skit than we did at the Brooklyn screening the week before. Keir and I wrote this one backstage an hour before the performance, specially-tailored for our Ogden audience. Check it out above!

Here’s are Keir and me with some of the young filmmakers onstage after the show, and in the audience with the crowd:

We showed a lot of great movies at the screening, but in this post I want to concentrate on the three movies that were made right at the Treehouse at a weeklong 90-Second Newbery workshop I taught last summer with the help of Treehouse staff, especially Caden Ware.

This first one is based on Kate Dicamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures . . . but retold in the style of Star Wars! Flora is Rey, her mother is Emperor Palpatine, the dad is Kylo Ren, and Rey saves Ulysses the squirrel by making him into a half-droid—and then the squirrel starts to get the power of the Force.

All the actors turned in fantastic performances, and I loved their energy in the light saber battles. Read the complete write-up about this movie on the 90-Second Newbery website.

The next movie is based on Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Newbery Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It’s done in the style of a Batman movie, in which Mr. Popper is secretly the superhero “Penguin Man.” Here, Penguin Man comes into the possession of a self-duplicating penguin: a penguin that can clone itself! Penguin Man and the cloning penguin fight crime together, and together they defeat the villain “the Laughing Seal,” a scientist who had drank a chemical that turned them into half-seal who needs to devour penguins to live.

I love how this movie mixes the styles of both the 1990s Tim Burton Batman and the 1960s Adam West Batman:

And here’s what the judges had to say on the 90-Second Newbery website.

The third movie we made was based on Christina Soontornvat’s 2021 Newbery Honor Book A Wish in the Dark. In the book’s original Thai-inspired fantasy world, the city of Chattana is ravaged by the Great Fire, plunging it into darkness. The fire is stopped by someone called the Governor—a magical, power-obsessed leader who goes on to outlaw fire. The city’s only sources of light and power are magical glowing orbs that only the Governor can create. The book’s hero is Pong, a nine-year-old boy who escapes the prison where he was born. He wants to live freely in Chattana, but he is pursued by Nok, the prison warden’s daughter who wants to bring him back to prison. However, they eventually make friends and join forces with others to bring down the evil magical Governor.

This movie tells the story in the style of the movie The Wizard of Oz. The Governor is the Wicked Witch of the West, Pong is Dorothy, and . . . well, just watch!

This movie resourcefully used the sets and costumes at the Treehouse, and there was good cinematography and acting too! You can read the write-up of this movie on the 90-Second Newbery website.

And those were the local movies of the Ogden 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! And I will be teaching another weeklong “Making a 90-Second Newbery” workshop at the Treehouse in July. I believe Keir will be teaching a writing workshop too. I’m looking forward to returning to Ogden soon and seeing all my friends again. And remember, it’s not too early to start working on your movies for next year!

The 90-Second Newbery relies on private donations to keep going! It’s only through your generosity that we can continue bringing our free public screenings and book-to-movie workshops to libraries and schools nationwide. You can make your (tax-deductible!) donation here. Donations are handled through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

The MIRTH and MAYHEM of the 2024 Brooklyn 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

February 11, 2024

The 90-Second Newbery relies on private donations to keep going! It’s only through your generosity that we can continue bringing our free public screenings and book-to-movie workshops to libraries and schools nationwide. You can make your (tax-deductible!) donation here. Donations are handled through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

The THIRTEENTH season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival kicked off at the Brooklyn Public Library this past Saturday! Thanks so much to Brandon Graham and Paquita Campoverde of the BPL for bringing our screening back to the library every year. And huge thanks to Rita Williams-Garcia (Newbery Honor winning author of One Crazy Summer of many other great books) for being such a charismatic and talented co-host! Check out our opening skit above, in which we are confronted with the “redesigned” Newbery Medal—the anthropomorphic “Lil’ Newby,” who seems to delight in spreading bizarre misinformation about Newbery winning authors like E.B. White, Beverly Cleary, Arnold Lobel, and Kate DiCamillo. The whole shebang culminates in Rita and me singing and dancing to a rewritten version of Aladdin’s “Friend Like Me.” We had such a warm and welcoming crowd—I think this was one of our best-received opening skits!

Here’s Rita and me with all the young filmmakers onstage after the show:

We packed the place! Nearly every spot in the 189-seat Dweck Auditorium was taken up. I love this venue—the low ceiling, close quarters, and ready-to-laugh crowd make Brooklyn one of my favorite stops on the tour.

