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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


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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








Episode 272 - Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm

Could there be any connection between "Harvey" Potter and "Harry" Potter? No! This delightful picture book was released in 1994, long before the world appearance of the boy wizard. You know how we're always talking about finding classic children's books of the past written by Black creators that exemplify Black Joy? I submit the following for serious consideration. Strange hardly covers it. This book was a marvelous example of the strange and unusual placed in a dull setting. And how about that ending? Here we have a story about someone in middle America going against the norm, facing censors, and coming out triumphant. Sounds like a book we might very much need today. Show Notes: Want to connect to Jerdine Nolen on social media? Find her on Twitter at @jerdinenolen1. Betsy Recommends: The Instagram account @ksrhoads Kate Recommends: The documentary Still, streaming on AppleTV+ For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/05/22/fuse-8-n-kate-harvey-potters-balloon-farm-by-jerdine-nolen-ill-mark-buehner


Episode 271 - Heckedy Peg

You know what the problem is with Mother's Day picture books? Not enough of them are truly horrifying and scary, that's what. So we must credit listeners Lindsey Foat & Sara Hudson for coming up with today's suggestion. Certainly, Audrey and Don Wood have been on this podcast before. We recall having done King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, The Napping House and even The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear in the past. Now we tackle that universal problem of what to do when your child has been turned into camembert. In short, we talk about the ultimate mama bear story. Let's just say that this book passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test with flying colors and we really hope that someday there will be a Heckedy Peg 2: The Heckoning. Show Notes: Good old Reading Rockets was good enough to find Don and Audrey Wood and interview them about the creation of many of their books, including this one. You may see their talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaWoJ8S18DA&t=2s&pp=ygUYbWVldCBhdWRyZXkgYW5kIGRvbiB3b29k Betsy Recommends: Mrs. Davis, now streaming on Peacock: https://www.peacocktv.com/stream-tv/mrs-davis Kate Recommends: Queen Charlotte, now streaming on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81476183">Queen Charlotte For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/05/15/fuse-8-n-kate-heckedy-peg-by-audrey-wood-ill-don-wood


Episode 270 - Apt. 3

Hat tip to Nick Bruel (our other other brother from another nother mother) for today's suggestion. He asked if we'd done any Ezra Jack Keats before and we said, "Sure! We did The Snow Day". Then he asked if we'd done Apt. 3 and we had NOT! Plus, Betsy had recently highlighted on her blog the new Keats bio for adults, Becoming Ezra Jack Keats, so this seemed particularly apropos. In this episode we discuss how this book is like Only Murders in the Building, how, from a color-perspective, this book is quite muted, compared to previous titles by Keats like Whistle for Willie, and why you should never follow someone when they ask, "What's the matter - scared?". Show Notes: And here, we are so pleased to show you, is the original 1971 Kirkus review of Apt. 3. It is, as is often the case with this publication, delightful: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ezra-jack-keats/apt-3/ For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/05/08/fuse-8-n-kate-apt-3-by-ezra-jack-keats/(opens in a new tab)


Episode 269 - The Dead Bird

Kate sez: I want to do a spring book. Betsy sez: Here's a dead bird! With editions created both in 1958 and in 2016, Betsy was lucky to find BOTH editions in her library system. This episode marks our third Margaret Wise Brown book (after Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny), our second Remy Charlip (after Fortunately), and our very first Christian Robinson. Notable for the line, "Have you considered that the bird might smell really really good?" There's not a lot of information to be gleaned from Christian Robinson's version of this tale, but we were able to track down this interview he conducted with Secret Society of Books and it does offer a window into his thought process on this project: https://www.secretsocietyofbooks.com/interview-christian-robinson/ For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/05/01/fuse-8-n-kate-the-dead-bird-by-margaret-wise-brown-illustrated-by-remy-charlip-and-christian-robinson/(opens in a new tab)


