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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fusenews: Hand me my smelling salts! I think I have the vapors!

There was a kerfuffle this weekend.  Did you notice?  It was a YA kerfuffle, which I generally tend to avoid, but sometimes inanity makes for good blogging.  And nothing was quite as inane as the recent Wall Street Journal article Darkness Too Visible.  The gist: My goodness, my gracious, have you seen what kids are reading these days?  The piece laments the state of the YA writing sphere today and folks were, naturally, fairly incensed.  It was probably the tone of the piece that really helped to set them off, but next thing you know the hashtag #yasaves was up and running and several bloggers and authors had their say.  Just as a quickie recap, you might want to check out responses from Laurie Halse Anderson, The Goddess of YA Literature, Phil Nel’s delightfully titled Why Meghan Can’t Read, and a graph that pretty much sums everything up.  Finally, YA author and Young Adult Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books Cecil Castellucci wrote a truly delightful piece called Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness, which is as good a place to end your tour of this issue as anywhere.

  • Meanwhile, somewhere across the sea, The Guardian has released its longlist for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.  Included?  Well they may call it Twilight Robbery over there, but here in the States it’ll always be Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge to me.  Well done, Ms. Hardinge!!  Thanks to the Achockablog for the link.
  • Oh boy, oh boy, we have a new one!  First The Romeo and Juliet Code came out and everyone tried to reconcile its historically inaccurate Converse All-Stars with its WWII setting.  Then we had The Trouble With May Amelia and its fantastic 1900 hot pink bra strap (trust me, if you look closely enough it’s there).  Now Julie Judkins has found a third historically questionable delight going by the name of Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia.  Travel with this cover back in time to 1970s Switzerland where hoodies and skinny jeans were apparently all the rage.  Julie has decided it’s an anachronism for good rather than for evil.  I could go either way.
  • Sometimes I’ll read a news item and then have to take a step back to make it work in my mind.  Take Gris Grimly.  Now there’s an author/illustrator I’ve never met.  Gris isn’t a fellow who does a lot of schmoozing in the children’s literary world.  He’ll do books for kids, sure (I’m particularly fond of his work on Sipping Spiders Through a Straw and his take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) but don’t expect him to hobnob at an ALA cocktail party.  Grimly don’t play that.  He has strong ties to other business ventures, and that couldn’t have been clearer when it came out that he’s is set to direct a new version of Pinocchio, produced by The Jim Henson Company and Guillermo Del Toro.  An illustrator as a director?  I kinda doubted it but IMDB confirmed it (and then made me want to check out his previous video short Cannibal Flesh Riot).  Looks like the images in the film won’t be that dissimilar to the ones he created for this version published with Tor Books back in 2002:

Go here to see the new puppet made for the film.  Oddly, I’ve been getting quite a few folks in my library requesting different versions of Pinocchio lately.  We own about six different versions and most of them are checked out right now.  Why the sudden interest?  I wonder.  Thanks to Jonathan Auxier for the link.

  • What’s this?  Someone redid A Series of Unfortunate Events with adult covers?  Don’t mind if I do!  Thanks to Lisa Brown for the link.
  • This one’s going out to all the folks looking for job opportunities out there.  You know a nice place to live?  Boston.  You know who’s located in Boston?  Candlewick.  You know what Candlewick’s advertising right now?  Jobs.  Go.  Seek them out.  And if you get hired, buy me a cookie.
  • First of all, the fact that there is such an organization out there going by the moniker The Tactile Book Advancement Group intrigues me right there.  I’ve been immersing myself in the world of board books lately in preparation for offering them unto my spawn.  So it was that this piece on the Booktrust blog called Why Tactile Books Make Sense was particularly intriguing to me.  Not only does it mention the TBAG, but it pulls out fancy dancy terms like “thermoforms”.  Clearly there is much more for me to learn about this world.
  • That was a British link.  This one may be as well.  At least with a title like Why are all the good children’s books British? one would hope so.  Spoiler Alert: They aren’t.  It might be fun to write a blog post someday about those children’s authors and illustrators mistaken for Brits by the general public, though.  Let’s see . . . there was Lloyd Alexander, of course.  And someone has probably assumed Sophie Blackall at some point or other . . .
  • Speaking of the spawn, I decided recently that while I love contributing audio reviews to the Katie Davis podcast Brain Burps About Books, I probably am not the most reliable reviewer at this time, thanks to the baby in my belly.  As such, Katie’s got a new podcast up and she’s found me a perfectly brilliant replacement.  One of my favorite bloggers, in fact.  Go see who it is.
  • Back when I reviewed When You Reach Me I referred to the book as historical fiction.  Set in 1978/79 it definitely takes place in a kind of ancient past for kids today.  And if you want to be even more contemporary, if you read this year’s Second Fiddle by Rosanne Parry you’ll find a work of historical fiction set in the distant year of 1990.  For kids, anything outside of their immediate range of knowledge is long ago and far away.  I had a kid the other day ask, in all honesty, if they’d ever made a movie out of the Spiderwick books.  Seriously.  Now Augusta Scattergood questions what really designates a book as historical fiction.  Does it just have to be set in the past?  Should it include a historical incident?  Something to chew on, certainly.
  • That new X-Men movie is out right now and it looks like it’s going to be a big-time hit.  What should you do about it?  Well, I suspect that now would be an ideal time to pull out everything you have on kids with telekinetic powers.  Surely you librarians and booksellers have some in your collection that you turn to time and time again.  And if, for whatever reason, you do not, I would like to remind you that this year Aladdin (an imprint of S&S) reprinted one of my favorite favorite middle grade books from my youth.  Willo Davis Roberts wrote many a children’s novel in her day, but the best to my mind will always be The Girl With the Silver Eyes.

