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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

New Fuse 8 n’ Kate Episode: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

MufarosBeautiful copyIn this week’s podcast it took me what I consider a bloody long time to realize that all our previous picture books had one glaring thing in common.  They were all by white people. And sure, we talked about misappropriation with Tikki Tikki Tembo and flirted with diversity with Heather Has Two Mommies, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that our creators have been pretty darn pale. To begin to correct this I pull out one of my favorite John Steptoe books. I was either going to be this or Baby Says and I wasn’t sure if that little out-of-print board book (the fact that it’s OOP is an industry crime, by the way) could sustain a full podcast. In contrast there is LOTS to talk about with Mufaro.

One of our readers was supremely clever and came up with the idea that we put our show notes into the actual episodes. I will definitely start doing that next week. This week, however, it’s business as usual.

Answer to the Rainbow Fish Question: The book is originally Swiss. Hence the original German title.

Show Notes:

  • My mom’s point about cocoons vs. chrysalises is backed up by this website for children. She’s not wrong. I wasn’t a biology major.
  • This was the Australian classic I was thinking of that I called “long”:


  • Reading Rainbow did indeed do this book, but it was later season, which explains why I never saw it (you can tell from the newfangled opening):

  • And while we are talking about adaptations of the book, here’s a production of the stage version of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters done at the Dallas Children’s Theater in 2016.

  • I still see no reason Drew can’t make us a Shel Silverstein hologram.
  • Here is the boy with the rather remarkable ears in the book:


  • And the bird on the left here? That’s the YEAHHHHHH Bird.


Radiant Child

  • And here is my recommendation. It’s the Radiolab podcast episode Breaking News.
  • Thanks for listening!
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. I was puzzled you said that no place in Africa was identified in Mufaro. In Steptoe’s note in the front he writes that it was “…inspired by a folktale collected by G.M. Theal and published in his book, Kaffir Folktales. Details of the illustrations were inspired by the ruins of an ancient city found in Zimbabwe, and the flora and fauna of that region.The names of the characters are from the Shona language….” He also thanks some from the Zimbabwe Mission their help. So It is very much set in old Zimbabwe among the Shona people. This is a book I’ve done a lot of research on and used in various courses. (My concern is that it not be seen as an authentic Shona folktale, but appreciated as an original work. Not sure if it is the case, but too often in the past it was so identified.) Here’s an old post of mine about it:

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Excellent point, but the subtitle doesn’t say “A Shona folktale” or “Zimbabwe folktale”. I might be splitting hairs, though. Thank you for the link!

      • But it isn’t an original Shona or Zimbabwean folktale, but an original tale inspired by them. In fact, you can you read the likely one that inspired Steptoe here: (from the book he mentions in his note) and see how different it is from his. And so I think subtitles like: A Shona Folktale or a Zimbabwe Folktale would be incorrect. I find a good model for this sort of book to be Marilyn Nelson’s Ostrich and Lark, an Africana Book Award winner. (

      • Elizabeth Bird says:

        You’re beginning to inspire me to do a post on African folktales, a genre that flourished prior to me getting my library degree. You’re making excellent points about the fact that since this is an original folktale it would be incorrect to say it was specific since it doesn’t belong to that tradition. My question then is whether or not you find the subtitle problematic at all. Would it have just been better not to have a subtitle at all, like Ostrich and Lark, or do you have less of an issue with “An African Folktale” if it places it in context and has an Author’s Note to clear up confusion?

  2. We borrowed the book and cd from our library and we’re very impressed by it. The voice of the narrator drew us all in with its authenticity (I was listening with my children who were 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 years old at the time). If you can get your hands on the book and cd I highly recommend it 🙂

  3. The subtitle is “An African Tale” not “An African Folktale” so that leaves it up to being original. That said, I think the use of “African” in the subtitle is problematic as it reinforces stereotypes of the continent. So I think better to get rid of the subtitle completely and go the Ostrich and Lark route and provide a solid author note (as he did actually)


  1. […] was eager to listen to Fuse 8 n’ Kate’s podcast of this week featuring a book I know well, John Steptoes’ Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. […]