Two sisters, one in L.A. and one in NYC, both move to the Chicago area and start a podcast. The premise? Picture books and are they really that great? Join Kate and Fuse 8 (Betsy Bird) as they track down a picture book "classic" each episode and try to determine if it deserves to remain in the canon of children's literature.
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Episode 232 - The Amazing Bone
We're back from the ALA Conference, baby! Many thanks to everyone who hung out with us and told us that they liked our podcast. We'll just start off today with a hat tip to author Eliot Schrefer for suggesting today's book. It's one of those rare cases where this is actually a book that Betsy read and reread multiple times as a child. We've done all kinds of William Steig books over the years. Shrek. Doctor DeSoto. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Now we tackle one that is very near and dear to her heart. How has it aged? Content wise? We discuss it all.
- I mention at one point that William Steig created a character called Poor Pitiful Pearl. Here is her doll. You can find additional information about her (plus a possible lost early Steig book) here: https://vintagedollcollector.com/poor-pitiful-pearl-article-william-steig/
-Betsy Recommends: The NPR Books We Love round-up this year: https://apps.npr.org/best-books/#view=covers&year=2022
- Kate Recommends: Queer Ducks by Eliot Schrefer: https://www.harpercollins.com/products/queer-ducks-and-other-animals-eliot-schrefer?variant=39684198563874
For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/07/04/fuse-8-n-kate-the-amazing-bone-by-william-steig/
Episode 231 - Black Misery
It's our 5-year anniversary of this podcast and to celebrate we're examining something both obscure and of note. Haven't heard of this particular picture book? You aren't alone. Originally published in 1969, the book is perhaps best known as being the last book Langston Hughes, its author, ever worked on. Betsy was just meticulously weeding her library's adult 811s and stumbled upon it. Black Misery is a children's book marketed as an adult title yet in spite of its copyright date it has a lot of similarities to the children's books today that are calling out elements in our own racist culture. Microaggressions and outright racism vie for space on the pages. The central question for us is this: Is this book a picture book for children or not? It's not easy to answer, particularly when you weigh how little change has happened with some of these moments and how beautifully they're called out here verses the use of the n-word and some of the more dated elements.
In the end, we do wonder why it hasn't been reprinted in the last few decades. Seems like a forward thinking publisher might benefit from bringing this one back again. Then again, even that sentiment may be overly dated. We live at a time where the need for Black Joy in books for kids is particularly keen. Does it make much sense then to bring out again the true antithesis of the statement? Or does Black Misery have more going on here then its title implies? We take a deep dive into its pages to find out.
- Just as a reminder, if you'd like to hang out with us on Saturday, June 25th around 9 or so at the ALA Conference in Washington D.C., just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Curious about other Langston Hughes books for children? The 1955 publication The Book of Jazz is beautifully remembered by Vox here: https://www.vox.com/2015/4/2/8335251/langston-hughes-jazz-book
- You can read what the Missouri Historical Society has to say about Black Misery here: https://mohistory.org/blog/from-the-library-black-misery-by-langston-hughes/
- For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/06/20/fuse-8-n-kate-black-misery-by-langston-hughes-ill-arouni/
Episode 230 - Lulu and the Flying Babies
By gum we haven't had one of these since our own mother came on the show. Today it is our infinite pleasure to present to you the fantastic author/illustrator/cartoonist Ursula Murray Husted of, amongst other things, the marvelous graphic novel A Cat Story. A fan of the podcast, it seemed only fitting to ask her to suggest a title for the show today. Her choice? A book that honestly I've never seen before. Lulu and the Flying Babies is an obvious homage to, say, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, and its creator started out by making comics before she made books for kids. And as it just so happens Ursula started out that way too! This is an absolutely fascinating example of a picture book working with this level of comic book paneling. And, of course, at some point we do include the line, "I had no idea how easy it was to decapitate a cat."
You can check out some of the range of Posy Simmonds' when it comes to her darker adult comics here: https://www.lambiek.net/artists/s/simmonds_posy.htm
We bring up the question of which Posy Simmonds books are available for purchase in the states. If you're only interested in her children's books then besides this title check out Lulu and the Chocolate Wedding and Fred. It's not a lot but it's what we got!
