James Kennedy is the author of The Order of Odd-Fish (Random House Delacorte 2008), a middle grade/YA fantasy that was one of the Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children in 2008. Booklist praised Odd-Fish as “hilarious” and Time Out Chicago described it as “a work of mischievous imagination and outrageous invention.” In April 2010 James put on a gallery show in Chicago of over 100 pieces of Odd-Fish fan art he had received. His “Dome of Doom” writing workshop, in which teens dress up as gods, fling whimsical insults, and battle-dance, has become legendary in Chicago-area schools and libraries. At the American Library Association conference in 2008, James tackled Neil Gaiman and, through a series of mental and physical trials, won the Newvery award from him fair and square. James graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1995 with a degree in physics and philosophy. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter. His second novel, the sci-fi comedy The Magnificent Moots, will be published by Delacorte in 2012.

Selected Reviews of James Kennedy’s Books

The Order of Odd-Fish
James Kennedy
   For fans of fantasy and oddball humor, James Kennedy’s debut novel is sure to please. Quirky characters and over-the-top dialogue are similar in style to Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach (Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2002). The author immediately draws readers into the action when Lily, an eccentric actress, hosts a costume party. Lily is raising a young girl as her niece, although she was discovered years earlier inside a washing machine with a note pinned to her: ‘This is Jo. Please take care of her. But beware. This is a DANGEROUS baby.’ At the party, Jo receives a mysterious package that propels her on a quest, where she eventually discovers answers about her past. Along the way, she meets a talking cockroach, a helpful Russian, a madcap group of knights (the Odd-Fish), and a villainous Chinese millionaire who bribes his lackey with gourmet pies. This clever, creative story will keep readers engaged and laughing. This is the perfect book for selective readers who think outside the box. Recommended. 2008, Delacorte Press (Random House), 416pp., $18.99 lb. Reviewer: Sandi Jones (Library Media Connection, October 2008).

Program Details

Enter the Dome of Doom with James Kennedy

60 to 90 minutes. Designed for 5th grade and up.

James will recreate with students the book’s climatic “Dome of Doom” scene. The book is set in Eldritch City, a kind of urban Narnia with many strange traditions and rituals. In this scene, the hero and her rival must, as part of a dueling ritual, dress up as some of the 144,444 gods of Eldritch City and exchange treats and insults in the old classical Eldritch City style before fighting.

Students will invent their own gods from the Eldritch City pantheon (with names like “Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit” or “Ichthala, the All-Devouring Mother”). They will then rummage through chests of costumes and put together costumes to look like their god. Next, they’ll write their own baroque, ludicrous Eldritch City-style insults. Then we’ll put on our own “Dome of Doom” style tournament in which the students pair off, announce the name of the god they’ve invented, exchange the ritualized threats that they’ve written in front of everyone, and then dance-fight each other (no touching) to insane fighting music. There will be prizes!

Fees: $1,200 day. $1,600 day plus accommodations for outside the Chicago area.

Check out a video of a previous Dome of Doom.

Additional Information

To learn more about James Kennedy and his publications please visit jameskennedy.com.