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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fusenews: The true ultra-violet catastrophe

It was a bittersweet pleasure to see the vast numbers of folks out there lamenting the passing of New Zealand children’s author Margaret Mahy this week.  Just before we heard the news a discussion on the ccbc-net listserv about children’s books we’d like to see available once more echoed with person after person lamenting the fact that Mahy’s The Changeover is out of print (*ahem* publishers *ahem*!!!).  Now I know that this year we’ve seen the passing of everyone from Sendak to Else Minarik but the Mahy loss cut me particularly deep.  I’ve waxed rhapsodic to you in the past over my childhood edition of Ultra-Violet Catastrophe or The Unexpected Walk with Great-Uncle Magnus Pringle.  I don’t know if I adored the book when I read it as a child but boy has it stuck with me over the years.  More recently I was going through all the signed reference copies of children’s books in the NYPL system (it’s a tough life) and I discovered that Ms. Mahy visited NYPL back in the day during some kind of a United States tour.  I was particularly taken with a book called The Little Witch with its doe-eyed witch baby alone in a big city, wrecking havoc until her incredibly sexy mama comes to take her home.  Weirdest little dang book.  I would have adored it as a kid.  I would have adored meeting Ms. Mahy too.

  • Speaking of my library, just wanted to give you a heads up.  No sooner do I leave the Children’s Center then who should arrive?  Cookie Monster.  Or, to be more precise, he’ll be in my library on August 3rd with some cooking dude by the name of Rocco DiSpirito who, insofar as I can tell, does not have a cooking-related children’s book out yet . . . but surely that’s in the works, yes?  They will make healthy cookies, but I have it on the down low that real chocolate may yet make an appearance.  Where’s there’s light there’s hope.  To prep, you may watch this Cookie Monster spoof of Call Me Maybe.
  • In other news, Syd Hoff is dead (no surprises there) but if he were alive his 100th birthday would be this coming September 8th.  The Children’s Center will be putting on a HUGE Syd Hoff party for the occasion.  I suggest the rest of you consider doing something similar or, at the very least, read this amusing recap of the mysterious Syd Hoff mural.
  • Suddenly I have a moment of great doubt.  During the countdown of the Top 100 polls (yes, I’ll definitely do more results soon) I didn’t do any Fusenews updates.  So I’m not entirely certain whether or not I ever linked to Alison Morris’s fantastic guest post on ShelfTalker recounting how she, Heather Scott, Lori Ess and I got together to cut up F&Gs and turn them into birdhouses.  It happened a while ago (the weather was still cold and the baby small enough to take naps in other people’s apartments) but since some of the books featured have yet to even come out, I think it works.
  • In other news, The Book Doctor answers a rather good question of whether or not those ancient steam trains we see in books for kids actually speak to their child readers’ love or to the memories of the adults doing the buying in the first place.
  • Did I not mention before that Elizabeth Bluemle fulfilled all our fondest wants and desires and put up a new The Stars Thus Far for this year?  I know it’s not the be all and end all of what’s good this year, but boy is it useful!
  • Two words: Goodnight Dune.  That is all.  Highly amused thanks to Andrew Karre for the link.
  • Author Shirley Showalter stopped by the other day and wrote up a great little post about me and good old Chuck Close.  Awfully nice of her.  Thanks, Shirley!
  • Daily Image:

A great little link came to light this week when someone posted a host of vintage library posters on Flickr.  And though I do like this one . . .

. . . my favorite has GOT to be this one.

What a 55-old-man is doing hanging out in a school library I simply do not want to know.  Or is he supposed to look so hip and cool that the bored boy at the top will find it impossible to resist the lure of acting just like him?

Thanks to Andrew Wagstaff for the link.

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 keep telling people, you’ll never look at today’s crop of YA paranormal romance books the same way again once you’ve read Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover. Just perfect–and quite the horror story, too. I was really wrenched to read about her passing.

  2. I am one of the fortunate people who got to be in that room when Margaret Mahy visited the NYPL. She gave a terrific speech, which I unfortunately don’t remember much of, and was her very entertaining self. Brilliant writer, wonderful woman.

  3. I see that a lot of Mahy’s books are not available for borrowing at the NYPL. Is that because, if they are not currently in print, the old copies are in poor condition, or another reason? Thanks.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      All of the above, I’m afraid. Though her newer books remain in print, older books (like aforementioned Witch Baby) elude us. If there’s something in particular you’d like you can always let me know and I’ll check up on it, of course.

  4. Thanks. I’m not familiar with Mahy at all but she was recommended to me recently and now with all the articles since her death I am intrigued. I’m starting with what IS available and will go from there.

  5. Oh, and I’m embarrassed to admit we own and love Bubble Trouble, which I didn’t realize til today was written by her!

  6. Oh no! I hadn’t heard she’s gone till now! I absolutely love “The Changeover.” It’s terrible that it’s not in print, no book that good should be out of print! Many’s the time I’ve recommended that book to young readers who were weary of the current crop of supernatural YA and I had no idea they couldn’t get a copy. I bought Mahy’s books in hardcover as soon as they came out. I hope some publisher has the vision to put out new editions of all her out of print books.

  7. I want to thank you for posting about her passing. So many of the children’s authors and illustrators I love died without my knowing it because mainstream media, in my area at least, didn’t mention their deaths or stuck the news somewhere in a back corner (unless the author was huge enough for the mainstream to notice, such as Maurice Sendak). Until a year ago I hadn’t known that Trina Schart Hyman, Robert Cormier and Virginia Hamilton are gone. Thank goodness I discovered the kidlitosphere on the Internet!

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      You are most certainly welcome, though I think I would be a happier person if I lived in the belief that Trina Schart Hyman was still alive. *sigh*

  8. Connie Rockman says

    Margaret Mahy was, indeed, just as quirky and wonderful in person as you might imagine. I was fortunate to meet her several times when she visited the States, and – wonder of wonders – actually stayed at her home in New Zealand 18 years ago. I wrote to tell her I would be there, hoping perhaps we could have lunch, and she insisted on putting me up in a cottage on her property. For two lovely days we visited, ate together, walked the peninsula, and explored Christchurch’s flea market. Her house was the house in Catalogue of the Universe (and she, I suspect, was the mother in that story). Generous, warm-hearted, brilliant, and sort of Monty-Pythonish, she was truly an original. She wrote a vibrant autobiographical sketch for the Ninth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators which is well worth revisiting for a recap of her remarkable life.

    And, yes, I too would be a much happier person if Trina still walked among us.

  9. Tanya DiMaggio says

    I only just found out about our loss of Margaret Mahy. I thought I was the only person in the US who remembered Ultraviolet Catastrophe! I indeed loved that book as a child and always remembered it. It was part of my Parents Magazine book subscription. I hope that book and the Changeover come back in print.