Ursula Recommends: The King of Confidence by Miles Harvey
Kate Recommends: Songfinch, Putt Shack, and the new Bob's Burgers movie.
Betsy Recommends: Making a birthday cake based on Erin Hunter's Warriors series.
For the full Show Notes, please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/06/13/fuse-8-n-kate-special-guest-ursula-murray-husted-presents-lulu-and-the-flying-babies-by-posy-simmonds/
Episode 229 - Yo! Yes?
Come one! Come all! Come hear Betsy get the tongue lashing of the century! Maybe you listen to this podcast because you just like to listen to grown women talk about picture books. Maybe you like the banter. Or maybe, just maybe, you listen in the hopes of hearing Kate yell at Betsy for her sins. If the latter is your preference then boy howdy do we have the episode for you! Bonus: Kate makes a lot of fart noises. Nothing but class at this joint. As for the book we're doing, this appears to be our first Raschka title, which is funny considering how many Caldecott Honors and Awards he's garnered over the years. Listen in if you want to hear the correct pronunciation of the title of Yo! Yes?, the choices made with the typography, and some truly awful bird calls.
The egregious Mackin interview with Betsy can be found here: https://www.mackincommunity.com/2022/05/25/betsy-bird-theres-a-book-for-every-reader/
Lark wasn't wrong. "Puff Daddy" did indeed read Harlem on a cassette tape. This is amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUxiA-YJuO8
Hat tip too to Jerrold Connors for not only locating and listening to the audio cassette tape of Crow Boy, but also mentioning the very cool @corvidresearch.
Kate Recommends: Particle Ink: Speed of Dark, seen here: https://youtu.be/aCmtKbXv9lk
Betsy Recommends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i5DEipIWh4
For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/06/06/fuse-8-n-kate-yo-yes-by-chris-raschka/(opens in a new tab)
Episode 228 - Harlem
Recently Betsy took a trip to NYC and was, for reasons that will soon become clear, reminded of this great work by Walter Dean Myers and his son Chris. Funny thing is, she has a bit of difficulty figuring out if this book is as well remembered as it used to be. Now when she lived in NYC it was all over the place but that was (A) almost 20 years ago and (B) in the same town where this book takes place. Maybe not the best place to get a unimpeded understanding of its longevity. At any rate, it won itself a Caldecott Honor so we figure it's well worth discussing today.
Kate Recommends: Chanel Williams on Instagram or the tikky tok (which is what we call TikTok)- https://www.instagram.com/chanwills/?hl=en
Betsy Recommends: The Third Person by Emma Grove. https://drawnandquarterly.com/news/dq-announces-third-person-emma-grove/
For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/05/30/fuse-8-n-kate-harlem-by-walter-dean-myers-ill-christopher-myers/
Episode 227 - There's a Nightmare in My Closet
Folks, we are shocked and appalled that none of you have ever yelled at us for never having done a Mercer Mayer book on this podcast. We're onto episode #227 and in all this time, Mr. Mayer has never once graced our eyeballs. Today, we correct this longstanding ill. Take a listen to this if you would like to hear Betsy's off-the-cuff recounting of all the Mercer Mayer books that we haven't done. She also go into tangents on the awfulness of feet in early 80s footie pajamas while Kate engages in The Great Tissue Box Theory.
Not sure how much credence to give to the working theory that this book is referenced in Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare. It's a great idea, but the monsters in this don't really resemble the one in the book. Just our two cents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kum-q6RfPAw
Whereas this video of the book is most certainly narrated by Michael J. Fox. So that's all good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpGPYXSPSxQ
For the full Show Notes please visit: https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/05/23/fuse-8-n-kate-theres-a-nightmare-in-my-closet-by-mercer-mayer/
A Picture Book Podcast Favorite
This podcast has become a “must-listen” for me!
Always charming and funny, they often feature books that I’ve kind of overlooked over the years, given the 20 year old requirement each book has to meet.
I know of no other picture book review resource that focuses on the illustrations AND the text the way this one does — and I appreciate it!
Hi Betsy you know me yes you do your daughter is my best friend.
Yup. This is me Zara. This is so funny so good so AMAZING and just plain great. I love how you describe the books 📚
This is a surpassingly hilarious podcast and one that has been missing from my life for a long time. I burned through three episodes just today and have had so many laugh-out-loud moments which are sorely needed these days.