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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: George Shrinks by William Joyce

Funny to think about the authors and illustrators we’ve never quite gotten to on the show. Sometimes the trick behind selecting a book isn’t so much which artist to do but what book to do from a given artist. After much soul searching I decided that George Shrinks trumps Dinosaur Bob and the Family Lazardo in terms of sheer fame. It’s a funny kind of book, and you can trust Kate to winnow out every possible detail on the page. Hope you like your kids short, your cats cruel, and your teddy bears creepy, because we’re going all in on Joyce’s best known today.

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

Show Notes:

Here’s the book that I keep pulling out for our perusal. Any ideas why no other publisher has ever done something similar? Where is the Simon & Schuster Collection of Classic Picture Books? Or the Macmillian Storytime Classic Collection of Children’s Favorites? Mysterious.

Here’s the Bill Joyce cover that I allude to. Created for the New Yorker. Never got a chance to run. You can find Bill’s account of what happened when his made this cover here.

The bear seriously freaks Kate out. Like clown-level freaking out. And the more I think about it, the more I believe that the bear is perhaps the one responsible for what happens to George that day. It is present, after all, both when he shrinks and when he grows. In fact, in the moment when he’s about to be killed by the cat, the bear looks distinctly unhappy. And, as Kate is quick to point out, the eyes are always following George:

Okay, folks. Any idea what this might be a reference to? I’m working on a theory involving Joyce’s opinion of the work of William Burroughs but that’s the best I’ve got. If you’ve a better idea, lay it on me.

Very interesting that you can just about read the letter George’s parents wrote to him.

This book’s relationship to branding is so interesting. It feels free to name drop sock brands, but not pop. Huh.

There are two ways in which this book is similar to the Jaime Lee Curtis book we did a month or two ago (Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born). The first way involves the naming of toothpaste brands. Your call. Does this say “Chuckodent” (who was a surfer) or does it read “Chucrodent”?

“Really? I went through two months of boot camp, rose through the ranks, became a sergeant of my platoon, and now you are dragging me by my hat?!?”

Kate says that George is around 6-years-old, and at first I pushed back. But then I remembered his homework. This is not the homework of a kid above the age of 8, right? Add in the fact that Kate is probably correct that changing the baby’s diaper would usually have also been on the list of chores and things start to build up to a clear-cut understanding that George has terrible parents.

I will say this for the dad, though. He has impeccable taste in footwear.

The second similarity to the aforementioned Jamie Lee Curtis book? A strange inclination to highlight diet plan books. As Kate says, it looks like special care was taken so that you could read the title of this book on a shelf. Why?

We’re giving extra points to Joyce with this image. I’ve read this book 100 times to my kids but I never ever noticed that the artist had placed a little King Kong and an Empire State Building on the ground, as a kind of visual reference to what’s happening between George and the cat.

This is the tweet that Jeff Kinney posted from his bookstore. A little too cute.

And, y’know, I took that screenshot and then I noticed the top 3 comments. Seemed a little …. different. So I did a Google search and discovered that due to a strange confluence of the times in which we live:

The book I got for Kate many years ago is Silhouettes From Popular Culture by Olly Moss. Here’s the book:

And here’s Kate’s bathroom:

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. Curious, I was able to find references online for Burrough’s agricultural supplies and Y-Up soda, but nothing for Dr. Jim or Chuckodent (Chuckrodent?) toothpaste. I suspect, however, that the latter two are actual brands from the past that just have no internet presence; why would Joyce use so many true name brands, and then make up others?

    The silhouettes look amazing, Kate! Wonderful present, Betsy!