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

The Order of Oddfish


Bride of the Tornado in Milwaukee and Seattle—and 90-Second Newbery in Tacoma!

August 29, 2023

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I’m about to plunge into a whirlwind week! My Bride of the Tornado book tour takes me across Michigan for the next few days. If you’re within striking distance of Grand Rapids (Tuesday, August 28 at Schuler Books; details here), Petoskey (Wednesday, August 29 at McLean & Eakin Bookstore; details here), or Ann Arbor (Thursday, August 30 at Literati Bookstore; details here), I’ll be doing book events at those bookstores, complete with tornado costume, tornado trivia, and me singing and making a spectacle of myself. More info about each event in the links above. They’re all free, naturally. I promise you’ll love it!

Wait, what’s that super-clever video above? Well, I’m actually fresh off Bride of the Tornado events in Milwaukee and Seattle. That video was made by Chris and the other wonderful folks at Milwaukee’s Boswell Book Company. They had me for a great event for Dare to Know back in 2022, and many of the folks who came to that event returned for this one, too! It was a delight to see my Milwaukee people!

The fellow in the photo with me to the right is Gregory Sadler, a professor of philosophy who runs a YouTube channel about philosophy. I met him last year when he had me on his “Worlds of Speculative Fiction” feature on his channel—you can revisit that here. (It’s definitely one of the best interviews I’ve had; being a man of philosophy, he’s an intelligent reader and he asks illuminating, interesting questions.)

Another guest whom I was very happy to see: Hailey McLaughlin! I first met her back in 2010, when she made this fantastic fan art for The Order of Odd-Fish. She even came to our legendary Odd-Fish fan art gallery show and dance party (scroll down to see her; she’s dressed as a witch). Nowadays she’s a professional artist, and you can see her stuff here! (And she and I might be working on a secret project together soon.)

Then it was on to Seattle, to speak at the University Book Store!

It was a treat to catch up with old friends from various times of my life—Dave Holsinger from college, Heather Bradley from late 90s, and Laura Bartholomew and Zack Davisson from Japan in the 00s—and make new friends like Bella, an Order of Odd-Fish fan from when she was 11, who showed up because she just happpened to look up what I was up to these days, and realized I was coming to her neck of the woods! Also big thanks to Milo, Elizabeth, and Claire who made it all run smoothly. (Wondering what my bookstore events are like? The good folks at the University Book Store recorded the whole thing). Afterwards we all had a drink at the Mountaineering Club, a chic rooftop lounge in downtown Seattle. Fancy!


And then it was off to Tacoma, to do a late-season screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! The last time we did a screening in Tacoma was all the way back in 2020, right before the pandemic shut down all live events for a while. Since then we’ve continued doing Tacoma screenings online, but this year we finally got to return for a live show!

Thank you to Gabi Barragan and everyone at the Tacoma Public Library for all their support for the film festival, to Stephanie Christy of The Salishan Association for letting us use their space and Robert McAfee for helping out, and thanks especially to John Hargis, for his work in the tech booth and for all his dogged determination in making this show happen.

Thanks also to Doug Mackey, who has been my partner-in-crime in hosting the 90-Second Newbery in Tacoma for years and years now! He always brings the funny. Thanks also to the kids who helped out in the opening skit, and of course thanks to all the young filmmakers who created the movies.

We’ve been doing the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Tacoma since 2013. That’s 10 years of the 90-Second Newbery! Here’s a video that John Hargis made about the 90-Second Newbery in Tacoma over the past ten years that we showed at the screening:

The 90-Second Newbery never would’ve gotten off the ground in Tacoma if it wasn’t for the tireless efforts and ingenuity of Sara Sunshine Holloway. Sara has now stepped away from the library, but for years she poured her heart and soul and ingenuity and energy into making this film festival successful in Tacoma, organizing filmmaking workshops, making the screenings special with a literal red carpet and paparazzi and snacks and snazzy decorations, setting me up to speak at schools about the film festival . . . it really has been inspiring to work with her, and I’ll miss it now that she’s no longer with the library. Tacoma is one of the most active participants in the 90-Second Newbery, and one of my favorite stops on the tour every year, and that was in large part because of Sara.

