Celebrate the 200th Episode of Fuse 8 n’ Kate

As the sisters prepare to record their milestone episode, Betsy Bird and Kate Ramsey discuss the origins of the podcast, some favorite episodes, and plans for the future.

Photo courtesy of Betsy Bird

 

Fuse 8 n’ Kate will celebrate its 200th episode next month. In honor of the occasion, SLJ checked in with the sisters to talk a little podcast history, favorite discussions, and more.

The podcast partnership ­between Betsy Bird (left) and her sister Kate Ramsey began with a conversation in the car.

Bird says she “floated the idea” by her sister when Ramsey moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles; Ramsey tells it this way: “The day I moved back to Chicago from LA, Betsy picked me up from the airport and immediately asked me to do a podcast with her.”

The younger sister wasn’t sure.

“At first I was skeptical, because it sounded like Betsy would be the smart, educated host and I’d sound like the blundering, idiot little sister in every episode,” says Ramsey. “What ended up happening instead was that she would be able to provide context and background information on well-known books to cater to the librarians and teachers who follow along, and I was able to point out things in the books she had never seen before, even after hundreds of readings.”

The first episode dropped on June 15, 2017, as the sisters discussed Tikki Tikki Tembo.

“We could have done something safe, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Where the Wild Things Are,” says Bird. “I wanted something different. So, instead, we dove headfirst into the highly controversial Tikki Tikki Tembo. That book was beloved when I was a kid but it has some major problems, and I wanted us to talk about them.”

Adds Ramsey, “A hell of a book to start with, and certainly not the only racist book we’ve discussed on the show.”

[READ: Fuse 8 n' Kate episode summaries]

Ramsey, who edits each episode, can’t pick a favorite discussion specifically.

“I like pointing out what illustrations I’d like to make into tattoos,” she says. “I like finding animal anuses or naked people in illustrations. There are more out there than you’d think. I like when we bring on guests to discuss books, to get their points of view, like when we brought on illustrator Lucy Knisley on our Shrek episode or our The Day the Babies Crawled Away episode with author Aaron Reynolds.”

Says Bird, “How can I choose? I really like the talks where Kate surprises me with what she’s found in a book. Like Mike Mulligan dabbing or Lyle the Crocodile doing his best Salt Bae impression. But, truthfully, we have the most fun when we discuss terrible books. Our discussion of Berenstain Bears and the Bully has got to be right up there.”

Often, though, the sisters don’t exactly agree on whether or not a book is terrible.

“Who doesn’t like Madeline? I mean, seriously, Kate,” says Bird. “She also liked Rainbow Fish way more than I did.”

Ramsey lists Madeline as one of her top four books they have disagreed on, along with two by Maurice Sendak—Pierre and Where the Wild Things Are—and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems.

“This makes it sound like I hate every book that Betsy gives me, but you have to remember: I come without having any emotional or personal ties to these books,” says Ramsey. “I read the book while we’re recording, so my thoughts and opinions are about 10 minutes old. Many people think books should be ‘classics’ simply because they grew up reading them as a kid and have fond memories—as we heard from a listener recently, regarding The Five Chinese Brothers—but I’m able to look at a book objectively without any bias.”

Ramsey’s commentary is often unexpected, which is part of the appeal of the show. It’s not the typical booktalk.

“I walk into our discussions with a certain set of expectations, but she’s always surprising me with her opinions, that’s for sure,” says Bird. “You know, with six years between us, we weren’t the closest sisters when we were young. Doing this has definitely allowed me to get to know my sister better. My sister and her absolutely wackadoodle opinions on books. Seriously, Kate, who dislikes Madeline?”

Living near each other, and within the same pandemic “bubble,” the podcasters didn’t skip a beat during the coronavirus disruption of the last year and a half.

It’s been more than four years since they started, and there’s no sign of ending anytime soon.

“I don’t think I expected it to go for four-plus years,” says Ramsey. “But I think we’ll keep going as long as people keep listening, and we keep having fun. That, or until we go through every children’s picture book. Whichever comes first. There’s not that many kids’ books out there, right?”

If everything remains on schedule, Episode 200 is set to drop on October 4. The book?

That’s a surprise, says Bird.

Author Image
Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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