Go! Seek!  Read!

  • “Words like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ don’t really apply, it’s kind of like Chinese bubble tea.”  So says the blog Aquarium Drunkard when discussing the soundtrack Shel Silverstein created for the film Ned Kelly (1970).  It’s a good piece and definitely fills in a part of Shel’s past I was previously unaware of.  Thanks to Jules for the link!
  • James Proimos.  I like how the man conducts an interview.  Take this talk with fellow children’s author/illustrator Peter Hannan.  Nice use of Worst Advice/Best Advice.
  • The ALA Conference in New Orleans is coming up.  So were you aware that for the first time they’ll be creating an Artist’s Alley for comic creators?  This is a technique cribbed, no doubt, from the massively popular Artist Alleys found at conventions like ComicCon.  So I started poking around to see who’s signed up to appear in the alley.  Dave Roman and Raina Telegemeier, good good.  Eric Wight, yup.  Love that Ben Hatke fellow.  And . . . wait.  Alexis Fajardo?!  Well faith and begorrah!  As I live and breathe, Alexis was a cartoonist at my tiny Earlham College when I was there.  He drew an epic mural on the ceiling of our lunchroom as part of a Senior prank that still lives on in legend.  Looks like he’ll be there as well.  Comics writer Sara Ryan offers practical advice to artists who want to attend but are unfamiliar with ALA Conferences.  Could be useful for some of you folks.  Thanks to Dan Santat for the link.
  • Things that make me inordinately happy.  This:

Nuff said.

  • Lazy prophecies in children’s literature suck?  Yeah, I’ll go along with that idea.  While I don’t mind a kid in a book finding out that they’re “the one” there is a bit of tug and pull behind whether or not they’ve free will at any moment.  Jonathan Auxier recently had a fascinating piece on Harry, Neo, and Prophecy Stories that examines why the prophecy in HP works while in The Matrix it just fell to pieces.  Got me to thinking about The Hunger Games, actually.  How much of a relief was it to read a book where the heroine wasn’t considered “the one”?  Quite.
  • When Jellaby by Kean Soo was published I was a huge, big-time fan.  I absolutely adored it and it fulfilled a rare boy/girl early chapter book/graphic novel gap that too often is filled with schlock.  Our library’s copies circulate quite nicely, and we’re not alone.  It’s the third most circulated book in Mr. Schu’s library (he of the May cover of SLJ).  Now it looks like Jellaby #1 is about to be out-of-print and the kids of Mr. Schu’s library aren’t gonna take that lying down.  Way to go, guys!

Daily Image:

Way way back in October of 2009 I received an odd request.  Former Greenwillow designer Victoria Jamieson needed names.  Roller derby names.  Children’s literature-related roller derby names.  She wondered if my readers could provide some suggestions and you responded with a delightful array.

