Fuse 8 n' Kate-logo

Fuse 8 n' Kate


Two sisters, one in L.A. and one in NYC, both move to the Chicago area and start a podcast. The premise? Picture books and are they really that great? Join Kate and Fuse 8 (Betsy Bird) as they track down a picture book "classic" each episode and try to determine if it deserves to remain in the canon of children's literature. Profile image by Andrea Tsurumi


United States


Two sisters, one in L.A. and one in NYC, both move to the Chicago area and start a podcast. The premise? Picture books and are they really that great? Join Kate and Fuse 8 (Betsy Bird) as they track down a picture book "classic" each episode and try to determine if it deserves to remain in the canon of children's literature. Profile image by Andrea Tsurumi







Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 323 - LIVE FROM ALA - Who's Got the Apple?

The American Library Association's Annual Conference for 2024 may be over but here at Fuse 8 n' Kate the party NEVER stops! And we can back that statement up by pointing out that this latest episode was actually recorded AT the conference. And not only that, it was recorded WITH a special guest star! Turns out, conferences are a great way to connect with folks you've only ever met online. After commenting so well that she was dubbed "the third sister", Kate and Betsy are inordinately pleased to welcome none other than author Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic to the mic. You may remember Stephanie from her myriad books over the years, including this year's Touch the Sky (which has appeared on Caldecott prediction lists for good reason). Today she introduces her long-lost relatives to Swedish author/illustrator Jan Lööf (he, of the double umlauts), a 2011 winner of the Astrid Lindgren Prize. They look at one of his rare English-language translations and talk about whether or not they should institute a new category: Family Cult Classic Picture Books. Which is to say, picture books that aren't famous anywhere outside of your own family. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/07/08/fuse-8-n-kate-whos-got-the-apple-by-jan-loof-translated-by-ole-risom-amp-linda-hayward-featuring-special-guest-star-stephanie-v-w-lucianovic/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 322 - Apple Pie Fourth of July

We are pleased to announce that with its 2002 publication date we are finally able to celebrate the upcoming Independence Day with a book that Betsy has been sitting on for years. It can be exceedingly hard to find books for this particular holiday. Even better, this consideration of this book marks the very first time the podcast has ever done a Janet Wong or Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Ms. Wong hasn't published since 2015 and Margaret Chodos-Irvine hasn't since 2006, but in their heyday this book marked a dream pairing. It's not the podcast's first picture book to mention pie recently (remember Enemy Pie?) which means Kate's weary, wary, and woozy. Will this book win her over? Let's see! For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/07/02/fuse-8-n-kate-apple-pie-fourth-of-july-by-janet-s-wong-ill-margaret-chodos-irvine/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 321 - Baby, Come Out!

Betsy's logic behind this week's choice is that it is hot outside right now, so why not do a picture book featuring nudity? Now we currently live in a country where so much as a bare butted goblin picture book can get banned by Moms for Liberty at the drop of a hat. May as well go all in and do a book that unapologetically doesn't care about such puritanical mores. This book is an odd one, but Betsy has an equally odd affection for it. With this podcast episode the sisters talk about screaming at women's stomachs, the fact that babies lose hair when they're born, and Betsy incorrectly states that this book is probably out of print (Correction: the paperback is going strong!!). For a complete list of Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/06/24/fuse-8-n-kate-baby-come-out-by-fran-manushkin-ill-ronald-himler/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 320 - Mr. Maxwell's Mouse

Kate's crie de coeur for more blood and guts in children's picture books once again finds its mark. Usually you might associate a book of this sort with titles of a more European bent, but Asch and son are 100% 'merican, baby. With enough weirdness to choke a cat, this one's just so very strange. Not to give anything away but we are exceedingly pleased to state that this book is still in print in paperback form today. We discuss houndstooth suits, Itchy and Scratchy, the sinking of the Titanic, and more. For the show's full Show Notes, please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/06/17/fuse-8-n-kate-mr-maxwells-mouse-by-frank-asch-ill-devin-asch


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 319 - The Mysterious Tadpole

Oh ho! We haven't done a Steven Kellogg re-illustration title since Pinkereton, Behave! back in 2021! This is particularly strange as The Mysterious Tadpole was always, without a doubt, a favorite Kellogg picture book of Betsy's when she was a child. For various reasons we were never able to discuss it on Fuse 8 n' Kate... until today! We consider the original 1977 edition of this book versus the 2004 update. Now I must warn you that this episode sort of jumps into Betsy and Kate talking about cicadas (again), partly because they're awesome, and partly because the first part of this episode acquired some odd sound issues, so we had to cut out the very first part. Apologies! In this episode we discuss whether or not Alphonse became less cute in the new edition, why the parenting in this new edition is so angry, and why Kellogg felt it necessary to enroll his tadpole in obedience school. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/06/10/fuse-8-n-kate-the-mysterious-tadpole-by-steven-kellogg/(opens in a new tab)


