April 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Lowdown on Bird’s “Fuse #8 TV”


Photo of Betsy Bird by Sonya Sones.

Are you up on your Fuse #8 TV? If not, no better time to binge-watch than the present. Whether the show’s host, Betsy Bird, is interviewing authors or touring museum exhibitions, she laces her web TV series with the same humor, insight, and snark that her followers expect from her blog, A Fuse #8 Production. With trademark whimsy, Bird continues to keep librarians informed, aware, and, of course, entertained, about the latest in the world of kid lit and librarianship.

A popular feature includes the segment “Reading (Too Much into) Picture Bools,” in which Bird dreams up conspiracy theory interpretations of well-known titles. It’s a nod to the ways that classic works of children’s lit have been interpreted (and misinterpreted) over the years.

Each episode is published on the third Thursday of the month on SLJ.com, and they can also be accessed on YouTube. In her latest episode (there are six, so far), Bird riffs on a running exchange in P.D. Eastman’s classic Go Dog Go, in which a female dog, after many unsuccessful attempts, finally impresses another canine with a lavish hat at a big party. Bird quips to the camera, “Now, little girls, if you ask a boy to pay attention to you and he’s a total jerk to you over and over again, and then [later], there’s this crazy nice party, and he’s nice to you and says to get in his car with you…don’t go. Don’t go!”

Bird has also spent screen time touring the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and chatting with authors and illustrators including Jennifer NivenVictoria Jamieson, and Henry Clark.

With books front and center, Bird packs each episode with the same tongue-in-cheek references and asides that pepper her blog posts. In the picture book conspiracy-themed episode, she uses Ed Emberley’s Go Away, Big Green Monster! (Little, Brown, 1992) as a farcical example. Bird brings up various political events for which the book could be a metaphor, before finally “deciding” that the monster on the cover represented former presidential candidate Ross Perot, due to its large ears.

Recorded live and sponsored by different publishers, NPR-style, the Fuse #8 TV episodes took some inspiration from Bird and Lori Prince’s Oscars-style pregame and postgame shows about the Youth Media Awards (YMA), launched in 2014. Recorded at SLJ’s offices and aired live on the morning of the awards ceremony at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, the shows feature Bird and Prince bantering about books they think will be slam-dunk winners—and their astonished, delighted, and befuddled reactions to the YMA outcome.

Bird’s arch sensibility is bringing out the fans on social media. A Twitter follower recently quipped, “Go Dog Go was my son’s favorite book. Now I find I was teaching him to prey on women all that time! The horror! ;)”

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.