All right, let’s check out the actual movies! (I’m going to feature only the locally-produced movies in this post, but we also showed the Leland Street Players’ Bridge to Terabithia (from the POV of the Terabithians), the Treehouse Museum’s Star Wars-style Flora and Ulysses, the Grant Center for Expressive Arts’ musical of 26 Fairmount Avenue, and this Claymation version of Mr. Popper’s Penguins.)

We received a bunch of great movies from Deerfield School in Mountainside, New Jersey. I wish I could have featured them all, but here are the two standouts that we showed at the screening, starting with Ben’s and Lawrence’s stop-motion Lego adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Newbery Medal winner The Giver:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (read the full review here), “I very much enjoyed this frantic, kinetic, sometimes chaotic but always entertaining sprint through The Giver . . . I liked that the memories that the Giver transmitted to Jonas were not only the ones from the book (sledding down a snowy hill) but also being chased by a dinosaur, or an X-wing fighter blowing up a TIE fighter, or a fight between two people on motorcycles, or just a random combat between a lot of people and monsters on a field!”

We also received from Deerfield school this marvelous adaptation of E.L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Newbery Medal winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by Matthew and Alexis:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “The cinematography was very well done, with cleverly framed shots, and the editing was crisp and kept the story moving quickly. I liked the cool touches, like how Claudia’s ‘simple plan’ is written out in 8 steps on a big piece of cardboard (ah, so Claudia!) that is introduced with a goofy sound effect. Good use of green screen, too!”

The North Bergen S.T.E.A.M. Academy also submitted lots of movies, and we ended up showing four of them at the screening! This first one is an adaptation of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet, by Gabriella, Abigail, Allison, Samantha, and Jiya:

As the judges said in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This movie demonstrates some of the most impressive green screen skills I’ve seen in any 90-Second Newbery entry, with superior cinematography and editing as well . . . The performances of Brian and the other characters were also full of charm, complementing the great visuals, and the voiceover narration was skillful.” (Great use of CGI vomit, too!)

But wait! We also featured another movie of Hatchet from North Bergen S.T.E.A.M. Academy, this one by Aarav, Vincenzo, Ibrahim, Matthew, and Lucien:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I liked this movie’s innovation of having two kids get stranded in the wilderness, instead of Brian all on his own, so that the characters can talk to each other about their situation. I loved the green screen effects that made it look like the two heroes were falling out of the plane (and then falling into the forest) . . . One of the funniest parts was when they happened upon an actual hatchet—a very useful object, indeed, the whole point of the original book—and they just carelessly throw it away, a hilarious subversion of the original story!”

We also received from North Bergen S.T.E.A.M. Academy this adaptation of Jennifer Holm’s 2011 Honor Book Turtle in Paradise, by Daniela and Hansika:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved the idea of telling the story as a voiceover accompanying dozens of beautifully hand-drawn pictures . . . But maybe my favorite thing about this movie was the bonkers plot change at the end: instead of Archie Meeks successfully stealing the treasure from the kids, a bunch of weird bird men show up (?!), but then Nana Filly shows up too and turns out to be a fearsome fighter (!?!??!) and she defeats all the birdmen and their hilariously mean-looking toucan leader in a knock-down, drag-out brawl.”

The last movie from North Bergen S.T.E.A.M. Academy that we featured was this adaptation of Jerry Craft’s 2020 Newbery Medal winner New Kid, done by Nada:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I was really impressed at this version of New Kid, in which all the drawings were done by the filmmaker! I really liked how all of the many pictures were recognizable as characters and scenes from the book, and yet the artist also imbued them with their own style. The voiceover narration was clear and efficient and it zoomed through the story at an impressive rate, with hardly a word wasted.”

We also received a TON of movies from Lloyd Harbor School in Huntington, New York. I actually visited that school back in the fall to give 90-Second Newbery moviemaking tips to the students, and it paid off with lots of superior entries! We ended up featuring three movies from Lloyd Harbor School at the screening. The first one was this adaptation of “The List” from Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together, by Kareena, Morgan, Violet, and Vivienne:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved the twist: that Toad’s “To-Do” list wasn’t blown away by a gust of wind as in the original story, but rather it is stolen by two robbers! I appreciated the attention to detail: the full-body amphibian costumes for both Frog and Toad, and the villainous all-black outfits for the two robbers, and also the great background music throughout the music, which set up the right feeling for each scene . . . My favorite part of the movie was when the decision of whether Frog and Toad get their list back from the robbers is determined by a game of ‘rock, paper, scissors.'”

