- Virginia Johnson
Jon Scieszka (pronounce that SHESH-ka) is a wild and crazy guy. Don't leave the man alone in a room with an old-fashioned story. He'll twist it and bend it around 'til it looks like something that should be dripping with cheese and sold at the shopping mall.
His takes on classic tales are so off-the-wall you'll wonder what it would have been like to have him in your class. Let me tell you: it would have been dangerous-for you. He'd sit quietly, and then he'd crack up the other kids without making a sound. THEY would be the ones to get into trouble. Not Jon.
He grew up the second oldest of six rampaging brothers. To hear him tell it, it was a lot of fun. Even the long family car trip with the vomiting cat.*
Clever, crazy Jon went to college. He studied writing. He taught school--both second and eighth grade. He had a great time doing it. He and his wife had two kids along the way. When his daughter got stuck on a single fairy tale, as two-year-olds will, Jon had to read it to her over and over again-as parents will. One day, she could not find her beloved copy of The Gingerbread Man, it occurred to Jon that surely the old woman in the story would run out of gingerbread someday-then what would she use? The Stinky Cheese Man was born, cut out for stardom and a pretty long life because nobody wants to eat a Stinky Cheese Man.
When he first tried to get a publisher to buy his books, it was rough going. He and his partner, illustrator Lane Smith, had created a very funny book--The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! By A. Wolf. But most of the children's publishers thought the humor was way too sophisticated for his readers. Jon knew better. He had taught kids. He had raised kids. He knew they could get his humor. Finally, they found a publisher who saw through to the true coolness of having Mr. A. Wolf tell his side of the story.
The True Story… went on to win a slew of awards, including being named A New York Times Best Book of the Year and making the list for Publishers' Weekly Top Selling Kids' Books of All Time.
Far Out Fairy Tales
Besides The True Story…, Jon and Lane also created The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Stinky Cheese Man shares the pages with Little Red Running Shorts, The Really Ugly Duckling, and other turned about characters.
Does everybody REALLY live happily ever after at the end of a fairy tale. Yes and no. Sometimes the story isn't quite over yet. In The Frog Prince Continued, the pretty princess and her used-to-be-amphibian husband have a hard time adjusting to married life. He hops around on the furniture and sticks out his tongue a lot which is not so conducive to marital bliss. Perhaps it would have been better if he had stayed a frog! Aesop for Today's Kids
Aesop's Fables are classic, instructive tales from long ago that have been read by students for years. There's not a thing in the world wrong with them, but they can be a little quiet and remote for kids who have grown up in the age of video games and skateboards. Enter Jon Scieszka's Squids Will Be Squids: Fresh Morals… Beastly Fables. Here are 18 super quick and funny stories of foolish creatures who just might remind you of some people you know.
School-time Curses and Verses
When Mrs. Fibonacci tells her students, "YOU KNOW, you can think of almost everything as a math problem," the very next day one young man starts to have problems. Math problems. Everywhere. He's under a Math Curse. Everything's a problem! How can he stop turning everything in his life into an equation?!
Science Verse is almost worse than a curse. Mr. Newton has told the class, "You know, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the poetry of science in everything." Silliness rules in the world of Science Verse:
Hey diddle diddle, what kind of riddle
Is this nature of light?
Sometimes it's a wave,
Other times particle…
But which answer will be marked right?
Some of the other verses are: "Scientific Method at Bat," "Astronaut Stopping by the Planet on a Snowy Evening'" and "The Senseless Lab of Professor Revere." Any resemblance to famous poems is NOT coincidental. Links to the original sources are listed in the back of the book.
Time Warp… Again and Again
The Time Warp Trio has a magic book that takes them on journeys to ancient Rome, the Wild West, a pirate ship, Mount Olympus, long ago Egypt, and many other hot spots for time travel. Fred, Sam, and Joe were ordinary guys from Brooklyn until all this time traveling stuff started to happen. Now, life is filled with unpredictable adventures that have a way of going wrong. Example: a friendly game of basketball turns into a chance for an evil Mayan priest to sacrifice the boys to his ancient god!
The Time Warp Trio series is terrific for guys who are not usually fond of reading. There's lots of action, humor, and the books ultra-short. There's also a television tie-in. NBC has started showing episodes of Time Warp Trio on Saturday mornings as part of their Discovery Kids programming.
**See his book, Guys Write for Guys Read, for the dreadful truth on this one.
Look for more about this author on the Web:
Fractured Fairy Tales & Fables with Jon Scieszka
"Explore Fractured Fairy Tales with Jon Scieszka, author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! and Squids Will Be Squids. Use our Classroom Activity Guides for each of the books. Then you can write your own fractured fairy tale and publish it online."
Reading Rockets' Exclusive Interviews: Jon Scieszka
You can listen to clips of the interview or read the entire transcript. Don't miss his Unbelievably True Life Story.
Salon.com: Jon Scieszka's Favorite Children's Stories
Jon shares his favorite children stories with Salon.com readers.