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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fusenews: Pixel Hunger

  • A former co-worker of mine liked to point out that if you were to look at children’s book stories as your sole reference point for the state of the world today, you would be under the distinct impression that after WWII all the Jews died out.  True enough, finding a children’s book, particular middle grade fiction, where a contemporary character just happens to be Jewish (and it isn’t the point of the ENTIRE book) is a rarity.  I’m not saying it’s unheard of.  Just uncommon.  Julia’s Kitchen is one of the very few that come to mind (hey.. is that book sporting a Pep Montserrat cover?).  Author Laurel Snyder has a piece up on the site Nextbook talking about this very issue.  As she points out, "Most books for young Jewish readers are instructional. They have titles like, Purim Goodies or It’s Israel’s Birthday! and they’re intended to educate kids about specific customs, traditions, events, and places."  Yup.  Truer words ne’er said.

  • Someone has attempted to ban My Brother Sam is Dead.  Presumably on the basis of boredom.  I say that so that you guys will defend it in some manner.  Go on.  Talk me some I-love-My-Brother-Sam-is-Dead talk.  Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

  • New Blog Alert: And this time it actually seems to be new.  Author/illustrator Timothy Bush has a site up where he is able to post news as well as his own illustrations. I’m particularly fond of the post where he discovers his book being used in an episode of Lipstick Jungle.  I’d love to keep a running tally of children’s books making debuts and appearances on popular TV shows.  Too often it’s a fake book you’ve never heard of before (I’m looking at you, Black Books ), but once in a while you get lucky.  Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret on LOST.  Now Tim.

  • Speaking of authors and their blogs, Chris Barton over at Bartography has just debuted the cover of his upcoming non-fiction title The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors.  Looks pretty slick.  *cough cough* Charlesbridge *cough cough*

  • Is it just me or do all the bloggers have colds right now?  Not me.  Fit as a fiddle.  And now I am off to go knock on some wood until my knuckles bleed.

  • Conference preparations begin for the 2009 Children’s Literature Blogger Conference.  High thee hence to MotherReader as she proposes the date.  The location?  D.C.!

  • For die hard Percy Jackson fans none of this will strike you as particularly surprising.  Just the same, the new cover of the next Percy book has been revealed and it is, unsurprisingly, lovely.  Eh, voila:

Thanks to Early Word Kids for the link.

  • I rarely link to reviews of books by other bloggers, but in this particular case I make an exception.  I cannot review YA, though I always wanted to for the graphic novel Emiko Superstar.  Now excelsior file has done all the hard work for me.  What he said.

  • Recently Collecting Children’s Books alerted me to the fact that Genevieve Foster, creator of many a Newbery Honor winning book, was the mother-in-law of editor Frances Foster.  Now that same Ms. Foster (the latter) has written some thoughts on an industry long past along with George Nicholson, Mimi Kayden, Janet Schulman, Margaret Frith, and Michael di Capua over at Publishers Weekly.  This is your required reading for the day.  Thanks to PW Children’s Bookshelf for the link.

  • Oh. So that‘s what’s been going on in my library’s back yard all week.  Figures.

  • The 2009 Amelia Bloomer list has at last been announced.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, you should definitely give it a glance.  By and large the list contains, "the best books that highlight strong female characters who overcome obstacles and defy social expectations."  You can find the full list of winners here. And I’m happy to see That Book Woman getting some kind of loving.  Thanks to SLJ Extra Helping for the link.

  • Daily Image:

As someone who spent the better part of her last Christmas vacation playing MarioCart, these look magnificently toothsome.

The oddest thing is that the recipe for these comes from a site called Snack or Die – Video Game Cookies.  There are LittleBigPlanet Sackboy Cupcakes, World of Warcraft Hearthstone Cookies, and (most amusingly) Gears of War 2 Brownies.  Astounding.  Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

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. A real children’s book sighting in a movie?

    In “Elf” on editor James Caan’s bookshelves, front and center, is THE SEA KING which I wrote with Shulamith Oppenheim. Makes me giggle every time I see it.