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 318 - Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Here in Illinois the cicadas are truly beginning to emerge en masse. As such, Betsy was kind of hoping she might be able to find a book that speaks to this. Alas, Cicada Symphony by Sue Fleiss (illustrated by Gareth Lucas) is just barely a year old. So what's the next best course of action? Locate some other red-eyed creature found in trees, of course! Now finding old nonfiction picture books with the potential to be called "classic" are few and far between, thanks to our twenty year rule. Fortunately, the farther into the future we tread, the more possibilities there are to choose between. And what better 1999 informational title could one choose today than good old Red-Eyed Tree Frog? Written by an author who has had a HECK of a life (you gotta check out her Wikipedia page sometime). We discuss which came first with this book, the photos or the text, and why sometimes you just gotta get a second moth shot (as opposed to a shot of Malört). For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/06/03/fuse-8-n-kate-red-eyed-tree-frog-by-joy-cowley-ill-nic-bishop/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 317 - Dinosaur Bob and his Adventures with the Family Lazardo

As mentioned on this podcast episode, Kate and Betsy truly will be in San Diego at the upcoming ALA Annual Conference to record an episode WITH a special secret guest. Many thanks to the very kind Travis Jonker (alumni of Kate's college) for sharing his recording booth with us. Today's book was a Reading Rainbow book back in the day. We detect some similarities to The Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellogg, we talk Gertie the Dinosaur, and try to understand why members of a baseball team would look at an animal and instantly think, "Shortstop!" For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/05/20/fuse-8-n-kate-dinosaur-bob-and-his-adventures-with-the-family-lazardo-by-william-joyce/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 316 - The Three Pigs

Today, we do our second David Wiesner book (after Tuesday). Along the way we discuss the philosophy behind Wiesner's void ("Is this just the space between the stories we tell?") and how this is (spoiler alert) our 200th classic on the podcast! Woohoo! Show Notes: For the full show notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/05/13/fuse-8-n-kate-the-three-pigs-by-david-wiesner


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 315 - Tops and Bottoms

Today we dive right in to a good spring picture book that somehow we've never done before. Even better, a Caldecott Honor title at that! We haven't discussed Janet Stevens since we did Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock a little more than a year ago. Consider this the book that made vertical picture books cool (Mel Fell owes this title a hat tip of thanks). In this episode we discuss whether Bear is on Ambien, where this takes place (since the growing seasons is so long), and Kate's theory about adirondack chairs. Show Notes: For the full show notes please visit https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/05/06/fuse-8-n-kate-tops-bottoms-by-janet-stevens/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 314 - Enemy Pie

Recently LeVar Burton suggested today's picture book on an episode of The Sporkful ("Reheat: LeVar Burton Even Reads Recipes Dramatically") and in spite of the fact that Kate was dead-on about the fact that we should have done this book for a Thanksgiving episode, we're doing it, baby! Enemy Pie was a Reading Rainbow Book back in the day, how does it hold up now? We talk about How to Eat Fried Worms, how boomerangs were the drones of the 80s (and I will stand by that statement), and the joy of eating a pie small enough to fit between your eyebrows. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/04/29/fuse-8-n-kate-enemy-pie-by-derek-munson-ill-tara-calahan-king/(opens in a new tab)


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 313 - Ginger Bear

"Crime and murder!" Do you want unspeakable violence on the picture book page? Well, folks, Kate sure did. And thanks to the suggestion of listener Rachelle, and her daughter Sarah, Betsy finally had a book that would give her just what she required. Is there blood? There is not, though honestly she got her fill of blood when we talked about King Stork (remember the heads on stakes?). Enjoy our discussion of what may well be the MOST disgusting sequence in a picture book of all time, as well as Betsy failing to correctly pronounce "dragees" (stay tuned for the very rare extra after the credits). And be prepared to get some serious Stinky Cheese Man and Arnie the Donut vibes from this book. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/04/22/fuse-8-n-kate-ginger-bear-by-mini-grey/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 312 - I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew

What's that? You've never heard of this particular Dr. Seuss book? Well, you're definitely not alone. If one were to rank Seuss titles from best known to least, there is no doubt in my mind that Solla Sollew would be right there at the bottom. But is there any chance that this 1965 publication might have something to say about the baby boomer generation, Vietnam, escapism, and even stories like Pippin and Candide? This week our special guest is none other than Betsy's very own husband Matt Bird. You may be familiar with his podcast with author James Kennedy the Secrets of Story podcast OR his podcast with his brother Steve Bird the Marvel Reread Club OR from his books The Secrets of Story and The Secrets of Character. He's unafraid to make a whole slew of claims about this book, so buckle up for a mighty strange ride. For the full Show Notes: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/04/15/fuse-8-n-kate-i-had-trouble-getting-to-solla-sollew/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 311 - Bad Kitty

