Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think of the Pixels?

The other day I asked my husband, “Am I a Millennial?”  “No,” he said.  “You’re right between the Millennials and the Generation Xers.  You don’t really belong to either.”  That’s about right.  Millennials always feel too young to me (I can’t discuss Boy Meets World with them at all) and Generation Xers are great but tend to enjoy The West Wing more than I ever could (how’s THAT for generalizing?).  So if I identify as anything it’s that sterling, if slightly off-putting, moniker “Child of the 80s”.  I can talk Punky Brewster, Thundercats, Popples, you name it.  That’s my generation.  And now, with my generation have kids, I’m seeing it catered to in children’s literature.  And it’s weird.

9780147519184My first indication that things were getting a little out of the ordinary was with the publication of the Puffin Pixels series.  If you haven’t seen them yet, these are children’s book classics in the public domain that contain covers and some interior art (though mostly just a map in the front) akin to video games like Legend of Zelda and the like.  For those of us who still dream Lode Runner dreams at night (to say nothing of Pitfall) these books feel oddly familiar and strange all at the same time.  My favorite so far is Swiss Family Robinson, if only because it looks like a version of Below the Root (based on the children’s book by Zilpha Keatley Snyder!).

81Ot6OHpBYLBut pixels aren’t relegating themselves solely to Puffin.  Robot SMASH! by Stephen W. Martin, illustrated by Juan Carlos Solon is actually a Canadian creation (coming, as it is, from Owl Kids) and there’s something comforting in its blocky look.  Comforting and, yet, odd.  It’s clearly a love story like no other.

Insofar as I can tell, the justification for all these pixels may lie in the popularity of Minecraft.  Since Minecraft is pixeled without shame, publishers are able to simultaneously tap into children’s love of the game and their parents’ nostalgia.  I’ll be interested in watching to see if pixels proliferate in the future as well.

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. Punky Brewster? You’re a Gen X-er!!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      You’d think so but I’m on the short end of the Punky Brewster spectrum. Which, coincidentally, will be the name of my band someday: The Punky Brewster Spectrum.

  2. ChrisinNY says:

    I feel much the same as you- but for two different cohorts. I think officially I am a baby boomer- but my memories of the 60s are hazy at best (more hopscotch than communes and war protests). I relate more to the Gen Xers and their love of West Wing, but I had a child already when it was airing. So stuck in the middle again.

  3. Denis Markell says:


    I’d like to think my upcoming book started the trend, (even though its not published yet, so…yeah.). My Art director and editor (proudly self-described nerd) Kate Sullivan chose brilliant Pixel Artist Octavi Navarro. Check it out:


    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      The crazy thing is that it works. I see your cover and my instinctual reaction is I MUST HAVE THAT BOOK TO READ NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!!! It’s near Pavlovian.

  4. Denis Markell says:

    BTW, weird coincidence (OR IS IT?)

    My one writing credit that gets the most attention EVERYWHERE is that I wrote an episode of THUNDERCATS. (for reals).

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Umm…. I may have to join your fan club now. That’s sort of the best thing you could put on your resume. “Wrote one episode of THUNDERCATS”. I’d have that friggin’ written on my tombstone, if I could.

  5. I think we (those of us between Gen X and Millennials) are Gen Y. I’m in the older end of the Gen Y band – child of the 70’s and 80’s. So I get most but not all of your references (the HeMan/SheRa/Thundercats was more the kids I babysat for), and have a lot that are a little older but may overlap some with yours (Adam West Batman/Superfriends/Brady Bunch/Gilligan’s Island/Happy Days).

    • Well, now that I looked at dates, it looks like I’m squarely in Gen X after all (post-Baby Boom), so never mind!

  6. We’re called “Carter Babies,” among other names. (Though Generation Catalano just sounds weird.)
    It’s a short generational gap, but it’s definitely distinct from both X and Y, while sharing characteristics with each.

  7. The Horn Book babies love Minecraft, but when i tried it out I just felt Old.

  8. Betsy, do you ever watch “The Goldbergs” on ABC? Talk about growing up in the ’80’s!

  9. Tail end boomer here! But I really do not relate to many boomerish behaviors and thought patterns. I grew up with fluidity in cartoon art (Merry Melodies and Warner Brosthers). As I recall the tv cartoon art became ‘stiff’ in the 1970s. By that time, I was too far gone as part of the generation to experience first hand the rock and roll music renaissance of the 1960’s. Cartoons and kids show from those years were not on my radar.

  10. Elisa Gall says:

    I prefer “Oregon Trail Generation.” 🙂

  11. Ooooga! What gorgeous periwinkles, my favorite. Thanks for the link.

  12. This is kind of random but I feel compelled to share with you that, at the time Punky Brewster was on the air, I babysat for a family named Brewster. The daughter looked just like Punky and the son was named Brandon (the name of the dog on Punky Brewster). So that was weird.