Episode 268 - Round Trip

What happens when a designer decides to make picture books? What happens when she goes and gets creative with the illustrations? While remembered for many things, I'd say that this 1983 release is without a doubt the best known of creator Ann Jonas. You may remember it yourself. It's the picture book where you read it one way and then turn it upside down and read it the other. It feels like a dare, and comes off as the number one book Betsy had to produce when she worked as a children's librarian. Countless adults would come up to her saying, "There was this book when I was a kid and it was black and white . . ." They literally didn't have to say anything else after that. We have no doubt that this book blew little minds. It may not be the most plot forward of the picture books out there, but who the HECK cares? Show Notes: We mention a couple books in the course of this podcast. If you like this one, please check out Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri or the works of Bruno Munari. Betsy Recommends: The If Books Could Kill podcast Kate Recommends: The morathanenough Instagram account For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/04/24/fuse-8-n-kate-round-trip-by-ann-jonas/


Episode 267 - When Aiden Became a Brother

Here at the Fuse 8 n' Kate Podcast, we have a rule. It's a simple one, established since the start of the broadcast. Essentially, we don't like to consider books published until they've been on the market for 20 years or more. It's not exactly a hard and fast rule (we've broken it more than a few times) but it serves as a strong guideline. Today, however, we got mad. Specifically, we got mad at Ron DeSantis and all the horrendous book banners out there who seek to rid the world of books featuring LGBTQIA+ families and children. How best to stick it to the Ron? Why not feature an author that he himself has personally singled out? Today, Betsy decided to pull out a book with a mega-recent publication date: 2019. We do it because not only is the book important, we consider it to be the first truly great trans picture book for kids that will reverberate for the ages. We're talking about this beautiful baby book and all that it entails in this episode of the podcast. Check it out. Show Notes: Here's the video Betsy made for Tiktok that features the earrings she gave to Kate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCxPPf64yCs&t=3s Full disclosure, Betsy actually interviewed Kyle about this book back in 2019 before the book even published. She particularly loves this part: "... when I wrote that first page of AIDAN, I hit on three points: his name, his room, and his clothes. And those three points, in that order–name, room, clothes–show up consistently as Aidan is transitioning. Then when the baby enters the picture, the three points invert, and we learn about the baby’s clothes, room, and name, and then Aidan’s anxieties revolve around the clothes, room, and name, keeping that order intact. It’s something that readers might not notice consciously unless they’re looking for it, but is crucial for making the story feel like a picture book instead of a truncated short story." Here is a link to Kyle's 2022 Stonewall speech. It's one of our favorites: http://www.kylelukoff.com/blog-1/2022/6/29/my-stonewall-award-speech-june-27th-2022 For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/04/17/fuse-8-n-kate-when-aidan-became-a-brother-by-kyle-lukoff-ill-kaylani-juanita/


Episode 266 - Hey, Al

In what may be the most quintessentially "New York" picture book we've done to date (with hints of Where the Wild Things Are in the margins) we confront a 1979 Caldecott Award winner and tackle Betsy's childhood memories of it along the way. Today we discuss a variation on the previously reported upon picture book It Could Always Be Worse, but with an addition of tropical birds, floating islands, and John Tenniel references. Show Notes: For the full Show Notes please visit - https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/04/10/fuse-8-n-kate-by-arthur-yorinks-ill-richard-egielski/


Episode 265 - The Rainbow Goblins

Roy G. Biv, eat your heart out. We're taking a deep dive into a listener suggestion with a trippy dippy 1978 German import from an Italian creator who retired to France! Today we're talking Optimus Prime, The Never Ending Story, rock album covers, and carnivorous flowers/rainbows. If you're into long, languorous moments in picture books where people drown, have I got a book for you!! A pourquoi story done in an utterly original fashion. Show Notes: If you'd like to see even more art from this book you can do so here: https://areaofdesign.com/ul-de-rico/ For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/04/03/fuse-8-n-kate-the-rainbow-goblins-by-ul-de-rico/(opens in a new tab)