April is National Autism Acceptance Month, so Kate asked Betsy to bring her an appropriate book. Our usual rule is that we only consider books that are 20+ years old. The trouble is that most of the best books on the topic of the autistic spectrum were created within the last two decades. So we're cheating a bit this week and going with something produced in 2005 (a whole year too early, by our usual standards). And rather than go the direct route, we are selecting a book that has been embraced by autistic child readers as containing an autistic character, even if she was not originally conceived of in that matter. In this episode we celebrate the rare four-alphabet-combo (most picture books are lucky to get just one), discuss what kind of grocery story provides (amongst other things) opossum, and Betsy's undying love and affection for Uncle Murray. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/04/08/fuse-8-n-kate-bad-kitty-by-nick-bruel/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 310 - King Stork

What makes an appropriate April Fool's post? How about a book that FOOLED its own art directors, editors, publicists, etc. by including copulation? I'd say that counts! In fact, you might say that Trina Schart Hyman was the ultimate April Fool's picture book creator! She snuck insults of book reviewers onto gravestones. She managed to get the missionary position into a Howard Pyle book. She even made her ex-girlfriend the evil queen in her version of Snow White (while she made herself one of the seven dwarfs). But going back to that case where doing the wild thing made an appearance of the margins of a table in a picture book, Betsy has been hoping to do King Stork with Kate for years. And let us say, it doesn't disappoint. It's just as weird, sexist, strange, and funny as you'd expect. Think The Twelve Dancing Princesses meet Tam Lin. For the full Show Notes, please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/04/01/fuse-8-n-kate-king-stork-by-howard-pyle-ill-trina-schart-hyman


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 309 - The Gardener

Spring has sprungeth! Not that you'd know it looking at Illinois right now, of course, but we're getting close to sunnier days. To celebrate, we've decided to equinox the heck out of this latest podcast episode (I still say it can be a verb). Somehow we've never done this particular Caldecott Honor winner before, so we're going to right a great wrong. We talk epistolary picture books, how clean 1936 New York City alleyways were (we'd love to hear your opinions on needles), Groucho Marx, and more. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/03/25/fuse-8-n-kate-the-gardener-by-sarah-stewart-ill-david-small/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 308 - There's No Such Thing as a Dragon

It's the Year of the Dragon and yet so far we've done precisely ZERO dragon books so far. That ends today with our first consideration of Jack Kent. The cartoonist turned picture book author/illustrator may have come to the form late in life, but he cast some indelible images in his time. Surprisingly, this turns out to be one of our more divisive books. We ask what the "Children's Book Clinic" once was, discuss songs stuck in our heads, and talk musical bread. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/03/18/fuse-8-n-kate-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-dragon-by-jack-kent/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 307 - Finn MacCoul and his Fearless Wife

If you want something Irish, this book fulfills that desire tenfold. Now, for those of you who listen to the Fuse 8 n' Kate podcast regularly, you'll know that Kate likes three particular things in her picture books: 1. Ireland. 2. Strong women. 3. Lotsa details in the art. With that in mind, is it surprising that she adored this? In this episode we discuss Little Shop of Horrors, the fact that single men have a hard time determining the ages of small children, and why this should really have been called Oona MacCoul and Her Baby Man. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/03/11/fuse-8-n-kate-finn-maccoul-and-his-fearless-wife-by-robert-byrd/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 306 - Zeralda's Ogre

No stranger to controversy, we dive deep into one of Tomi Ungerer's more peculiar picture books. It's all about the consumption of children, but that's not why we get icked out by this particular title. Turns out, it has an ending grosser than anything involving the consumption of kids. Sadly, Betsy was not able to give Kate the blood and guts in a picture book that she so desperately required. In Betsy's defense, she remembered a lot more bloody knives than we see on these pages. Certainly Ungerer was happy to place blood in some of his other stories, but this particular time the violence was more implied than anything else. In this episode we discuss food, food, and more food (guess we were hungry). Show Notes: For the full show notes to this episode please go here: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/03/04/fuse-8-n-kate-zeraldas-ogre-by-tomi-ungerer/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 305 - Skippyjon Jones

Originally released in 2003, Skippyjon Jones is a fascinating study of a picture book that was controversial prior to the rise of We Need Diverse Books. When first it came out, the book received loads of praise and awards ... and then loads of controversy. While still in print today, we identify the probable reasons why this book doesn't have a Netflix show, a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a live-action film, etc. Let's just say there may be a reason why the last book in this series came out in 2014. We discuss what may be one of the oddest Kirkus Reviews ever written, the name "Siamese cats", and why the book is trying to keep the hero "out of the closet". You can find the full Show Notes for the episode here: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/02/26/fuse-8-n-kate-skippyjon-jones-by-judy-schachner/


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 304 - The Moon Jumpers

Deep in the heart of February, it's not uncommon for folks to start yearning for warmer days and summer nights. While shivering in Illinois, Kate and Betsy dip into some early award-winning Udry and Sendak. Why did Sendak win a Caldecott Honor for this title? We deign to find out. There are ghosts and giants and a cat with a face Kate would tattoo on her arm tomorrow, if she could. There are also long discussions of how precisely these four children of approximately the same age are all related to one another. Enjoy! For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2024/02/19/fuse-8-n-kate-the-moon-jumpers-by-janice-may-udry-ill-maurice-sendak/