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Our family came at this a little bit sideways. We picked up The Book That Jack Wrote first, mostly because the paintings by Daniel Adel are absolutely extraordinary, though the rhyme, by Jon Scieszka, based on the classic The House that Jack Built, is fun too. Then I realized that Mr. Scieszka was the author of both The Stinky Cheese Man, which you often see on recommended book lists, and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, which several other authors of childrens' books had chosen as one of their favorites in Salon Magazine several years ago. So now we own all three and read them almost every night.
It's somewhat absurd that we refer to the use of self-reference and the ironic blend of fact and fiction within fiction as post-modern, since such elements were used in one of the first novels ever written, Don Quijote, and have never gone terribly far out of fashion since. Nor is childrens' literature a stranger to these techniques, as a generation of parents who were raised on Jay Ward's Fractured Fairy Tales can well attest. But Mr. Scieszka is an adept practitioner of the style and it does tend to make kids' books easier for adults to read and enjoy.
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs is written from the perspective of Alexander T. Wolf as he explains that the whole story is really just a big misunderstanding, mostly the result of sensationalistic journalism. Meanwhile, The Stinky Cheese Man is a rather more pungent version of the Gingerbread Man, who can't even get anyone to run, run, run as fast as they can to catch him because of the awful stench he gives off. The illustrations in these two, by Lane Smith, are less stunning than those by Mr. Adel in The Book That Jack Wrote, but go well with the somewhat manic mood of the stories.
You can't go wrong with any of the three, but be warned, your kids will require repeated readings of each or all.
Illustrations Grade: B
-ESSAY : Why Johnny Won't Read : Boys will be boys -- and with the right books and role models, they'll be readers, too. (Jon Scieszka, June 2, 2002, Washington Post)
-BOOK LIST : favorites (Jon Scieszka, December 15, 1995, Salon)
-INTERVIEW :The Stinky Interview (ace colhoun, March 11, 1996, The Peak, Simon Fraser University's Student Newspaper
-INTERVIEW : A Chat With Jon Scieszka (Jessica Wood, Summer 2001, The Edge)
-INTERVIEW : Q&A: Lane Smith and Jon Scieszka (Time for Kids, September 25, 1998)
-CHAT WITH JON SCIESZKA (NYPL's "On-Lion" for Kids, April 1998)
-CHAT : Reader's Request, or, YOU ASKED FOR IT (A new, and possibly never-to-be-seen-again, feature in the Horn Book where writers respond instantly to requests from readers) (JON SCIESZKA, November/December 1996 Horn Book Magazine)
-The True Story of Jon Scieszka (Amazon.com)
-Jon Scieszka (KidsReads.com)
-SCIESZKA, JON - Educational Paperback Association
-Jon Scieszka (Wally Hastings's Children's Literature Page)
-Childrens's Book Council - Jon Scieszka
-JON SCIESZKA (Penguin Putnam)
-PROFILE : Jon Scieszka (Jen Graham)
-Jon Scieszka (LINDA MOSBACKER)