Episode 264 - Gerald McBoing Boing

The art of picture books based on animated properties has a long and storied history within the oeuvre of children's literature. We've eschewed doing much in the way of Seuss lately, but due to the fact that we've been doing multiple books where child or child-like characters are approached by members of the medical association, we felt we'd cap everything off with this tale of a boy doing his own thing in the early 50s. That's BOUND to go over well! Along the way we talk about picture books in which kids don't adhere to the norm and are therefore considered ill in some way (Imogene's Antlers comes to mind), as well as teachers that call 2-year-olds in first grade classes "hopeless", packing kids full of pills, and why Gerald needs to keep an eye on his own paychecks. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/03/27/fuse-8-n-kate-gerald-mcboing-boing-by-dr-seuss/


Episode 263 - A Bad Case of the Stripes

To our amazement we have somehow never done this particular David Shannon book before. Tis possible? Tis! It is, as Kate says, "The trippiest book," which is part of why Betsy respects it. Betsy freaks out over the fact that this came out the same year as No, David (how often does an author/illustrator have two classic books come out in the same year?). Meanwhile Kate freaks out over the creepy guys lurking on this poor girl's lawn. But the important thing? We debate whether or not you can buy lima beans in cans anymore. Your votes on the matter are much needed. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/03/20/fuse-8-n-kate-a-bad-case-of-stripes-by-david-shannon/


Episode 262 - Curious George Goes to the Hospital

This month we'll see the publication of Lisa Brown's wonderful picture book The Hospital Book, which may be the best going-to-the-hospital title for kids out there. Because usually, you have to admit, when people walk into your children's library in search of picture books about going to the hospital, what they get is a title from 1966. We've already covered the problematic George in Curious George and Curious George Takes a Job. This is the seventh and last book that was created by George's original creators. Today we're talking barium, sad little Betsys, and why this book is going to give you flashbacks to the beginning of the movie Nope. Having fun at the hospital without sniffing ether. What a notion! Show Notes: Go here to read an interview with Lisa Brown about The Hospital Book: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/07/20/the-hospital-book-by-lisa-brown-a-cover-reveal-and-interview/ We are referring at the end to this video, by the way. The greatest St. Patrick's Day video of all time: https://youtu.be/OCbuRA_D3KU We mark the passing of Amy Schwartz. Recently we did her Bea and Mr. Jones, a book that stands the test of time. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/03/06/fuse-8-n-kate-curious-george-goes-to-the-hospital-by-margaret--h-a-rey


Episode 261 - The Mitten

Since the entire premise of this podcast with Betsy and Kate is to take well-known books and determine whether or not they continue to deserve their "classic" status, it probably behooves them to do a couple books everyone has actually heard of. And since the last book they did was, at best, obscure and, at worst, completely forgotten, they figured today that they should go all in and do something out-and-out famous. To their surprise, they've never tackled a Jan Brett book before. That said, they did have to admit that it's possible that Kate and Betsy are not the world's most impartial critics. You see, their mother instilled in them an appreciation for fiber arts. and can you think of a single illustrator who has ever depicted the knitted stitch better than Ms. Brett? Today, they consider the woman's best-known book and how it has held up over all this time as well as the timeliness of doing a Ukrainian folktale in this day and age. Show Notes: In the course of Betsy's research for this podcast she read a fair number of interviews with Jan Brett about her work on The Mitten. Her favorite? This one with TeachingBooks.net. In it, Jan really leans into the research she did for the title, as well as the Ukrainian ex-patriots who suggested, "I make Nicki's clothes too big for him because his family would have made them by hand and passed them down from father or older brother. He'd wear a belt to make his jacket fit closer around his tummy. The boots, too, might be a little big. He might stuff some newspaper in them or wear an extra pair of socks to make them fit." In that light, this book actually makes so much more sense: https://www.teachingbooks.net/interview.cgi?id=88&a=1 For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/02/20/fuse-8-n-kate-the-mitten-by-jan-brett/(opens in a new tab)