Okay, now let’s take a look at the kid-made movies from Tacoma that we saw that day! For instance, here’s Jerry Craft’s 2020 Newbery Medal Winner New Kid, done in Claymation by Savanna of the Seabury School in Tacoma:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “I was blown away by the quality of the stop-motion clay animation here—from the very beginning I knew it was going to be good because all of the clay figures actually looked like the characters from the book . . . All of the scenes are really well done with amazing detail, especially the fight scene in the cafeteria and the soccer scene!”

Next up is Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet, made into a one-man music video by Caleb of Seabury School:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “It was a bold and creative choice to tell the story in the style of a music video, rewriting the lyrics of ‘Radioactive’ by Imagine Dragons to recap the story of the book. The new lyrics hit all the major plot points quickly and cleverly, and the singing was impressively good.”

The next movie is based on Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Newbery Medal Winner The Tale of Despereaux, and it’s by Ms. Kilby’s 4th Grade Class at Seabury School:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “This movie was really well-shot, with lots of performances full of charm and energy . . . I was surprised at how much of this book’s complicated plot got stuffed into just a couple of minutes! The costumes were effective in indicating character (I particularly liked the mouse ears) and there was a good use of green screen to portray some of the locations like the kitchen or the princess’s bedroom . . . Entertaining and fun!”

Another Kate DiCamillo book that got the 90-Second Newbery treatment was her 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora and Ulysses, as adapted here by Olive Olson and her family from Maple Valley, WA:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “Entertaining, energetic, and full of action and personality! I loved how the movie started with a bang—an lively action scene of Ulysses getting run over by a vacuum cleaner. The cinematography in all the scenes was impressive . . . I loved the attention to detail, like when Flora puts a little cape on the stuffed animal squirrel, or how Ulysses is made to ‘fly’ with the use of a string. There were great performances by everyone—the clueless aw-shucks dad, the villainous and scheming mom, and the wide-eyed urgency of Flora.”

Man, the folks in Tacoma sure love them some Kate DiCamillo. Here’s YET ANOTHER one of her books, this time the 2001 Newbery Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie, done in Roblox by Asher of Seabury School:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “This movie did a great job of telling the story using Lego-like computer animation. The voiceover performances of all the characters were lively and convincing, and distinct enough that I always understood which character was speaking . . . I liked how the ‘camera’ work became frantic at the end when they’re all looking for Winn-Dixie, reflecting the frantic emotions that Opal is having . . . Good acting, brisk editing, and a fun, unusual way to tell the story visually!”

Every year we get a couple of beautiful movies from the Jolly family of Tacoma and their friends, usually based on two particular books. The first is Nancy Willard’s 1982 Newbery Medal Winner A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, by Nigel, Simone, Fletch, Otto, and Hansel:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “I love the amazing cinematography, beautiful music, and joyous feeling throughout this piece. The beguiling mood is set from the beginning, with the swooping streamers and toy car zipping around. The voiceover performance of the poem was full of expression and emotion. I really appreciated the elaborate, colorful costumes, and the literal living rabbit-in-a-hat bit was inspired . . . I love the vibe of this movie, it’s truly spellbinding and heartwarming.”

Also every year from the Jolly family we get another story from Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Newbery Honor Book Frog and Toad Together. This year it’s “The List,” and it’s by Fletch, Otto, Nigel, Simone, and Roar:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “This movie achieves a charming and whimsical atmosphere through elaborately eccentric costumes, sweet music, gorgeous settings both indoors and out, and of course first-rate performances by all the actors! I love how this movie takes advantage of the bunnies and chickens in the yard, and all the details in the cozy house and its surroundings . . . I liked the subtle changes to the story, such as adding more characters, changing the items on Toad’s to-do list, and having the solution to the problem come not from Toad, but having another, younger character provide Toad with a new list that they wrote.”

I especially like it when I get movies based on newer Newbery winners, like this version of Darcie Little Badger’s 2022 Newbery Honor Book A Snake Falls To Earth by Rose Holmes and her friends:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “I loved the bold, energetic, and charismatic acting—there were no shrinking violets in this production . . . The cinematography and editing were excellent, always drawing the eye to the most important parts of the scene, and keeping up a brisk rhythm with the cuts . . . This movie was full of life and zest and I could feel the infectious joy that went into the production!”

