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Friday, April 29, 2011

Jon Scieszka (+ some fairly stupid tales... :P)

The Stinky Cheese Man, and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
Jon Scieszka

The author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs provides a riotous romp through fairy-tale-land that will have readers clutching their sides happily ever after. Full-color oil paintings.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
Jon Scieszka

Now fans of the delightful The True Story of the Three Little Pigs can hear the story read aloud in inimitable style by Jon Scieszka. Side one features a reading of the story accompanied by music, while side two offers a toe-tapping original soundtrack by composer Kurt Hoffman.

I still remember having The True Story of the Three Little Pigs read aloud to my 2nd grade class, and how much we all loved it.  I mean, everybody knows the 3 Little Pigs.  You start reciting it to a group of kids, and they're going to deafen you with "I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'LL BLOW YOUR HOUSE DOWN!"  It's like a childhood rite.
So to have the tale completely flipped on its head was something so new to me at that age, and Scieszka did it in such a fun tongue-in-cheek way, mixing modern humor and elements with the traditional tale to create a tabloid-style retelling.  It's something that always stuck with me.

Everything about the book just sort of worked.  The illustrations are full page things of wonder, with such a fun style.  The illustrations by Lane Smith are disctinive - a mix of exaggerated shapes and characters done in a grainy newsprint style, with quirky modern elements thrown in, like a cassette tape (okay, modern for when it was published...) and a microphone, etc.  Little touches that reinforce to the reader that "A. Wolf" is telling his story to the presses, trying to clear his name. The subtle-but-silly humor of the story is carried over into the pictures, and I like that.  And stylistically,  it stands out, too.  You see that shady wolf and the little piggy feet in the air, and you know just which book you're looking at.  In my class, we were allowed to take books home on occasion, and I remember taking this one and just poring over the illustrations and the newspaper clippings in it.

Years later, when I was working in a nursery in high school, I came across another of Scieszka's books that tackles -- ie "fractures" -- fairy tales: The Stinky Cheese Man (and Other Fairly Stupid Tales), and it reminded me of how much I'd loved his take on the 3LP.  Each "fairly stupid" tale in The Stinky Cheese Man is short and utterly silly.  Some of the stories don't even really follow the typical story arc - the first one, a take on Chicken Little, ends abruptly when the characters are crushed by the falling Table of Contents, which the narrator forgot to include in the beginning:

The book has a funny frenetic feel, with Jack doing a laughably inept job of trying to narrate and wrangle characters who keep butting in, crossing over to each other's stories, or highjacking the book completely to tell their own odd tales, like the Giant does with this little prize winner:

The titles, too, are fantastic and silly, like Cinderumpelstiltskin: or, the Girl Who Really Blew It.  How can you not like that?   Or the retelling of the Ugly Duckling, who doesn't mind that he's made fun of because he's confident he's going to grow up to be a beautiful swan...except it doesn't quite work out that way for him...

Looking back on them now, there's some good subtle humor in their for the adults, too.  Silly harmless stuff that gives you a little chuckle as you read them to your kids or your class.  If you haven't read these, pick them both up and share them with a kid in your life.  They're such a great blend of silly inventiveness and parody.  Seriously, you won't regret it.


  1. loved both these when I was a kid! I remember carrying around Stinky Cheese Man anytime my parents had people over because I thought it was so cool, hahaha. I was so mature.

    Not much has changed actually, maybe I should dig it out of storage so I can carry it around campus ;)

  2. I LOVED these books when I was young. I remember my second grade teacher reading them and we had a grand time every time.

  3. OMG!!!! I totally remember reading this wwaaaaay back when. Aw, I'm so tempted to pick up a copy for my little sister!


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