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The Order of Oddfish


I’m Back! Also: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 90-Second Newbery

June 17, 2011

I’ll be speaking at the Glen Ellyn Book Fest this Saturday, June 18, at the Tap House Grill, 411 North Main, Glen Ellyn. 2:30 – 3:30 pm. Details here.

I know, I know―I haven’t touched this blog for a month. But with a brand-new baby daughter, I have a good excuse, right?

Actually, no. Good friends Betsy Bird and Matt Bird just had their own beautiful baby girl days ago, and already they’re back at the blogging mill! I stand shamed. In particular, Matt’s series this week on how the last four Harry Potter books could be improved is a must-read (admit it; those last four aren’t perfect.).

Bonus: if you check out the comments to his post about Book 7, you can see how I, James Kennedy, would have ended Rowling’s series. Talk about self-indulgence . . .

But I haven’t exactly been idle, either! Last week I spoke with cartoonist Lars Martinson (Tonoharu) and David Fernandez (Rising Sunsets) at an event sponsored by the Japan American Society of Chicago and the JETAA Chicago Chapter. We were all ex-JETs who went on to publish books. I haven’t yet read David’s book, but Lars’ Tonoharu (there’s a frame above) is a bleak, hilarious graphic novel about being a JET in Japan that is quickly gathering a reputation as a classic. It was great to meet him; I’ve admired his work for a while. (Don’t know what the JET Programme is? It was one the best experiences of my life. More information here.)

Speaking of work I admire . . . At Chicago’s Printers Row book festival, I read from The Order of Odd-Fish and did a presentation about its awesome fan art. I also moderated a panel of YA writers Veronica Roth (the bestselling dystopic-Chicago Divergent), Katie Crouch (the Southern-gothic-paranormal-romance The Magnolia League), and Daniel Kraus (father-son graverobbing epic Rotters).

Now, Roth and Crouch don’t need my ballyhoo; they’re both New York Times bestsellers. So I want to focus here and emphasize that anyone who reads this blog would love Daniel Kraus’ Rotters.

Rotters is a grisly, ambitious, demented yarn about a secret subculture of modern-day graverobbers. It’s also a surprisingly emotional father-and-son story, strangely touching without ever being sentimental (I gave it to my father for his birthday). To be sure, Rotters is stomach-turning in its hideous detail, and not for the faint of heart. But it’s a masterfully told tale, relentlessly paced and clasically structured―until the last hundred pages, in which Kraus goes delightfully nuts, piling up shocking climaxes and over-the-top grotesqueries so fast and furious your brain will quietly melt in baffled ecstasy and dribble out your ears. Don’t believe me? Cory Doctorow just posted a glowing review of Rotters on Boing Boing. (Full disclosure: Daniel Kraus and I are both members of The Brothers Delacorte).

Other topics! In the past month, I’ve received DOZENS of 90-Second Newbery videos for our film festival in November! (For those of you who don’t know what the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is, details here.). I’ll have a lot to share in the next few weeks, but for now, let’s enjoy this 90-second version of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (Newbery Honor, 1982) by 11-year-old Marissa Nevills of Ohio:

First of all, even though all the performances are good, the girl who played Ramona there is a flat-out star. What sass! What verve! I liked the scene where she smashed what she thought was a hard-boiled egg over her head and it turned out to be a raw egg. They packed a surprisingly large amount of plot into just under two minutes! Great job, and I hope to see more!

And to cap off my welcome-back-to-the-world post, here’s a delicious piece of Order of Odd-Fish fan art that I discovered―an illustration of Jo in her Aznath-the-Silver-Kitten-of-Deceit armor, riding around her flying ostrich in the Dome of Doom, with one of her traditional Eldritch City insults inscribed in the upper-left hand corner! It’s by the talented NudgieBudgie on DeviantArt. I particularly like the Joust-like aesthetic, and how there’s a monster peeking out of the water below. There wasn’t a monster in the Dome of Doom in Odd-Fish, but now I realize there absolutely should have been. I mean, duh.

It feels good to be back!