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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

I now invoke The Michigan Mafia

The other day I was reading an excellent 100 Scope Notes posting on A Quintet of Blogs to Watch.  Some I’d seen before (go, The Scop, go!) and some I had not.  For example, Travis mentions a highly amusing blog called Klickitat, which is as fun to say as it is to read.  But Travis also mentions that, “It also don’t hurt one bit that Judkins is a fellow Michigander.”

It got me to thinking.  Ladies and gentlemen, it is high time we established The Michigan Mafia.  Yes, I know that Utah has been getting all the attention, what with their sudden influx (or is it “outflux?”) of authors and illustrators like never before.  Yet I maintain that Michigan authors, illustrators, bloggers, and librarians are some of the finest in the Kidlitosphere to date.  I count myself proud to be one of them.  My family’s Michigan roots go back far.  Why, here is a picture of my Great-Grandmother and her (future) sister-in-law goofing it up in front of the camera in the year 1901.  Both, proud residents of Michigan:

1901 jazz hands.  You could not make that up.

I’m hardly alone either.  Just check out the surprising smattering of my MI fellows:


100 Scope Notes: The aforementioned Travis Jonker is an elementary school teacher in Michigan.

Collecting Children’s Books: Peter Sieruta, my co-writer (along with Jules Danielson) on an upcoming book for Candlewick is a cataloger who works for a university in Michigan.

Ed Spicer’s Teen Book Reviews:  Not only does Ed end up on ALA committees every other month, but he currently resides in charming Allegan, Michigan.  It ain’t Kalamazoo (the best city in the state, not that I’m biased) but it’s close enough to bask in some of K-zoo’s aura.

Jenny Brown: If you read your Shelf Awareness and you see something children’s literary related, that’s probably the work of the lovely Ms. Jenny Brown.  Jenny is a fellow Kalamazooian and even attended my oddly named high school (you never forget when you’ve attending something with a name like Loy Norrix).


David Small – You want Caldecott winners?  Yeah, we’ve got Caldecott winners.  Mr. Small was the local illustrator who visited my fourth grade class when I was a kid.  And for the record, see my great-grandma up at the top of this post?  Her brother would apparently walk over to what is now Mr. Small’s house in Mendon to help train ostriches.  True story.

Patricia Polacco – Not only is she from Michigan, she went so far as to star in her own film called Patricia’s Michigan.  Now THAT is dedication to a state.

David Catrow – I know this because I grew up in a house with a yard that backs against the yard of David Catrow’s mom.  Also a true story.

Nic Bishop – The man has resided all around the world but according to a reliable source (a.k.a. my mom) he currently lives in Kalamazoo too.  Huh!  Go figure!

Erin E. Stead – Do the words “current Caldecott winner” mean anything to you?  After I mistakenly said that Erin lived in Brooklyn just after she won her award, folks assured me that she currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Fantastic!  I hereby claim her as my own.


Jon Scieszka – Oh yeah.  He’s one of the Flint contingent.  Another fellow member of that contingent . . .

Christopher Paul Curtis – Born and raised there.  He often sets his stories in Michigan (The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Bud Not Buddy) or has characters travel to the state (Elijah of Buxton).

Are there others I’ve missed?  You bet!  Remind me who they are so that I can either shake my head in wonderment or droop it in shame for having forgotten them.

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. Erin Stead says

    You scooped me! I was working on a post such as this before the life-altering hubbub. If I may, though (and I humbly say this knowing that we are still new on the scene), a Mr. Philip C. Stead, author and illustrator, is also from Michigan. We both grew up here. And I wouldn’t be an illustrator without him.

  2. Erin Stead says

    I also say hubbub with extreme reverence, for I am in denial, and cannot wrap my head around calling it anything else.

  3. I’m so excited to be included!

    And here are some more to add:

    Bloggers: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan do the Bookends blog for Booklist. Jen Hubert from Reading Rants.

    Newbery types: Gary D. Schmidt, Joan Blos, Lynne Rae Perkins, Carol Fenner, Meindert DeJong, Marguerite De Angeli, and Nancy Willard.

    Caldecott types: Chris Van Allsburg and Gerald McDermott.

    I’m sure there are plenty more I’ve forgotten.

    But I don’t want to forget future Newbery type Sarah Miller or future Caldecott type Philip C. Stead!