Every year we get a bunch of fantastic movies from Bryan Johnson’s classes at Tacoma’s Grant Center for the Expressive Arts, and this year is no exception! Check out this version of Scott O’Dell’s 1961 Newbery Medal Winner Island of the Blue Dolphins by Rose, Lily, Ben, Hunter, and Alanna from Mr. Johnson’s 5th Grade:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “The cinematography and editing were fantastic, and I liked the rhythm established between the over-the-shoulder shot of when Mr. Roberts is reading the book aloud, the green-screened portrayal of what happened in the book itself, and the students making their own cogent critiques of this slightly dated and problematic book . . . The acting was engaging and energetic, from the righteous-but-not-obnoxious students to the on-purpose monotonous tone of the teacher to the bombastic, over-the-top acting of Karana (I loved the way she kept falling to her knees and howling every time someone died) . . . Great job!”

Henry, Kate, Landon, Liam, and Pallas from Mr. Johnson’s 5th Grade made this clever reworking of Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Newbery Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins so that it’s on a pirate ship, and instead of penguins, it’s parrots:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “The resourceful way you made the parrots ‘fly’ using green screen was very clever and fun to watch. I liked the tight, goofy script, especially the oddly macabre touch of how Mrs. Popper seems to want to eat the parrots. This fun movie told the old story in a fresh way!”

Speaking of telling old stories in a fresh way, Calvin, D’Malakih, Hannah, Kate, and Katy from Mr. Johnson’s 5th Grade adapted Gennifer Choldenko’s 2005 Newbery Honor Book Al Capone Does My Shirts in the style of Harry Potter:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “It’s a Harry Potter alteration: Sirius Black Does My Robes! (It’s a natural enough change: after all, “Azkaban” sounds a lot like “Alcatraz.”) There were so many brilliant touches: the way the family arrives in a flying car in a storm (like at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), the way the silent sister seems to resemble a house elf, and even the way the video goes to black-and-white with sad piano music when the mother and sister are told to leave the office. There was a really inventive use of green screen, especially in the quidditch scene! . . . Creative, funny, and impressive!”

There were also two 90-Second Newberys from the Grant Center for the Expressive Arts from last year that were so good that I felt that they deserved to be shown at a live screening, and not just the virtual online screenings that we’d been doing the past two years because of the pandemic. The first is Mr. Johnson’s 5th Grade Film Club’s adaptation of William Steig’s 1983 Newbery Honor Book Doctor DeSoto:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “The story was told clearly and with great style: instead of a mouse dentist and his wife doing dental work on a wolf who wants to eat them, this movie features a human dentist and his wife who undertake pulling the tooth of a vampire who wants to drink their blood! . . . I laughed out loud when the vampire didn’t come in to the dental office at first, confessing, ‘You have to invite me in, it’s a rule’ or when the dentist tried to show the vampire himself in a mirror, the vampire shrugged, ‘Those things don’t work for me’ . . . Switching the original glue from the book to garlic paste was an inspired touch, and I loved the unexpected and effective climax of having the vampire turn into a bat! And winding it all up by having the next patient be the Wolfman was brilliant. I loved this movie!”

And finally, also from last year, we have Mr. Johnson’s 4th Grade Film Club doing their musical adaptation of Tomie dePaola’s 2000 Newbery Honor Book 26 Fairmount Avenue:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (read full review here), “It was an inspired choice to tell the story of Tomie dePaola’s childhood by rewriting well-known songs to reflect the plot of the book . . . I loved everyone’s acting, especially the kid who played Tomie—everyone really threw themselves into it and acted with enthusiasm and passion, throwing their entire bodies into it, especially during the Snow White theater scene . . . The singing was clear and full of expression, but it was also a great idea subtitle the lyrics so that we could understand every word . . . and the dancing was fantastic throughout, especially at the end with everyone dancing together, with even a cartwheel flying past—truly impressive!”

Thank you so much, Tacoma . . . I’m looking forward to coming back next year, and for many years to come!

The 90-Second Newbery relies on private donations and grants to keep going. It’s only through your generosity that we can continue bringing 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.