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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Brooklyn Book Festival: Mac and Stinky Cheese with a Side of Lockhart

Also known as a cheapo filler post.  It’s what puts bread on the table!

So I was invited to moderate a panel at last weekend’s Brooklyn Book Festival and I had, in no uncertain terms, a blast.  Of course it was raining, as you can see here (compliments of Nancy Mercado):

Hipster children.  Gotta love ’em.

Anywho, my panel consisted of Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and E. Lockhart (a.k.a. Emily Jenkins) and the topic: Funny Books!  Emily’s the funny YA gal (though she pretty much does every possible kind of funny book out there, for every age range), Mac the funny middle grade and picture book, and ditto Jon.  So my job was to ask them to say funny things.  I have had more difficult jobs in my life.

My roving reporter in the field (which is to say, my mother) took down some of the best lines from the panel which I shall now play for you here.

  • Mac explaining where his writing comes from:  “I grew up on a farm — and had a pet pig … This is going horribly wrong.”
  • The best explanation of why humor doesn’t win awards was Jon saying awards are given by committees and 4 of any 12 will be offended or won’t get the jokes.
  • Mac’s little brother had a Swearing Club with his friends when he was little, which he pointed out was utterly benign.   Mac’s conviction was that it was way too organized to be really bad.  They’d have had a President and a Treasurer … and that he would have been Secretary …

Emily said at one point, “The thing that you make is not the thing you meant to make.”

Two of the panelists set their recent books at the same public school.  With that in mind, future children’s literary scholars are going to be able to identify and list a whole subgenre of P.S. 58 books.

  • At one point Mac, in answer to “What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?”, said it was Catch-22.  He said that when he read it he demonstrated his total failure to get it by thinking at the time, “What if instead of WWII I set it … in my high school?”
  • And the best line of the day went to Emily when she was discussing the basis behind her book Dramarama.  Emily said that when she was a kid she found a camp for kids who liked theater rather than sports.  The catch?  She was the worst at it.  “I had found my people — and I was a loser among them.”

For the record, mom also ended up setting up the chairs for the event too.  Mom gets around.  She took some photos too.  Here, for example, is me crooning my own personal rendition of Moon River as Mac considers the portent behind the words.

Actually I don’t know the words to Moon River.  Time to rewatch the old Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The rest of these photos come from editor Nancy Mercado, to whom I am very grateful indeed.  She was the one who offered me a chance to moderate this panel.  Thanks, Nancy!

Their fans dutifully stood in the rain to greet them afterwards.

For reporting from someone other than the woman who brought me into this world, turn now to Sammy Perlmutter’s fabulous piece in HuffPo entitled Jon Scieszka at the Brooklyn Book Festival: How Valuable is “Funny” for Kids?.  Also check out Mitali Perkins and her post, as she looks at some of the other panelists who spoke that day.

Full credit to Melanie Hope Greenberg for the “Mac and Stinky Cheese” line, by the way.  That was too good to pass up.

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. Very cool that Mr. Barnett names CATCH-22 as the funniest book he has ever read. On my favorite books list, CATCH-22 is listed first and Mr. Barnett’s THE CASE OF THE CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY is second. The list is alphabetical. But still. From my perspective, a very cool connection.


  2. I just received a Google Alert! Too funny! Thanks for the attribution. I’m honored. I totally forgot about Mac and Stinky Cheese. Hehe. My inner Shecky Greene is totally emerging.

  3. I so wish I could have been there. Some of my all-time most admired people.
    All hail funny books!