  4. Well, I’m a former Michigander . . . grew up in the Detroit suburbs, went to school on the west side of the state. Does my having fled to the desert disqualify me from Mafioso status?

    The state can claim a lot of awesome, this is very true.

  5. Those are awesome photos of your Great G-ma! I would like to imagine the two of them sitting inside a 100 year old photo booth.

    Michigan has AMAZING talent indeed!

    I could point you to all sorts of people, but I’d like to pick one: Debbie Diesen. She’s the author of the Pout-Pout Fish, and I personally don’t know anyone who does more to promote her fellow Michigan authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, and libraries than Debbie. During her own author visits, instead of focusing on her work alone, she routinely pulls out a huge stack of Michigan author books to plug and highlight.

    Her blog “Jumping the Candlestick” is a wellspring of Michigan publishing news:

    And check out her “Michigander Mondays” series! 50 – count ’em – 50! interviews with Michigan authors and illustrators over the last 2.5 years:

    And she’s a nice lady to boot.

    Thanks for highlighting this great state Fuse VIII!
    -AZ (a proud Michigan author, illustrator, and blogger too)

  6. Author: Sarah Stewart, right? (married to David Small, unless things have changed) … author of The Library, among others…

  7. Do I sort of count? I spent most of my childhood in East Lansing MI (though I was born in the South). Grades k-1 and 3-5. Longest tenure I spent in any one place as a kid and I have incredibly fond memories of it and the Red Cedar School there. Even managed to find the second house we lived in via google and it looks just the same.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Cor, blimey… and wow. Peter I knew I could count on you for a true list.

      Yes, Monica and Maureen you both definitely count. This list is delightful though I’m a little mad at myself for forgetting mates. Sarah Stewart and Philip Stead = duh. And also d’oh.

      I just like saying “hubbub” out loud. It’s a fun word. That and the fact that there is no better way to describe it, Erin. Fear not. The hubbub police will not descend upon thy pretty head.

      Actually, there weren’t any photo booths in 1901, and Great G-ma was a photographer’s assistant in her own right (in Oklahoma). So she did that entirely on her own. I think it’s technically a proof sheet. Awesome, eh?

  8. I grew up in Michigan, too! And escaped to New York. Those are awesome pictures 😀

  9. How about Buffy Silverman, prolific non-fiction author of about thirty fantastic books– She’s also a wonderful poet.

    Also, the inimitable “Quick-Draw” Ruth McNally Barshaw, of Ellie McDoodle fame–

    Amy Huntley, YA author wrote THE EVERAFTER, which was a finalist for the William C. Morris award last year–

    All awesome and all from Michigan!

  10. Wow, that’s really rare to see people smiling in photos from that time!

  11. I was going to start naming MI authors and illustrators – like Lisa Wheeler, Nancy Shaw, Shutta Crum, Kelly DiPucchio and Hope Vestergaard, but here’s the complete list.

  12. I don’t know if I belong on this list. I went to U of M. Married a Michigander. We fly our Michigan flag every football Saturday, head to Michigan to visit friends and family many times a year, once totaled our car right outside of Battle Creek, and were moved to tears from the Chrysler-Detroit ad that ran during the Super Bowl. Do I make the cut?

  13. I’ve been to Michigan Dunes about 100 times and my niece goes to Cranbrook. (doesn’t count, okay…)

  14. Time to go to the mattresses. I’m gathering my peeps and we shall see if the Utah Cabal can take on the Michigan Mafia.

  15. This is the listing of A through F, of authors and illustrators who are published and listed through Michigan’s SCBWI site — Kelly DiPucchio was on Oprah last year with her book. Shutta Crum read at the White House. Debbie Diesen hit the NYTimes Bestseller list. Other huge accomplishments escape me, but that’s an impressive list already.
    And this is just A through F:
    Kathryn Madeline Allen, Author
    Carolyn Reed Barritt, Illustrator
    Ruth McNally Barshaw, Author & Illustrator
    Albert A. Bell, Jr., Author
    Karen Bell-Brege, Author
    Joan Blos, Author
    Crystal Bowman, Author
    Elizabeth Brandt, Illustrator
    Janie Bynum, Author & Illustrator
    Nan Willard Cappo, Author
    Valerie B. Scho Carey, Author
    Jill Chambers, Illustrator
    Steven Lee Climer, Author
    Kevin Scott Collier, Author/Illustrator
    Bernadine Cook, Author
    Kim Delmar Cory, Author
    Mark Crilley, Author/Illustrator
    Shutta Crum, Author
    Marci Curtis, Author/Illustrator
    Ardyce Czuchna-Curl, Author
    Kate L. Darnell, Illustrator
    Deborah Diesen, Author
    Diane Dignan, Author
    Kelly DiPucchio, Author
    Joan Donaldson, Author
    Karen Douglas, Author
    Jean Sparks Ducey, Author
    Stacey Duford, Author
    Nancy Edwards, Author
    Jean Alicia Elster, Author
    Matt Faulkner, Author/Illustrator
    Marcy Heller Fisher, Author/Educator