We also received from Lloyd Harbor School a great version of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Newbery Medal winner Holes by Addie, Annabelle, Maddie, and Millie, but at over eight minutes long, it was way too long for the screening. But there was so much good stuff in it, I still wanted to feature a version of it at the screening! You can see that original uncut version here, but here’s the shorter edit we agreed on, that we showed at the screening:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review of the original movie here), “Great cinematography and editing, fantastic acting, and superior production values all the way through—with a satisfyingly huge cast too! . . . My favorite part of the movie was the rewritten version of Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’—that is, ‘I’m Still Stanley’! The lyrics were clever, the singing was on-point, and it was really fun.”

The last movie we featured from Lloyd Harbor School was an adaptation of Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Newbery Honor Book Roller Girl, by Lexi and Morgan:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “All the performances were full of verve and fun . . . I enjoyed the rambunctious energy of the actual derby scenes. I also particularly liked the hair-dying scene, which was accomplished by clever wig-switching, and the exasperated way Astrid’s mom shouted out ‘ASTRID!!!’ when she finds out . . . A little chaotic, but always entertaining!”

I always love when I get adaptations of more obscure Newbery books, and I loved this movie of Janet Gaylord Moore’s 1970 Newbery Honor Book The Many Ways of Seeing: An Introduction to the Pleasures of Art, made by Phoebe and her dad:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “What an amazing performance! Phoebe really knocked it out of the park with this precocious summary of the themes of the book . . . It was an inspired choice to shoot most of the movie at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I especially loved when Phoebe compared the postcard of van Gogh’s ‘Wheat Field With Cypresses’ to the original . . . Entertaining and fun to watch! This one’s a winner!”

Speaking of Phoebes from New York, we got this fun, action-packed version of Wanda Gag’s 1929 Honor Book Millions of Cats by Phoebe, Sally, and Socks:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Delightful . . . There was an ingenious use of numerous stuffed animals to portray the many various cats, a choice that became particularly funny when the great ‘cat battle’ began . . . The enthusiastic, charismatic performances from all the actors made this really entertaining to watch!”

Every year I get a lot of versions of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Newbery Medal winner The Giver, but few as inventive as this one by Lincoln from New York City. This one is set in a puppet world, and in it the Giver transmits to Jonas what it’s like in the human world:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “A delightful and hilarious movie! I loved the overall idea of Jonas’s ‘community’ being a world of puppets (and come to think of it, in the original book, the members of Jonas’s community are rather puppetlike in their obedience, aren’t they?) . . . I loved how the puppet of Jonas turned into the real-life Jonas (complete with a similar shirt: great attention to detail!) . . . The global warming punchline brought the whole thing together.”

We featured a version earlier of Jerry Craft’s 2016 Newbery Medal winner The Giver. Here’s another one, done by the Gravesend Library Teen Youth Council:

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This was a great idea: using hand-drawn, hand-colored paper representations of the various characters, and putting them into hand-drawn settings to tell the story! This format captured the graphic novel style of the original book, especially with the dialogue bubbles for all the spoken lines . . . The voiceover performances were emotionally engaging and skillfully done.”

And last but certainly not least, here’s a movie that got a lot of positive response from the audience on Saturday: another adaptation From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, this time by Maya and Priya (fair warning, it does end abruptly in the middle of the story):

As the judges wrote in part on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “From the very beginning we get a good sense of the two sibling characters: bossy overplanner big sister Claudia feeling put-upon for doing the dishes and wanting to run away (I liked the touch of her Q&A list), and money-minded, competitive, practical little brother Jamie playing ‘War’ for money against his friend Bruce (here, portrayed by a stuffed animal) and giving Claudia the exasperating pushback that she secretly needs and appreciates . . . I was amused at the rambling version of ‘Empire State of Mind’ which devolves into a quibble about peaches . . . Funny performances and resourceful filmmaking.”

And that was the Brooklyn 2024 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Thanks so much to all the filmmakers, and the teachers, librarians, and family who helped them out . . . and thanks to all the folks who packed the Brooklyn Public Library’s Dweck Auditorium that day! I’m looking forward to seeing you all again next year. You can learn more about the 90-Second Newbery, including moviemaking tips, contest rules, and instructions for submitting, at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival website.

The 90-Second Newbery relies on private donations to keep going! You can make your (tax-deductible!) donation here. Donations are handled through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

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