Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales......


The Stinky Cheese Man and other fairly stupid tales
     After reading three different versions of Cinderella and a website on Snow White, I was done with the traditional folktale so I went looking for something that I knew my students would love. As I was searching my teacher's book shelf in my classroom I came across a copy of The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales. Even though it had been in my collection for a while I had never read it. I originally bought for my son when we were doing the nightly reading battle in elementary school. I struggled to find books that he would enjoy and finish. Once I discovered Jon Scieszka's books and his Guys Read program, my life became easier, and Jon Scieszka became richer because I bought everything he'd ever written.  I don't really get them, but my son and my students love them and most importantly, they READ them which is my goal.

     The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales is a collection of nine or maybe 10 fractured fairy tales if you count the Little Red Hen attempting to tell her story. The narrator of the collection is Jack from the Jack and the Bean Stalk story. As you read the book, Jack has direct conversations with the reader about things that are going on in the story. Jack has several responsibilities in the story, he organizes the text features, he deals with difficult fairy tale characters, and he saves himself from the Giant. All the tales have quirky characters that fail to follow the traditional tale. The Little Red Hen starts her story too early, barges into other tales, and never really gets to finish her tale thanks to her warm bread and the Giant. Jack reveals to much of the Little Red Running Shorts tale so the Wolf and Little Red walk out of the book leaving a blank page. The Giant protests Jack always tricking him so he wrote his own mixed up fairy tale. Jack has to keep his wits about him to trick the Giant into letting him go by putting in fake end papers. All the tales go in different directions than the reader expects making it a hilarious read for children.

     After doing a little research on the book I learned that The Stinky Cheese Man was the first story that Jon Scieszka had ever written. It wasn't until Lane Smith's illustrations were add to the book that it was picked up by Viking Publishers and earned a 1993 Caldecott Honor. Lane Smith's illustrations help the story feel even more chaotic and fractured. Instead of beautifully illustrated imagines traditional fairy tales use, he uses odd colors, layering his illustrations, and random fonts and type set to highlight the quirkiness of the story. He and his book designer wife, Molly Leach, worked on the layout so that it fit the story. On his web site he says... "The greatest book designer working today. She has designed nearly all of my books. When she designed the Stinky Cheese Man back in 1992 folks called it a “watershed moment.” Suddenly every designer wanted to make books with crazy type and upside-down pages. The problem is it is very hard to do unless you know how. Molly knows how."  Their quirky style of layout and illustration invites those hard to interest non-readers into the story and then traps them there till they have been tricked into finishing the story. Jack would be proud.  

     What I love about this story is that it's target audience is the hard to reach boy reader. Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith can remember being children and now write the type of stuff  that they liked to read. I loved this quote fro Lane Smith's web site he says... "I do not know your child. But I will say I do not subscribe to the notion that every book is for every child. I make the kinds of books that I liked as a kid. I don’t like ordinary, middle-of-the-road books. I like funny, odd books that excite and challenge a child. There are enough people doing nice books about manners and feelings and magical unicorns. I do not do those kinds of books. 
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales was not written for me so my opinion really does not matter. What matters is that children love it, fractured tales, quirky illustrations, and all. It's a must have for any classroom! 

1 comment:

  1. I had forgotten all about this book! Thank you for bringing back good memories! It's now on my Amazon wish students will love it, too! :)