  2. That’s particularly fun since it implies that you were published by Caan’s company.

  3. Lady, hope that you don’t get this cold. I was coughing in unison with a co-worker and two patrons yesterday. It would have been funny if it had happened to someone else.

  4. Chris Barton says:

    Thanks for the mention, Betsy. Your lead item reminds me of a passage in Barbara Feinberg’s “Welcome to Lizard Motel” (p. 83, if you’re interested):

    Only later, at snack time, when the children were drinking juice, and I overheard a tiny boy remark happily to his friend, “I like Jews. I like apple Jews, but mostly I like orange Jews,” did I begin to wonder at the effectiveness of our adult agenda.

  5. At least in the publicity stills for “You’ve Got Mail,” David Small and Sarah Stewart’s THE LIBRARY is visible to Meg Ryan’s right while she does story hour in a princess hat.

  6. Although I never caught it, several people told me that a popular poster I created for the Children’s Defense Fund called “Everyone Belongs” was seen on the TV show ER. CDF was the original “Leave No Child Behind” program, the voice of children who could not vote. The slogan was then twisted by the GWB administration into No Child Left Behind, the testing going on in the schools which many teachers tell me does NOT work. To my thinking it’s code re the “Left Behind” series = armeggedon nutjobs.

  7. Interesting point about Jewish books — to a certain extent, that’s also true about a lot of books which feature ethnic minorities only in an historical context. That’s a good way to think about it which should encourage some authors to remind everyone that normal Jewish families are alive and well.

  8. For any armegeddon lovers who I just insulted, let’s make a deal. When you are Raptured, please leave me your home, clothes and luxury items. I’m a hard working artist who lives on the poverty line who has only tried to help others and never got greedy. So your donation to me all balances out. Thanks.

  9. I feel like this conversation has been had a few times over the last several months, but I’ll say again–I don’t get this “where are the Jewish people in children’s books” thing. I can think of many examples of characters who “happen to be Jewish”–I think it’s more common than to find books with characters who happen to be identifiably Catholic or Protestant. I mean, sure, more would be good, but I don’t really think this problem exists, or at least that it’s that big. I think one reason I loved All-of-a-Kind Family when I was a kid was that I enjoyed reading about a family that was religious, like mine was; that they were Jewish and I was Catholic didn’t matter much.

  10. wendy, i’d love for you to list some books in which jewishness is mentioned but not a plot point. i’m not saying you’re wrong, just can’t think of many. (The Wednesday Wars definitely comes to mind.)

    on Lost, sawyer also read Watership Down and A Wrinkle in Time! (i’m embarrassed that i immediately know this.)

  11. that was supposed to be two paragraphs. sawyer = not so much a jew.

  12. He might be. We don’t know much about his dad, after all. The evidence would point against it, though. And All-of-a-Kind Family is great but, again, it’s historical. I’m talking contemporary kids who just happen to be Jewish. Lay ’em on me!

  13. I was on the phone with a colleague when I scrolled down to that Percy cover and I literally interrupted her with a huge GASP. I’m ridiculously overly excited about this series. It’s almost embarrassing, except not.

  14. The All-of-a-Kind Family example was meant to emphasize that I felt like it was rare to run into observant Catholic families in children’s literature–or any religious families, really. All-of-a-Kind Family was what I found to represent that.

    Just off the top of my head–some of these are older books, since those are the ones imprinted on my mind–most of Judy Blume’s books, almost any book where kids go to traditional summer camp, Babysitters Club/California Diaries, The Wednesday Wars, The View from Saturday, Theater Shoes, The Westing Game. (Some of these are main characters, some supporting, of course.)

    I think there are really two conversations going on here, because isn’t the point of Laurel Snyder’s article to ask for more books about Jewish children where being Jewish is, indeed, a major part of the plot? I’d certainly agree that there aren’t that many books like that (that aren’t historical)–but again, how many kids’ books really explore religion? I can think of some recent examples (Good Enough, Keeping Score, A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life), and I’ve heard that this is becoming a more common theme. Presumably, and hopefully, Jewish characters will be part of that trend.

