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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Talking Cats, Creative Writing, and the Muse that is Tuscan Milk

  • They tell me that now that everything has shrunk down on this site, I need to write intros and titles that really reach out and grab the average reader.  So I’m beginning today with something that makes me so very very happy that my cup overfloweth.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is something that will restore your faith in humanity itself.  I am speaking of the glories of Tuscan milk.  What has milk from Tuscany to do with children’s literature?  Well, I’m a librarian first and a reviewer second.  I began my career on the reviewing path in a very simple manner.  I reviewed children’s books on, got better, and decided to make a go of it professionally.  Amazon has a lot of problems (problems of the huge conglomerate kill-all-the-independent-bookstores variety) which is why I’ll never link to them, but their hands-off approach to most customer reviews is admirable.  Or maybe it just invites the kinds of things you see when you get to entries for things like Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz.  Some of you may have seen this mention on Neil Gaiman’s blog already and, if so, I apologize for repeating what he already linked.  I heard about it through a screenwriting blog of my husband’s.  Here is what you need to do.  Look at the Amazon page for this milk.  Now read the reviews.  Really read them.  Make sure you click on “See all 975 customer reviews”.  About the time the cat starts talking in the video review it is clear that something has happened.  It’s a flash mob but on the Internet.  The sheer creativity of it all causes me to blush.  They are not all good (that is the nature of, after all) but the number of them that are good is remarkable.  It’s like the world suddenly got in on a very big joke using a public forum in a peculiar way.  The Bic pen hasn’t as many reviews, but it works in a similar manner.  If you know of any more of these, let me know.

  • And now for the real news.  Does anyone else find it odd when professional non-literary magazines suddenly decide to do lists of The Best Children’s Books of the Year?  You find yourself wondering where the people found these books in the first place.  Obviously the publishers sent them in with the express purpose of getting a spot in the mag, but the choices are often titles that no one else has paid much attention to.  Take, as today’s example, the Time Top Ten Children’s Books.  Of the ten I’ve read and reviewed, um, two.  Those would be Iggy Peck and The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County.  Both fine and fabulous books but any list that fails to mention even a single title by Jonathan Bean is just asking for trouble right there.  Silly Time.

  • So I was at a gathering the other day and happened to run into a Ms. Cheryl Hudson of the publishing company Just Us Books.  If this company doesn’t sound particularly familiar to you, please take a gander at this description on their website, “Just Us Books, Inc. is an independent publishing company specializing in books and learning materials for children and young people. It focuses on Black history, Black culture and Black experiences. Founded by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson in 1988, this innovative company is now considered one of the leading publishers of Black interest titles for young people.”  One of their newest titles is  The Secret Olivia Told Me by N. Joy which uses silhouettes in an impressive fashion.  Having seen the book, I thought it would be pertinent to draw some attention to this company. Heck, it even has a blog!  Small presses hold the key to my heart, so give them a looksee if you get a chance.

  • And while I am directing you to things that I like, how about groups of people organized to keep children’s librarians employed?  That’s the nature of what the Library Reform Group of Providence, R.I. is trying to do right now.  The Providence Public Library is preparing to lay off seven children’s librarians, and people are taking steps to prevent this from happening.  Sounds good to me.  After all, this could happen to any librarian anywhere.

  • You know how much I love before and after covers.  Particularly when they go from ARC to final copy.  Roger Sutton had a great piece up on his blog recently regarding one of Ursula LeGuin’s latest.  Befores and Afters rarely get quite as blatant as this.

  • The weekly weekend round-up of children’s literary reviews in professional publications, as compiled by Big A little a, is required reading for anyone interested in our field.  Nuff said.  This week blogger Kelly Herold highlighted two particular reviews that caught my beady little eyes.  The first was a much needed and much appreciated review of Good Masters, Sweet Ladies: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz in the New York Times.  Well played, John Schwartz, sir.  The second piece concerned an article in The Guardian about Randolph Caldecott.  I once heard a story, and I do not know if it is true, that when the time came to give the medal for the best illustrated American picture book of a given year a name, the choice came down to calling it the Caldecott (who was a Brit) or the Brooke, after L. Leslie Brooke (who was another Brit).  I’ve nothing but respect for Mr. Caldecott, of course, but go and read a bit of Johnny Crow’s Garden sometime and then tell me that that book doesn’t hold up brilliantly to this very day.  To my mind, it should have become the Brooke Award.  Maybe when I’m old and crotchety I’ll insist that my young apprentices all refer to it in that matter and if they fail to do so I shall beat them soundly about the ears with my cane.  That’ll larn ’em (the whippersnappers).

  • And then we get to this weirdness. You can thank bookshelves of doom for today’s off-topic bit of madness (since, apparently, the Tuscan milk thing had everything to do with children’s literature).  Feel like mucking with your face?  Muck away!

Meet My Future YouFind Your Own Future You

  • On a personal note, a word about my library.  You might say, “Whence the decrease in fellow blogger information?” And I would reply, “Since when did you start using the word whence in conversation?” And you would say, “Don’t dodge the question, missy.” And my answer to that would be to point out that The Donnell Library where the New York Public Library Central Children’s Room is located (and where I work) is closing soon. I do not know what is happening to the children’s collection as of yet, nor do I know where I myself will be in six months time. I will keep you posted on these matters. In the meantime, we are weeding our books like mad weeding demons. Weeding so much that I’ve been dreaming of it lately. Whee. So I will do my best to keep up on my blog news, but you must needs be patient with me as I bite my nails to the nub and wait for further information to bop me upside the head.
About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. candice ransom says:

    Now I know why your library is closing. A hotel! The 21 Club! How crass! My own library is closing for more than a year for rennovations. I am heartbroken. Betsy, we’ll find a library to camp out in. Bring Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore to keep Ellsworth company.

  2. Silly Time, indeed. There doesn’t seem to be a Best YA list. Grrr.

  3. Candice, I love the idea. We’ll find an old abandoned library somewhere and make it entirely children’s. A children’s branch. How magnificent would that be? We could fill it will Pooh, the Wyeth paintings, Mary Poppins’ umbrella, the works. You bring Ellsworth, I’ll whip up some book donations, and we’ll plant it somewhere accessible to the whole of the city. Say, my living room. A girl can dream, can’t she?

  4. LOVE the milk link! Hilarious….

  5. Oiy. I’ve been reading all these best children’s book lists by people who normally don’t cover children’s books and… don’t these people realize that there are chapter books for kids? All the lists seem to be pictures books. ergh.

    I too, have been dreaming about weeding, but, I guess I have nothing to complain about…

  6. The lists are all picture books because picture books are fast reads. It’s easy as pie for an editor who hasn’t been keeping up all year to just page through the titles that appear magically in their office at the end of the year. Less so when actual chapters are involved.

  7. So the milk…What I found amusing was, under “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” were Uranium Ore, Fresh Whole Rabbit, and Summer’s Eve Anti-Itch Cream. Among other things.


  8. It’s cleverly done. There are ways to mess with Amazon’s “Customers Who Viewed This Item” option. I suspect that some clever soul found the weirdest things Amazon had to offer and plugged them in. Smart little devils.