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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fusenews: In which I am so full of wonder I know not what to think

Back up, kids!  I’ve got a lot to say and not a whole lotta time to say it.

  • First off, I think we can declare the third Kidlitosphere Conference held in Washington D.C. a rousing success.  I was lame.  I did not go and for that I should be given copious raspberries (and not of the fruit-like variety, either).  We determine its success via Twitter since only a few of the participants have blogged about the matter.  Liz has, of course, but I’ll be watching for other recaps as well.  With photos!  Lots of lovely lovely photos.  Let me see ’em, folks.

  • Those of you who did attend this weekend may have missed the whole national news balloon boy craziness.  Here, I’ll sum it up for you.  Boy is reported as having flown away in hot air balloon.  Balloon is recovered.  Boy is found in a box in his parents’ attic and not in the balloon’s basket.  Parents (or just father?) have possibly faked the whole thing since they are disappointed reality show wannabees.  End of story.  Of course, if ever there was a year for this story, this is it.  Oz and Ends recently reported on an old 1898 St. Nicholas story called "An Unwilling Balloonist" but I bet I can think of two books this year that are also on topic.  One such book had this cover:

And I’m going to count Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan and its balloon-like jellyfish critter as yet another.  Trend!  Let me know if you can think of another 2009 title that would count.

  • Author James Kennedy has a new book in progress called The Magnificent Moots and he’s offering us a sneak preview.  Of it he says, "The Magnificent Moots is a science-fiction comedy that’s like a combination of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Douglas Adams’ The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the movie The Royal Tennenbaums. With a generous dollop of the 1970s television special Battle of the Network Stars thrown in for good measure."  He then goes on to explain which Battle of the Network Stars clip you should watch since it features a "come-from-behind Cinderella moment at the end".  I’d say more except that I just discovered his other blog post that discusses a time when Kennedy used to smear his body with food coloring, call himself a god, and make his friends fight in high-stakes ludicrously costumed gladiator contests.  As a result, I’m off to burn offerings to him in front of my laptop in the hopes that he will grant me a bountiful harvest with a minimal number of locusts in the coming year.  Just because you call yourself a god doesn’t mean you aren’t one.

  • At first the New Yorker article The Defiant Ones elicited nothing but sympathy on my part.  Those of us that work with other people’s children on a regular basis are well and truly familiar with this new form of parenting that views discipline with a hands-off approach.  The result sometimes yields kids that don’t respond to you, even when you are at your hair-in-a-bun, glasses-on-the-tip-of-your-nose scariest (one such child was recently dubbed "Corbin the Terror" for his superior abilities to not only misbehave himself, but encourage otherwise sweet and law-abiding children to join him in his various crimes against nature).  So when Daniel Zalewski writes that we are in a, "confrontation-averse age of parenting, in which the ‘escalation’ of emotions is considered a mark of failure," I’m with him on that one.  But to extend that thesis to the current state of picture books today requires a stretch of the old metaphorical muscles that cannot go any further.  Olivia, after all, is at least nine years old, and if today’s picture books truly contain children whose, "default temperament . . . is bratty, though often in a way so zesty and creative that the behavioral transgressions take on the quality of art", then where does Eloise fit in?  Seems to me we’ve always had brats in our literature.  They just happen to be more common simply because there are so many more picture books being produced today.  Then again… has any other children’s librarian noticed a marked increase in the number of requests for Eloise lately?  I can’t be the only one who has to constantly inform disappointed parents that we haven’t a single Kay Thompson on our shelves at the moment.  Perhaps Mr. Zalewski is on to something.

  • Due to forces beyond my control I have not yet seen the new Wild Things movie.  Fortunately there are a couple folks out there who have been watching for me, or at least have been thinking about its source material.  Monica Edinger over at Educating Alice, for example, compares the new film with Kate DiCamillo’s new book The Magician’s Elephant with surprising results.  And in terms of the book itself, Ward Jenkins has produced a fabulous blog post in which he examines Sendak’s use of white space in the book.  With copious photographs, this is necessary reading for anyone who has ever picked up the book.  Which is to say, all of you.  In fact I’m so impressed by this post that I’m going to go back and add it to the piece I did on Wild Things for my 101 Best Picture Books Poll.

  • Want to write for kids but don’t know how to get started?  Maybe you should consider writing for Highlights Magazine.  Their current needs are published online for one and all to see, after all.  Great for the newbie or the person who just wants to try their hand at something simple.  Thanks to @MitaliPerkins for the link.

