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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan

BigRedLollipopIt just seemed to make sense to do a book this week that could kill two birds with one stone. I’ve always wanted to do a wider range of children’s picture books and we haven’t done any by Muslim-American (or, in this case, Muslim-Canadian) authors. So I took a look at New York Public Library’s 100 Children’s Books, 100 Years list (which I still love and admire) and selected Big Red Lollipop. And who did the illustrations? The latest double Caldecott Award winner, Sophie Blackall. Of course, this is a sister book. I am the older sister. Kate is my little sister. So how exactly is she going to take this book of younger sister brattiness? It’s not exactly a spoiler alert to say that I bring my elder sibling feelings to the table. This may inform our reactions to it. We also consider what ungodly suburban mom came up with the idea of goodie bags in the first place, I get to yell, “REVENGE!!!” several times, and Kate keeps bringing up Ariana Grande.

Listen to the whole show here on Soundcloud or download it through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or your preferred method of podcast selection.


Show Notes:

– The whale that Kate loves so much. Can you spot it? It’s up at the very tippy top of the picture here.


– The first appearance in crocs in a picture book on our show. I had no idea we’d been missing them until Kate pointed it out. This does mean that this historical tale has been placed in a contemporary setting, of course. Do I mind that fact? Not particularly. After all, nothing makes it harder to identify with characters in a book than 1980s clothing.


– Correct me if I’m wrong, Canadians. Are your goodie bags called “loot bags”. And when, gentle readers, did gift bags become a standard presence at birthday parties?

– This is what I put in my own children’s gift bags. Do not buy them from the candy shop next to Kate’s apartment. You’ll have to sell them your firstborn child as a downpayment.


– No. Seriously. What is the significance of the whale, people?!?


– This the video of Rukhsana Khan telling this story from her (the little sister’s) point of view. You have to watch this. Heck, skip listening to my podcast and just view this instead. Then let’s find places for her to speak publicly here in the States, because I want to see her talk NOW.

– Sophie Blackall has a couple motifs that she returns to. The aerial shot is something she’s perfected over the years. You can see it in a number of her picture books.


– We are all Rubina. Holding the Triangle of Contempt.


– I believe my mother said that the odd board game I remembered from my youth was called Count Your Chickens. I have since discovered that this is not true. It was actually called (and you can understand why none of us remembered the name) A Chicken in Every Plot. It was sold by a company called Animal Town which specialized in these odd little games that had names like “Madison Avenue”, “Dam Builders”, and “Save the Whales”. Remember, this is why we invented the internet, people.


– A cookie to anyone who can name me a villainous elephant in a children’s book. Go!

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. The elephant in “The Elephant Who Liked To Smash Small Cars,” Ronni Solbert/ Jean Merrill. Villainous. Hilarious. One of my favorite books of all time.

  2. I always thought Sophie would win for Big Red Lollipop. She’s such a talent!

  3. Loved the podcast!
    And in answer to if I wrote the story as revenge on the mother, nope. I wrote it as atonement. Basically to fix what happened.
    Full disclosure: my older sister’s name was actually Bushra, and she once heard me tell my version of the story at a bookstore. She was laughing louder than anyone else in the audience but I was nervous because there’s one really significant thing I changed in the story and I knew she’d pick up on it. Sure enough she came up to me afterwards and said, “Wait a minute! You never gave me that big green lollipop!”
    I said, ‘I know but I should have.”
    My sister died before the book came out and I often end of the storytelling with, “So I gave her the story and a story lasts a lot longer than a big red lollipop.’

  4. Thank you for your kind words.

  5. Here are two thoughts that sprang to mind as I listened to this episode:

    1 – It’s a little…. something…. adjectives are failing me…. to say “isn’t this true in EVERY culture?” as Kate does referring to only the named invitees being invited. When I planned my wedding, here in the States, in the Midwest, several people brought along non-named invitees (and we didn’t have a space for +1) so this sort of thing happens even in Midwestern culture! It’s impossible to prescribe such a specific thing to all cultures everywhere.

    2 – My mother was raised in another country and moved here after she got married. As such, the birthday party/sleepover culture was quite new to her. I think there’s a very subtle plot line in the story where the mother has learned something new from her daughter about the culture she now finds herself in. She went with what she knew the first time, she repeated the pattern the second time, but there’s such a moment of growth for the older sister at the end when her mother recognizes that it may not be the best way. Not only is this a story of grace and forgiveness, it’s a story of a girl who has grown up and can be relied upon, a girl who can explain a foreign culture to her mother.

    I read this a few months ago based on Betsy’s recommendation on the 100 years 100 books list and while the unfairness burns there’s something truly wonderful about this book. It stays with you. And considering how many times Kate has said “But what’s the LESSON of the book???” I should think she would have appreciated this one more. (Not that books have to have a lesson. Another comment for another time.)

    Thank you for your podcast. I look forward to it every week.

  6. Thanks for highlighting this book! We have a great interview with Rukhsana in which she tells this and many other stories about her childhood and her books:

  7. Every once in a while I get an email from an aggrieved parent saying how obnoxious they think the mom is for insisting that Rubina bring along her little sister. Recently a lady even claimed malicious intent on the mother’s part.

    In answering her it occurred to me that the nature of invitations is different in different cultures. It really wasn’t a big deal to my mom. If the situation was reversed my parents would have considered it an honor to welcome extra guests–the more the merrier–type thing. In our culture guests are always an honor and a blessing in fact we believe that God sends provision for before and many days after a guest’s visit. It is a big deal to treat them hospitably. (Mind you some people are losing those traditions but growing up and even now we do our best to abide by them.
    On a side note when my third daughter was getting married we asked my Somali son in law for precise numbers for the wedding hall and anticipating uninvited guests we told him he was responsible for any extras. About fifty extra men came by and he happily paid for them, no problem.

    I wonder if that helps.