  16. A huge THANK YOU Betsy for using a map of Michigan that included the Upper Peninsula! So many people leave us off the map and just show the mitten 🙂

  17. Ooh, my, on this topic, I could go on and on and on! I’m glad you did this blog post, because Michigan is a two-peninsular wellspring of children’s writing and illustrating talent. I’m so proud to live in the state!

    Our talent includes: Kathryn Allen, David Anthony, Leigh Arrathoon, Boni Ashburn, Charles Barker, Carolyn Reed Barritt, Brynne Barnes, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Amy June Bates, Nic Bishop, Karen Bell-Brege & Darrin Brege, Jim Benton, Mary Blocksma, Joan Blos, Elizabeth Brandt, Crystal Bowman, Martin Brennan, Denise Brennan-Nelson, Robert Burleigh, Steven Climer, Nan Cappo, Valerie Scho Carey, Mark Cassino, Charles David Clasman, Jill Ellen Chambers, Bernadine Cook, Elisa Chavarri, Dave Coverly, Kim Delmar Cory, Mark Crilley, Shutta Crum, Christopher Paul Curtis, Marci Curtis, Kathryn Darnell, Veronica Davids, Kelly DiPucchio, Joan Donaldson, Nancy Edwards, Jean Alicia Elster, Carol Farley, Lori McElrath Eslick, Matt Faulkner, Tracy Gallup, Rhonda Gowler Greene, Wendy Anderson Halperin, Amelia Hansen, Carrie Harris, Monica Harris, Susan Kathleen Hartung, Leslie Helakoski, Janet Ruth Heller, Ragene Henry, Mark Herrick, Karen Hoenecke, Ryan Hipp, Nancy Hull, Kathe Koja, Amy Huntley, Kevin & Stephanie Kammeraad, Laurie Keller, Christine Kole Maclean, Anne Margaret Lewis, Diana Magnuson, Kenneth Kraegel, Barbara Marquis, Margaret Mason, Carol McCloud, Sarah Miller, Dan Mishkin, Michael Glenn Monroe, Cyd Moore, Courtney Allison Moulton, Charity Nebbe, Shirley Neitzel, Mark Newman, Kristin Nitz, Lynne Rae Perkins, John Perry, Deb Pilutti, Patricia Polacco, Wendy Popko, Ann Purmell, Johnathan Rand, Betty Raum, Cynthia Furlong Reynolds, Coach Pedro Rita, Jacqui Robbins, Linda Rymill, Carl Sams & Jean Stoick, Devin Scillian, Gary Schmidt, Nancy Shaw, Jeffery Schatzer, Buffy Silverman, David Small, Tim Smith, Michael Spradlin, Alan St. Jean, Sue Stauffacher, Erin & Philip Stead, Sarah Stewart, Carolyn Stich, Debbie Taylor, Sue Thoms, Jim Tobin, Kelly Tinkham, Ann Tompert, Hope Vestergaard, Gijsbert & Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, Lori Walburg, Lisa Wheeler, Gloria Whelan, Margaret Willey, Wong Herbert Yee, Amy Young, Aaron Zenz, and Lara Zielin.

    To name a few. 🙂

  18. As for blogs, Chris Singer’s BookDads is a Michigan-based blog:

    And a comprehensive blog about the Michigan literary scene (not just kids’ books) is Bill Castanier’s Mittenlit:

  19. Thrilled to say that author/illustrator Matt Faulkner is back in Michigan!

  20. I have to add this: Michigan writers are the nicest darned group of folks I have ever met. So supportive, so helpful, and generally hilarious.