  • Okay.  Some of my favorite blogs are what we like to call "content providers".  When I do these little Fusenews round-ups, I don’t consider myself to be providing content.  I’m just regurgitating the genius of others (note to self: find prettier description for that).  Two blogs in particular have been bending over backwards to give you some good old-fashioned forward thinking content, and I want you to take note.  First up, Liz Burns already explained to you the difference between various review journals for children’s literature.  Now she’s gone and explained what all the different listservs are.  Personally, I subscribe to two of the four she mentions and they are invaluable resources.  That’s Liz.  Over on the bookseller side of things, Elizabeth Bluemle has updated The Stars So Far, keeping track of those books that have garnered stars, and how many have gotten five, four, three, etc.  I also appreciate how conflicted she feels about the project.  Says she, "there’s a danger to ‘starry’ thinking. I hope we are aware enough not to slip into prioritizing stars past a certain point, but having this list in front of me is a temptation."  Yeah, it’s true.  I’ve read all the five starred children’s books and most of the fours.  So when I see something I haven’t read I feel I MUST find it and quickly, before the year is over.  But how fair is that to the folks on the lower edge of the scale?  Not very.  I’ll just content myself with being five star perfect then.

  • Avert thine eyes and skip on down to the next piece of information, because I’m about to get bloggy braggy.  First up, I’m on the Tomie dePaola blog in a photo where (for a change) I’m not trying to punch the man in the face (some of you will recall "the incident"… scroll to the bottom of that post).  In other news I met une groupie of my library recently.  The French Canadian author Andree Poulin stopped by my workplace the other day and then wrote up just the kindest blog post about the visit called Je l’avoue, je suis une groupie.  And I’ve enough dregs of high school and college French clinging to the inside of my frontal lobe to see that she is very kind in her assessment.  Merci beaucoup, madame!

Ms. Poulin offered a photo of the library lions outside my workplace.  Steve Withrow did her one better by turning them into a webcomic.  The series was called  Critical Thinking and as Mr. Withrow likes to say of it, "It starred two very talkative stone library lions — P and E (for Populist and Elitist) — who morphed through many permutations of weirdness before I gave up on the concept when PBS’s Between the Lions, as well as Michelle Knudsen’s and Kevin Hawkes’s picture book, took library lions in more fruitful directions." Since that time Mr. Withrow has been working on the documentary Library of the Early Mind and has written Illustrating Children’s Picture Books, an instructional book that he and his wife wrote, which will be published around the world in December by RotoVision and F+W Media.  Busy guy!

  • Daily Image:

I had one all set up for today, but that was before I saw this:

Oh me, oh my.  I’m fair drowning in the awesomeness of it all.  Fair drowning, I say!

A billion thanks to Omnivoracious 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. janeyolen says:

    Methinks Mr. Z has no sense of humor when it comes to picture book brats. (They are so much more interesting than pablum kids.)

    Of course since he was goring my particular ox, the HOW DO DINO books, I hope I can be forgiven my conviction that he lacks a humerus.


  2. Thank you for Ward Jenkins the summation of Where the Wild Things Are.

    I had my say on my reservation about the movie, just before it came out.

    I can’t believe you are standing there so buddy, buddy with the great and adorable Tomie.

  3. Homer P Figg has a balloon riding episode

  4. Dang it! I’ve failed the Homer P. Figg test. You’re absolutely right. Three for three!

  5. Can we count the balloon episode in Polly Horvath’s MY ONE HUNDRED ADVENTURES as well? Yeah, it was from last year, but I think trends have been known to straddle more than one page on the calendar before.

  6. The Self Sustaining Hot Air whatever whatever device in Lemony Snicket’s The Vile Village was what came to mind for me while all that mishigas unfolded on CNN.

  7. Sondy at Sonderbooks says:

    You missed an awesome conference, Betsy!

    I posted a recap with pictures on my blog at Though the pictures are mostly of me in awe of the wonderful authors who attended. Pam got a picture of the whole group, but she certainly deserves a rest, so I won’t be impatient waiting for her to post it.

  8. Carl in Charlotte says:

    Just saw a book in the library this morning called The Silver Balloon by Susan Bonners. Take a look at the cover if you have it or can find it on–it’s a very good cover of a boy and a balloon. He’s not riding the balloon, but it’s a good cover and looks like a good story.

  9. Liza Ketchum says:

    Thanks for sharing the jacket of my new novel! I have noted the strange coincidence of a hoax balloon ascent, coming just as my novel appeared. Unlike last week’s news story, my narrator’s unexpected liftoff is based on an actual historical moment when a boy climbed onto a board attached to a balloon filled with hydrogen. He became–by accident–the first person to see the Bay Area from the air. The year: 1852.

  10. Jenny Schwartzberg says:

    I was in fan awe when I came to the NYPL last year for a visit and to attend your Children’s Literary Cafe. I just didn’t have the guts to say so. It was great fun. And yes, Andree Poulin is very complimentary about your literary analysis skills! Do note that 9 out of 10 times she wants to go buy a book that you recommended. After reading her post I want to go find some of her own books!

  11. “Great for the newbie”? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to be published in Highlights?

    Of course, the odds are better than selling a picture book to Random House, but still, it’s something like 1 in 700 submissions that are selected for Highlights.

  12. Never said it was easy. I just get a lot of people wondering where they can get their start writing short children’s fiction. Like you say, the odds are better, if still difficult.