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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Black Is Brown Is Tan by Arnold Adoff, ill. Emily Arnold McCully

In honor of the recent death of children’s author Arnold Adoff, I thought it might be a good idea to consider a book that many call the first professionally published picture book to feature an interracial family published in the United States. Originally released in 1973, we look at the 2002 edition (re-illustrated by the same artist as the first time, Emily Arnold McCully). I get very excited about the fact that Adoff was not only married to Virginia Hamilton, but that he met her as a nightclub singer when he was managing Mingus. Now THAT is a how-we-met story!

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

Show Notes:

The book mentioned at the top of this episode is Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon. This is what the book and candle looked like when they arrived in the mail.

What do you want to bet that this is a regular occurrence in this household. Mom and the kids are singing one song. Dad’s in his own little world with another. Snap out of it, Dad!

I’ve got some serious house envy, looking at the family’s abode from this it just me, or isn’t it just massive?

Kate bemoans the choice of font in the re-illustrated edition. Alas, we were unable to compare it to the original version.

It’s always so interesting to compare backmatter from say, almost 20 years ago to the kind of backmatter we’re used to seeing at the end of picture books today. This is so slight but, I must say, holds up pretty well.

Sorry, folks. I was unable to find anyone on YouTube singing this book.

Let us now compare and contrast the old cover of Black is Brown is Tan to the newer one. The original gets some extra points for showing the dad carrying one of the kids on his back. The new one’s font problems don’t end with the odd interior spacing. In some editions of the newer cover, the black of the letters just sort of disappear into the trees. Gah.

Betsy Recommends: Black Forager who was featured on a recent Ologies podcast episode.

Kate Recommends: Mario the Magician. Here’s the Automabot video she alluded to.

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. Heather D says:

    Hello there Betsy & Kate,

    Darn it! You’re gonna inspire me to make another comment! I made myself a vague promise to refrain from comments until after I had heard all of your reviews. Mostly because I didn’t want to be that annoying kid who had sloped into class mid way through lecture… Only to ask a foolish question on a subject the instructor had already covered. I was going to wait until I finished the remaining 60 episodes before asking Betsy for a classic (other than Tar Beach) that features mixed race families. We’re a mixed race family and I have some experience with the ongoing search for diverse books. There are some lovely exceptions such as the ones illustrated by Marla Frazee. That being said, I’m sad to say that, in my experience, mixed race families are still woefully underrepresented in picture books esp as the main characters. It was a treat to be introduced to a classic that celebrates a mixed family esp. one featuring Virginia Hamilton. Much obliged, Heather

    • Hi Heather. Aw, heck. Comment any time. I love the idea of us as instructors, but I’m afraid we’d be the kind of profs that would cut off midway through a lecture whenever a butterfly swoops past the window. And yeah, even when I look at today’s publishing cycle I am simply not seeing a lot of mixed families at all at all. Glad we found this one, but it shouldn’t be this hard. Thanks for listening!

  2. Heather D says:

    Hi again Kate & Betsy,

    Since I already broke down and commented earlier…. I’d like to make another one ๐Ÿ˜‰ Mostly it’s a question and a couple of suggestions. Could we have a contest among listeners of the podcast? Let’s play “Guess the mystery book Betsy will be bringing in for Kate next time”. Since the next review is for a book featuring a wedding. I’m going to go with a family favourite “The Owl and the Pussycat” based on a poem by Edward Lear, illustrated by Jan Brett.

    I have a feeling that few listeners would choose this one for a read aloud for fear of sounding like Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served. There’s an easy work around by substituting “Kitty cat” if needed. The real reason why I would suggest this title for Kate is Jan Brett’s amazing artwork. That and to see if Betsy n Kate can answer some long debated concerns. First, is Owl playing a ukulele or a fractional guitar? Secondly, what the heck is a runcible spoon?

    Oh and one final suggestion.. I’d like to recommend a book for review on behalf of the penguin-ologist. I know it’s not (quite) old enough but could you take a look at “Blue Moo” by Sandra Boyton? My hubs is a big fan of the B.B. King video on Boyton’s site. Our kiddo loves to rabbit tango with her stuffy Harriet. However, I think Drew would like the very sweet “Your Personal Penguin” as sung by Davy Jones.

    Here’s hoping that the wedding goes so smoothly that there’s only one hitch (heh- mom pun). Seven blessings to the happy couple. Cheers, Heather D