Episode 260 - A Valentine for Norman Noggs

Librarians, if you're anything like Betsy, then, when the time is right, every year you trot out the same dang Valentine's Day books that are in the Holiday section of your library. All the newer books go out first, leaving behind the stuff that came out in, oh say, 1999. This is the rare example of a book that Betsy didn't know bupkiss about. She didn't know anything about the creators or the title itself, so we're just jumping in because a quick read yielded strange thoughts. In today's discussion we talk about eggnog, hamsters, the quality of the education these critters are receiving, and what this book gets right. For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/02/13/fuse-8-n-kate-a-valentine-for-norman-noggs-by-valiska-gregory-ill-marsha-winborn/


Episode 259 - Who's in Rabbit's House?

In our current era, it is worth considering the legacy of folks like Verna Aardema. Kate and Betsy are no children's literature academics, but they decide as laymen to take into account Aardema's history and how it does or does not stand out after all these years. Having already done Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by this same trio (Aardema, Dillon, & Dillon) they return to their works with this 1977 take on a classic Masai tale. Considering its year and the appropriation by a white creator of a specific story, they have a lot of complicated feelings about the book. Even so, there's such creativity behind the presentation of the material. The play-within-a-play motif sets this apart. The art is extraordinary. And was there every such a goofy frog? For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/02/06/fuse-8-n-kate-whos-in-rabbits-house-by-verna-aardema-ill-leo-and-diane-dillon/


Episode 258 - Will Spring Be Early? Or Will Spring Be Late?

Considering the fact that (A) Groundhog Day is this week and yet (B) we have never done a Groundhog Day episode, that gave us the impetus to tackle a groundhogian classic. But which one? With all the choices we decided to pluck out this title by the guy who brought us Harold and the Purple Crayon. Like that book it indulges in a limited color palette and Johnson's characteristic drawing style. As such, prepare for long discussions on precisely what the Groundhog Day rule actually means, larger talks on the role of reality versus positivity in the real world, what makes a good holiday picture book, and why the moral of this story is, "Eat more bacon." Show Notes: Briefly alluded to in the episode, Philip Nel is our resident American scholar and specialist on all things Crockett Johnson. Check him out at his website here: https://philnel.com/ In the course of my research I became fascinated by the 100 mathematical paintings inspired by geometrical principles and mathematical equations by Crockett Johnson. You can see a bunch of them here: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/mathematical-paintings-of-crockett-johnson Do groundhogs hop? Dunno. But they're pretty cute running: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94YGSnCUszs For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/01/30/fuse-8-n-kate-will-spring-be-early-or-will-spring-be-late-by-crockett-johnson/


Episode 257 - Arnie the Doughnut

Hat tip to author/artist Jerrold Connors for realizing, long before we did, that Arnie the Doughnut would hit its 20th anniversary here in 2023. At last we can tackle the story of a sentient pastry and his longing for meaning in a cold, hungry world. Since its initial publication, the book has managed to create sequels, a musical, graphic novel/early chapter books, and more. But will it stand up to Kate's scrutiny? Betsy rants about New York City doughnuts and why they suck, how Arnie both thinks too much and not enough, and roads made of Oklahoma maps. Show Notes: I failed to mention it on the show, but Arnie the Doughnut actually appeared as #90 on the Top 100 Picture Books Poll I conducted back in 2012: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2012/05/18/top-100-picture-books-90-arnie-the-doughnut-by-laurie-keller/ For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/01/23/fuse-8-n-kate-arnie-the-doughnut-by-laurie-keller/