  21. Erin Stead says
  22. High time indeed! I second all the additions I’ve read and submit the honorable Laurie Keller (creator of The Scrambled States of America, Arnie the Doughnut) to be added to the author/illustrator list.
    This being a Michigan post, I was wondering when can we arrange the Euchre game?

  23. Did anyone mention Gloria Whelan? Or Sue Stauffacher?

  24. Jacqui Robbins is the author of THE NEW GIRL… AND ME, and TWO OF A KIND.

    Her blog is a hoot –

  25. Three tiny Michigan bloggers:

  26. Thank you for the kind words about my blog and for putting together this Michigan-centric post, Betsy. (And thanks to all those who’ve commented – I’ve learned so much!) I love the family photographs you included. They look like fun gals.

  27. Amen sister! Power to the Mitten!

  28. So, can I count too? Lived in a small town outside of Ann Arbor only for junior high and high school (though I’m still a die-hard U of M fan), but because my parents still reside there (in Ypsi), I count myself a Michigander. Oh, and you forgot Jennifer Allison (grad of my high school!) in the author corner.

  29. Well, there goes the omerta. I’m a children’s book author and blog for Jacket Knack: and consider myself a Michigander since I lived in the crook of the thumb from age 1 to 29.

  30. If you call yourself a Michigander, you count. I’d vote that Michiganian counts too. If you call yourself a Michiganite or some other hybrid weirdness, you might be faking residency.
    (Thanks for the complete list, Debbie — I noticed belatedly, to my horror, that Boni Ashburn was left off my list. Obviously the SCBWI list is incomplete).
    Euchre game – hahahha! Betsy, do you miss the snow??

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Re: Snow – New York has been doing its best possible Michigan imitation this past summer. It was pretty convincing until February. Now it’s nowhere near the plummeting temperatures I recall from my youth. Nice try, New York!

  31. I came across this wonderful comic about adjusting to life in Ann Arbor, made for the Sketchbook Project by children’s illustrator, Jannie Ho. You can read it on Flickr:
    Love her children’s illustration, too:

  32. Kristin McIlhagga says

    YAY Michigan – what a fantastic thread. I’m a Ph.D. Student at MSU studying children’s literature in the Teacher Education Department – and working on getting the word out more about our program. Eastern Michigan also has a fantastic master’s program….. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for some time now, grad school has to take precedence – but when I do it is inspiring to know that all of these folks are paving the way.

  33. Yesss, Michigan Love. I’m a lifer, born and raised, and I started my first day as a ‘real’ librarian in a Michigan library today! This post made my day! Thanks for spotlighting all these amazing folks.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Wow! Today? Timing-wise that’s fairly amazing. Congrats on your new job. And thanks to everyone who wrote in lists of other authors and illustrators. I seriously had no idea.

  34. Karen Gray Ruelle says

    I went to college in Michigan (U of M0. Does that count? Does it make me Meshugenuh?

  35. Karen Gray Ruelle says

    Oops, meant to say: (U of M)

  36. Do agents count? Then please count me in! Detroit girl, born and raised….I just blogged all about it the other night, wistful after the Chrysler Detroit ad during the Super Bowl.

  37. Hooray for Michigan! I had a semi-nomadic childhood, so I don’t feel like I have any right calling myself a Michigander. But, of all the places that I’ve lived, Michigan is the one place that felt the most like home. I just spent the past 4.5 years studying at Western Michigan University (go Broncos!), but now I call Jackson home. The people here are just so gosh darn friendly and fantastic! I’m digressing. What I mean to say is, I think the Michigan Mafia is a fabulous idea! I’m definitely checking these individuals out and giving them my support =]

  38. Kristin McIlhagga says

    I second (or third) the euchre game!

  39. The wonderful Robert Sabuda

  40. Linda Urban says

    Me! Me!
    I’m a cruddy blogger and not a Newbery-type, but I grew up in Michigan and my family is still there. And every book I ever write will have its roots there — even if the official setting is someplace else.

  41. Me. Born and raised in Michigan (well, you know I’m your Kalamazoo contemporary). I live in Chicago right now, but my first YA novel is coming out next spring, and it’s set in Kalamazoo County!

  42. The wonderful Gloria Whelan (HOMELESS BIRD, LISTENING FOR LIONS) hails from Michigan! And when she isn’t writing about the exotic locales in those books, includes Michigan in many of her titles.

