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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fusenews: “Luminous with the beauty and fragility of life”

Good morning, everyone. To begin today I’d like to note with sadness the passing of Sheila Barry, a publisher at Groundwood Books, who was always very kind to me. We’d often discuss the titles coming out of Groundwood and hers was a face I’d look for at every library conference. You can read the Quill and Quire piece on Sheila here.


It wasn’t as noted on our side of the pond but we also lost a very talented picture book author/illustrator in England as well of late. Jill Barklem created the Brambly Hedge series, described by The Guardian as, “the tales of a community of mice in the English countryside”. As a child I enjoyed the books, particularly because Ms. Barklem paid meticulous attention to the intricacies of her miniature homes. The tiny details were enthralling and the stories themselves infinitely comforting. Many is the Anglophile American that was started on that path by Barklem.


Happy news for list lovers (as opposed to landlubbers). Chicago Public Library has at last released their Best books of 2017. If you’re at all curious you can see their Best Board Books of 2017, Best Picture Books of 2017, Best Fiction for Younger Readers of 2017, Best Fiction for Older Readers of 2017, Best Informational Books for Younger Readers of 2017, and Best Informational Books for Older Readers of 2017. The first thing that struck me about the lists was how similar in a lot of ways they were to Evanston’s. The next thing I noticed was that there are a fair number of titles here I’d never heard of before. So if you need me, I’ll be off reading The Doctor With An Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath by Julia Finley Mosca, Chicken In Mittens by Adam Lehrhaupt, and Too Fly Not to Fly: An Alphabet Book by Briana McLean (amongst others) right over here.


WhatMakesMonstersOne of the books that made the aforementioned Evanston list this year was Jess Keating’s funny and factual What Makes a Monster? Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures. Beyond managing to make nonfiction hilarious, Jess is a defender of the expository form. In fact, she points out that with our continued emphasis on story and narrative when it comes to books, we’re doing our fact and figure lovers a great disservice. Over at Celebrate Science she writes, “When we portray narrative as the most powerful way of connecting to each other, we’re leaving out a lot of kids.” How so? Read The Overlooked Benefits of Expository Nonfiction.


On the academic side of children’s literature, this just in from Phil Nel! Quote:

“The International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) — an organization of which I am a member — is today issuing a statement in support of academic freedom, and against the rising tide of nativism/nationalism that threatens to curtail it.  We’re issuing it in 20 different languages (with more to come) and you can see all of those on our YouTube channel: ArabicChinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Kazakh, KoreanLamnsoNorwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.  Coming soon (we hope): Japanese and others.”

Oh my freaking heck. You have GOT to see this here. The international children’s literature world is a thing of beauty, particularly when it comes to research. Amazing.


This next link could also be called “amazing” though maybe not in the same sense as that previous one. Over at Tablet Magazine, Marjorie Ingall is keeping us all honest. Her piece Judah Maccabee Versus the Anti-Vaxxers: How a Hanukkah-themed children’s book became the target of conspiracy theorists online is one for the ages, though. I cannot do the piece justice, nor can I pick out my favorite part. Maybe it’s when Marjorie tells us that the episode of The Brady Bunch where they get the measles is beloved by the anti-vaxxer movement. Quoth Marjorie, “I googled. This Brady Bunch episode is a fave of anti-vaxxers; conspiracy theorists insist that the episode has been removed from circulation because it shows that measles are no big deal. Season 1, Episode 13’s “Is There a Doctor in the House?” is available on Hulu, DVD, and CBS All-Access, but ok.” Oh, just read the whole thing. I can’t do her justice.


WhatAreWeEvenAt 100 Scope Notes, Travis Jonker found something I’ve never seen. These days my contact with children’s books comes primarily through reviews, the titles I get in the mail, and recommendations from sources I trust. So it is utterly understandable that I would miss a whole slew of books where none of these things are true. As Travis puts it, Come With Me Again Down the Picture Book Parody Rabbit Hole. Warning: You may never emerge again.

After Kate and I did a podcast episode about The Berenstain Bears and the Bully, I found that my BB radar was always alert and active. So when Electric Literature did a piece called My Life as a Berenstain Bear, I was prepped for it. There are lots of notable nuggets in the piece, as when the author mentions the series’ “weirder B-sides, like The Berenstain Bear Scouts and the Sci-Fi Pizza” or when Michael Cera makes a very unexpected cameo. She even comments on the parallel universe theory, which I really appreciated.

I recently inspected the Oprah Magazine’s Our Favorite Books of 2017 for children’s titles. Didn’t find much but I did find this:

OUR ANIMAL FRIENDS AT MAPLE HILL FARM written and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen “This beautiful, funny, unsentimentally moving children’s book is set in rural Vermont. My wife and I routinely give it as a gift to new parents. We love that none of the Provensen’s dogs or goats or cows are cutesy; none of them talk. But the authors’ simple observations on the temper of geese, the laziness of certain horses, the vanity of some cats show them to be true characters. The book was written more than 40 years ago and concludes with a touching inventory of the animal friends that have passed. This may be seen as controversial to those who feel kids should be shielded from any knowledge of death. But I find its message to be luminous with the beauty and fragility of life.” –JOHN HODGMAN, VACATIONLAND

The Provensens don’t often get that level of love and attention. I am now imagining that in his Vermont splendor Hodgman spends his off-hours hanging out with Tobin Anderson, discussing the way of the world. There is no evidence to support this. It’s just what I read into things.


Daily Image:

With the holidays coming up, I know you may be hoping to find the perfect gift for the ones you love. Might I be so bold then as to suggest the following DIY Animal Paper Sculptures?





This is just a smattering of the options. Thanks to Alison Morris 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. Who would hang a unicorn head on their wall? That is just wrong!

  2. I would TOTALLY hang a unicorn head on my wall, Jean. Those guys are all murderous virginity-obsessed gorers who’ve just been fortunate enough to have good publicists. (Read In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan if you don’t believe me.)

    Thanks so much for the sweet shout-out, Betsy!