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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fusenews: Chicken pox for the soul

We begin today with a mild pet peeve of mine.  Here we go.  You see this lovely new paperback edition cover of the book Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me?  Well I had great affection for the original story, though I was relatively lukewarm on its first cover.  The original jacket just sported an image of the moon with a little astronaut sticking in a flag.  Clearly they wanted to spice things up a bit.  I don’t blame them.  Lots of great books see a second life in paperback when they go with a more contemporary photographed look.  That said, this particular book’s new cover suffers from a current trend I’ve found in some children’s jackets.  It is a whatever-you-do-don’t-make-the-kids-think-the-book-is-historical cover.  Now look at it.  Look long and hard.  Is there anything about the hair or dress of these two kids that screams 1969 to you?  You might argue “well, is there anything that looks absolutely contemporary?” and you’d be right.  But they’re definitely fudging the time period.  This will happen from time to time.  A bit of historical fiction will end up faking its cover to look contemporary, for all sorts of reasons.  Generally you can get around this if you shoot the photo close up (as with Frances O’Roark Dowell’s Shooting the Moon) or the characters backs (though I’m still pretty sure the hair on Doris Gwaltney’s WWII novel Homefront was a bit suspect).  Still and all, though I peer at this new Neil Armstrong book with a suspicious eye (shouldn’t Muscle Man McGinty be wearing glasses anyway?) it’s still loads better than the original back of the jacket for A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack.  There you saw two pairs of legs wearing jeans (on girls in the American South in the 1950s) and Airwalk sneakers.  Airwalks were established in 1986, folks.  My oh me oh my.  Nice book, though.

  • Ah!  It’s that time of year again.  Time for Lee & Low to hand out their New Voices Writers Award.  As they say, “LEE & LOW BOOKS, award-winning publisher of children’s books, is pleased to announce the eleventh annual NEW VOICES AWARD. The Award will be given for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.”  You can see more information here if you’re interested.
  • The blog Looking Backward recently had a fun piece on one of the first children’s room in the country.  Located in Boston, the Brookline Public Library circa 1857, “opened a reading room especially for children. . . . this reading room was not only one of the first in the country, but also instrumental as a national model of library services for kids. Nine years later, the library would add a children’s reference room, also staffed with its own librarian.”  Check out the blog for the neat pictures and subsequent additions.  Thanks to @jlbellwriter for the link.
  • Librarians must deal with a wide range of opinions, emotions, and mental states of varying coherence.  Sometimes this results in a distinct lack of cool.  How good then to have A Librarian’s Guide to Etiquette at hand.  This useful blog offers insightful little bon mots like, “A good librarian should always wear sensible shoes.  Be aware though, that sometimes the most sensible choice is a pair of six-inch spiked heels that can be wielded as weapons against obnoxious library patrons or coworkers.”  Particularly if you’re a children’s librarian dealing with irate parents.  Trust me on this one.
  • Now here’s a good idea.  Shelf-Employed noted my recent lamentations over the fact that there are too few early chapter books in the marketplace and extended that to early chapter audiobooks.  What follows are some great quickie reviews of a number of hot audiobooks in that age range along with some small audio clips.  Wow.  I don’t do anything with audiobooks myself so this kind of information is hugely helpful.
  • I hate money.  No.  Wait.  That’s not true.  I hate dealing with money.  That is why I have an agent.  The agent handles the money I handle the spending of said money.  Well one day I said to my agent that I needed a financial advisor to help me stop being stupid about cash.  I was introduced to one Susan L. Hirschman who, as it just so happens, is an author herself (Does This Make My Assets Look Fat?).  Well, she just couldn’t have been nicer, and as I am a kind of tit for tat type of gal, I figured I’d give her a mention on this little old blog here.  It’s not strictly children’s literature related, but authors read me, authors make money, and money has to be handled.  So in the event that you are like myself and find the management of money to be a frightening concept, right up there with swallowing hornets and walking on hot coals, hers might be a book worth perusing.  FYI, folks.
  • Here in NYC we’ve got a little place called Symphony Space that runs a kids book club camp each and every year.  The advantage of this camp is that they get a load of awesome authors in to come and speak to the kids.  Most recently their author was Polly Shulman of The Grimm Legacy.  Ms. Shulman’s book takes place in a library where the teen pages tend to magical items cataloged in the stacks.  She was once a page herself in the 1970s in the main branch of NYPL, so the kids took a trip to my room so that I could give them a tour and so that they could talk to a contemporary page working in the stacks today.  Their trip is recounted here on their blog.  A good tie-in for any book club, I must say.
  • The folks at Good Comics for Kids have come up with a pretty awesome list of core graphic novel titles essential for any library collection.  What a cool idea!  A good go-to guide if you’re looking for recommendations of books that aren’t just the newest thing.
  • Speaking of lists, Eric Carpenter is a second grade teacher living in Atlanta, Georgia.  Recently he compiled a list of “the 10 picture books I need to survive my life as a second grade classroom teacher.”  If you’re looking for great classroom readaloud recommendations, this is great stuff. Now I need to go out and locate copies of Tedd Arnold’s The Signmaker’s Assistant and Someday a Tree by Eve Bunting.  Thanks, Eric!
  • Daily Image:

This was all over the place a couple weeks ago, but I think I first saw it over at Teacher Ninja.

And it makes me laugh each time.  Thanks, Jim!

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 loved Muscle Man McGinty, and I REALLY don’t like this cover! Thank you for articulating my feelings–I probably wouldn’t have realized exactly what was bugging me, but I agree about the trying to hide the historical nature of the book. Argh.

  2. Yikes! Historical fudging aside, the design on that cover is atrocious. Shame, for such a lovely little book.

  3. Also, that’s a photo of Buzz Aldrin, not Neil Armstrong. C’mon.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Woah. Okay, Brian. I gotta ask. You’re the expert… how do you know? You’re pulling my leg here, right?

  4. Thank you so much for the Eric Carpenter list! My oldest son is beginning 2nd grade next week, and I’m tickled to have a custom-made (as it were) booklist to share with him.

  5. Two part answer!

    First, the picture on the jacket, though cropped and upside down, is still recognizable as the most iconic of all astronaut-on-the-moon photos, and is of Aldrin. Here it is, intact:

    Second, and maybe more interestingly, there are in fact almost no pictures of Armstrong on the moon. Armstrong and Aldrin shared the camera, and while Armstrong took plenty of pictures of Aldrin, Aldrin, for whatever reason, took almost none of Armstrong. Armstrong shows up incidentally in a couple of images, but is the focus of none. The best picture we have of him on the moon was teased out of video footage taken by an automated camera:

    Consider your leg unpulled!

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Unpulled it is! And what a magnificent encapsulation. I doff my hat to you, Mr. Floca. Together, I propose that you and I shall become forensic book jacket scientists. Picking apart the minutiae of misbegotten covers. You handle anything that has to do with astronauts. I’ll cover anything that has to do with various cinematic versions of the film “The Phantom of the Opera” (because sadly I feel unqualified to call myself a specialist in any knowledge I acquired post 9th grade).

  6. Just checking in (almost a month late!) to say that I somehow missed this post in the craziness of summer reading – thanks for the mention! 🙂