Episode 256 - Caldecott Contenders

It's that time of the year again! A week from today we'll see what books have officially won Caldecotts, Newberys, and other sundry awards at the ALA YMA announcements (visible here). Betsy will also be doing a Pre-Game announcement of all kinds of possible wins. But before that, we've an annual tradition here at Fuse 8 n' Kate where Betsy presents Kate three potential winners and she considers which ones have the best chance. This year Kate feels that there is one clear cut winner . . . and a book that can only be called a complete and utter loser in comparison. Which is which? You're just going to have to listen for yourself to see. Show Notes: The Randolph Caldecott music video, music by the Effin' G's, is still out there. And here, one and all, is the video today, after a good 13 year hiatus. Starring . . . both Kate AND Betsy as well as a slew of famous names. If you'd like to see Yuyi Morales, Christopher Myers, Matthew Holm, Sean Qualls, Peter Brown, Marla Frazee, John Rocco, and so many more from over a decade ago . . . you're gonna enjoy this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMIjWQQavcY Here is the post that I wrote that was inspired by a listener's comments about coconut meat and milk: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/01/12/the-top-ten-most-disappointing-edibles-and-potables-of-childrens-literature/ Kate's "Meh" Recommendation: The Harry Potter Magic at Play - https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjJ-Me9ksv8AhUlkmoFHcxCC-UQFnoECA4QAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fharrypottermagicatplay.com%2Fchicago%2F&usg=AOvVaw0JKKT3QmUK4HxbiUejm7w5 Betsy's "Meh" Recommendation: White Noise - https://www.netflix.com/title/81317320 For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/01/16/fuse-8-n-kate-2023-caldecott-contenders/(opens in a new tab)


Episode 255 - Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock

KPOM! It was a storytime staple for Betsy back when she was a children's librarian. But how has this 1988 picture book stood up over the intervening years? Today it's time to accompany our previous spider-filled picture book The Spider and the Fly with another eight-legged potential classic. We've done one other Eric A. Kimmel book on the podcast before (remember Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins?). In spite of the sheer number of times I've read this book, Kate finds PLENTY of details in Janet Stevens's art that I missed entirely over the years. We talk spiky hippo elbows, the empowerment of clever female animals, cultural appropriation, Neil Gaiman, and more. Show Notes: Please, if you get a chance, please check out the 100 Scope Notes piece Enter the World of Incredibly Specific Children's Literature Accounts. It's one of the best things we've seen in a long time: https://100scopenotes.com/2023/01/05/enter-the-world-of-incredibly-specific-childrens-literature-instagram-accounts/ For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/01/09/fuse-8-n-kate-anansi-and-the-moss-covered-rick-retold-by-eric-a-kimmel-ill-janet-stevens/


Episode 254 - Bear Snores On

While we acknowledge that the year 2023 has arrived, we could resist considering one last 2002 title. As you know, we've a cap on considering any book younger than 20 years old, and as of 2022 this Wilson/Chapman collab fit the bill. It's cold outside and a story of FOMO and snuggly bear caves seemed to fit the bill. We consider the book that launched a thousand other Bear books. Anyone who can rhyme "lair" with "bear" has earned our trust. Show Notes: If you'd like to read the interview with Karma Wilson that I reference, take a trip over to Read. Learn. Repeat: https://readlearnrepeat.blog/2018/04/22/interview-with-author-karma-wilson/ For the full Show Notes be sure to visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2023/01/03/fuse-8-n-kate-bear-snores-on-by-karma-wilson-ill-jane-chapman/


Episode 253 - The Night Before Christmas

We may already be past Christmas technically, but what a day or two delay? Thanks to the recent winter storms we got a tad delayed in releasing this episode, but better late than never. Today we return, once again, to the world of Tasha Tudor. Last time we considered one of her books we were examining her A Time to Keep (a favorite of Betsy's, Kate ... not so much). There are many different iterations of Clement C. Moore's classic poem, but how many take the man at his word and decide to depict Santa as a tiny, pointy eared elf? Just one that we know of, and that's today's book. So take a trip down memory lane together and look at a version of Santa we'll ne'er see the like of again. Show Notes: For the full show notes please visit https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/12/27/fuse-8-n-kate-the-night-before-christmas-illustrated-by-tasha-tudor/