    I wonder if perhaps people feel like there’s a lack of whatever it is they want to see; if maybe there were more identifiably Catholic characters in the books I read when I was a kid than I noticed.

  15. Also, I wanted to find out what happened with My Brother Sam is Dead, and found this followup article, WITH VIDEO! I love the mother’s neatly written list of all the profanity in the book. SLJ isn’t letting me link it, but it’s linked from the front page of the same newspaper today.

    (and sorry, Marjorie, I just noticed that you already mentioned Wednesday Wars.)

  16. Funny you mention “Julia’s Kitchen” because, after you mentioned it on GoodReads, I checked it out. I’m about 30 pp. in right now and enjoying it. I’ll let you know.

  17. lisa greenwald says:

    There’s mentions of the bat mitzvah in MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN. As a Jewish writer and Jewish person, my writing tends to go in that direction, containing a little bit of “Jewish flavor” because Judaism is important to me. This is an interesting discussion and I don’t think I’ve seen it discussed in the blogging world before.

  18. (Oh, yeah, I definitely also think it’s interesting and hope my first comment didn’t come off as being rude–I just meant to apologize in advance if readers of your blog had read my comments before, not to be all worldly-wise and been-there-done-that; I would love to see more of this kind of conversation.)

  19. About the B’nai Bagels, by E.L. Konigsberg. Jewishness is everywhere present but baseball’s the point. Well, and stuffed cabbage.

  20. I agree with Wendy’s point about religion. In how many books do you see the family, say, go to church regularly, just as part of life, and not either as a sign of their incredible holiness, or their twisted fanaticism? Church is a part of life in much of the country and for many people, but religion is one of those third rail topics, plus the world of New York publishing is a relatively secular place, or leans in that direction, anyway. I don’t posit ill will toward to the religious or religion, but I think that part of American life doesn’t get its due in books that aren’t explicitly about religious topics.

  21. Brenda Ferber says:

    Thanks for the mention of my book, Betsy! I would love to see more books with Jewish characters in contemporary settings.

    I wonder if more authors (and publishers) would be encouraged to explore that idea if the Sydney Taylor awards fell under the ALA umbrella. Not that we write to win awards, but it certainly would be a nice stamp of approval.

    I’ve met librarians who have told me flat out they wouldn’t have my book in their school library because their population wouldn’t read about a Jewish character. So I have to wonder if it would make any difference if Judaism was considered multicultural and honored the way African American books or Hispanic books are honored by the ALA. Then again, Judaism is a religion, not an ethnicity, though in everyday practice it often feels the other way around.

  22. Just speaking to the point about religion in children’s books, by some stroke of fate I’ve just read three middle grade novels with pertinent, if not prominent, religious moments in them. “Bull Rider”, “Heart of a Shepherd” and “The Year the Sparrows Came Early” all have moments of church, prayer, and religion in them. It may be becoming more common.

  23. Wow! Came home from a hard day of museum sketching at the Met to discover a nod from always estimable – and now agented! – Fuse #8! Thanks!

  24. Here’s another TV sighting! I was watching an episode of MTV’s show, Made, and the kid being made over that week was reading M. T. Anderson’s wonderful book, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation (Volume 1)! How great is that?

  25. Brenda, that breaks my heart. Why on earth would non-Jewish kids not want to read about Jewish characters? And how do those librarians know that’s true, anyway, if they don’t include books with Jewish characters in the collection?

  26. You’re right, there aren’t many contemporary books with overtly Jewish characters. There’s Sarah with an H; There’s No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sany Goldstein; and doesn’t either The Gypsy Game or The Egypt Game (or both) have a fairly-central Jew?

  27. OH, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – I believe Frankie’s one of the only Jews at her prep school. And needs to keep reminding people.

  28. To MSG – I love the poster created for the Children’s Defense Fund – any idea where I can buy it. I’ve looked everywhere online and it doesn’t seem to be available…. Any ideas you have would be appreciated!