Well, fast forward two years and Victoria informs me that not only did she get drafted to a home team, she has decided on the name.  See for yourself:

Said Victoria, “I will say that Jacob Have I Shoved was up there on my list… but you also need to plan for a cute nickname, and I didn’t want to be called Jake. Anyway, I will join a few other kidlit derby names already on the Rose City roster, including Artemis Foulmouth, JK Rolling, and Scratcher in the Eye.”

All power to you, Pow.

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. One more Sam Vimes book from Pratchett! Yea!!!!

  2. Ooh, thanks for the link to the Pratchett — and the Candlewick jobs. I am trying to shove my rising college senior graphic design niece into an internship. (Must also show her the new Unfortunate Events covers. Those are excellent.)

    REALLY disappointed about the Jellaby books. I hope someone listens, but Disney… well.

    Also: can I love Artemis Foulmouth any more?! I do not think so! Winnie the Pow is lethally cute. That helmet makes me think I must learn now to skate…

  3. Thanks for the mention. I will admit that I softened my criticism because I enjoyed the book so much. I’ve been trying to think of a better, more representative cover but, alas, I don’t have a graphic designer brain. It would probably be one without a photo though.

  4. Chris in NY says

    I was interested in the kerfuffle over late children/YA books as what we call “problem” novels have been a problem in our household since about 5th grade. My daughter HATES the books like Hatchet, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Lord of the Flies and the dystopian ones like The Giver, etc. But she loves to read. It got to the point that in the last few years she has rarely read the entire book assigned for classes as they are almost always too dark. (Go figure though, she enjoyed Number the Stars about the Holocaust.) What we see is that in trying to be relevant, and relatable, the teachers’ choices have turned off a whole segment of the reading population. Give my daughter Anne of Green Gables, or some Tamora Pierce book or non-fiction and she is good to go.

  5. Thank you so much for the Terry Pratchett interview! I’ve been escaping from the stress of packing for a move lately by rereading his books.

    And I’m with you on The Girl with the Silver Eyes–classic! Roberts’ suspense skills are a perfect fit with the sci-fi story.

  6. Tactile books & graphics: I thought I blogged about their competition, then realized it was at my work blog. National Braille Press has a free pamphlet, Why Pictures Matter, that you can order: Most of the info I know includes Braille (like the books from Sensational Books, Braille Ink, & Seedlings) but their are several places you can purcahse tactile graphics (NBP, American Printing House for the Blind, Braille Shop, Creative Adaptations for Learning, the Braille Super Store, etc. Many of the sites also talk about creating your own. Let me know if you want more info.

  7. I *guess* that’s an okay cover for GIRL WITH THE SILVER EYES. My only complaint is that you don’t get a better look at young Katie’s awesome fashion sense:

  8. Well, rats. Another morning shot, following all these ingtriguing links.:)

  9. I feel sympathetic to Chris in NY. I don’t want to read about the violence of domestic abuse or self mutilation or whatever any more than I want to go see it on a movie screen. My 16- and 13-year-olds are inundated with so much realism that they are turned off by so many of the books that are offered. As a result, they have continued to read alot more childrens novels even after they are older. And I have not forbidden or censored them in any way. I am merely observing their behavior.

    I don’t wish for the darker materials to be eradicated because I understand that those things are not all bad and many times help some kids, but I think it would be nice to have a little more balance in the types of books available to young adult readers.

    I think the question becomes a marketplace question: do the overall offerings for YA reflect a true representation of the YA spectrum of personalities. If I walk into a bookstore, what is the percentage of “dark” materials versus the percentage of YA kids that come in wanting that stuff? Is there a driving belief in YA publishing that dark sells? Perhaps the kids that are in that target market are bigger readers and bigger purchasers of books than kids that are not into those topics.

    I am not trying to be accusatory, I am trying to get insight. I cannot believe that my kids are the only ones.

  10. Chris in NY says

    As Kelli said: I don’t wish for the darker materials to be eradicated because I understand that those things are not all bad and many times help some kids, but I think it would be nice to have a little more balance in the types of books available to young adult readers.

    Exactly. I would even add a little more balance in the types of books assigned in m.s. and h.s. English classes.
    For her final book senior, my daughter was given a choice among books and ended up with Bastard Out of Carolina. Unfortunately no one told her it was a brutal coming of age novel including rape, incest and the girl ends up in the hospital. In the end her mother abandons her to go off with the rapist/stepfather. Ugh. Not promoting censorship and saying that students should not be allowed to read the book- just should not be offered without clear and strong caveats.