  43. Ann Tompert is another wonderful writer from Michigan!

  44. I don’t believe anyone has mentioned the author John Bellairs, perhaps best known for The House With A Clock in its Walls, which is set in a fictional Michigan town.

  45. Another Newbery winner not mentioned: the fabulous Joan Blos!


  46. Awesome. I wish someone would do a post like this state by state; not that the internet doesn’t cross every time zone, but it’s just fun! Plus it would be great to ID more authors in my state (MA) to hit up for book club visits for my kids’ book clubs! so… anyone want to do this post for MA?! Please?…

  47. Greetings from Saline! (Which is about six miles sw of Ann Arbor). I’m a very occasional blogger and one of the moderators at The Newbery Project ( ).

    A couple authors my kids love that I haven’t seen mentioned: Johnathan Rand (especially the Michigan Chillers!) and Mark Crilley, the author/artist who does the Akiko novels & graphic novels, as well as the Miki Falls manga.

  48. Can you squeeze in room for a children’s publisher from Michigan? Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, based in Grand Rapids! I’m especially glad to see such great representation here from the WEST side of our state!

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Oh, darn it! Sorry, Anita. I had every intention of mentioning Eerdmans and maybe a side mention of Sleeping Bear Press too. Then it left my mind. Thanks for pointing it out!

  49. Susan Miles says

    I love that we have so many!! Take at look at this for more:,1607,7-153-54463_18670-77702–,00.html

  50. I have had the privilege of being a school library media specialist since 1973 in our wonderful state. I have absolutely embraced all the changes in our field over the years. I took the self-paced online class School Library Learning 2.0 last summer and have happily been blogging ever since. Currently I am the sole certified media specialist in our district of Charlevoix. This is my fourth year running the elementary and middle school media centers with full class loads. I am also assisting the person that has been placed at our high school this year. While I am saddened by all the changes brought by the budget cuts I love working with my students, talking with them about books and reading and engaging them in new ways of exploring technolgoy and its uses in their classrooms. The staffs that I work with in both my buildings are the best of collaborators. I consider myself very lucky to have spent my life doing what I love. I repeatedly tell my students that what authors and illustrators are creating for them today is totally awesome.

    How about author Lisa Wheerler? She did a marvelous visit at our school.

  51. Alyson Whatcott says

    I grew up in Bloomfield Hills, MI and am working towards an MFA in Writing for Children’s and Young Adults at VCFA. Does that count? Can I join the MI Mafia? I think that Gary Schmidt calls MI home too–he teaches at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

  52. Laura Taylor says

    Gloria Whelan was born in Detroit, MI and now lives near Mancelona in Northern Michigan. She received a National Book Award for her Young Adult novel, “Homeless Bird.”

  53. MI! Born and raised in MI state… and still living here. I’m a blogger, librarian, and lover of literature, and I’m slightly shocked how many big name bloggers hail from the state.

    I concur, when the weather warms up, I’m game for some euchre. Feel free to e-mail me if you’re interested in doing a meet-and-greet in the spring (BEFORE Summer Reading Club begins!).

  54. Hey! I’m born and raised in Troy, Michigan. Where’s my badge and decoder ring?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Oh right! I forget that. You just seem so Chicago these days, James. Well, if you can accurately describe to me what a Petosky stone is, I’ll consider letting you in.

  55. IT’S THE STONE I WILL SHARPEN AND USE FOR MY MICHIGAN VENGEANCE AGAINST THEE (first, of course, dipping it in water to bring out its telltale striations)

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Now there’s an idea . . . where’s the book where reading the striations means you can see into a person’s fate? Petosky Reader. I can see it already. I’ll make a fortune!! . . . always assuming I constantly run into folks who know what the stones even are.

      Michigan vengeance is hardly something to fear. I think it consists of sitting out a hand of euchre. Easy peasy.

  56. Cynthia Dooley says

    Don’t forget author Kathe Koja & her illustrator husband Rick Lieder. Also award-winning author Sue Stauffacher. Also author Helen Frost. Actually, the Michigan Electronic Library maintains an entire website of Michigan authors & illustrators (at least those who send in their info). Search by genre for children’s/YA authors at .

    Plus Michigan librarians who contribute to VOYA etc. like Shari Fesko. Michigan=Books


  1. […] I’m back in the USA and just in time for Fuse #8′s excellent Michigan round-up, in which I’m very flattered to be mentioned! I had a fabulous time in Toronto and enjoyed […]