Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Funny stories of growing up: Knucklehead, by Jon Scieszka

If you like funny books, and I seem to be on a funny book spell right now, you MUST check out Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka, by Jon Scieszka. This is a truly laugh-out-loud, every chapter sort of book. It's the sort of book that will have kids wanting to look inside from just the cover, and have them clutching their sides from laughing too hard. And all this, with an autobiography - that stodgiest of forms (NOT!).
Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka N.Y.: Viking, 2008. ages 7 - 10
Jon Scieszka has written over two dozen children's books, ranging from The True Story of the Three Little Pigs to The Time Warp Trio series. In Knucklehead, he writes about his own childhood - what it was like to grow up as one of six boys in Flint, Michigan in the 1950s and 1960s. Each short chapter tells a different family story. These stories are hilarious - about all the trouble six boys will get into. I loved one teacher's comments after reading a few chapters aloud to her class: "
When I read a few chapters aloud to my students, they were literally in hysterics. There were shouts of, “I’ve done that!” and “My mom would flip out if she knew I did this stuff, too!”. It especially seemed to connect with boys but I had quite a few girls ask to get on the waiting list, too." (see The Reading Zone for her full review).

Here's a preview video to whet your appetite (courtesy of Penguin's new Screening Room):

This chapter had me laughing aloud - it brought back memories of kids throwing up in the car, cat throw up, long car trips, and of course kids piled into a station wagon:

Chapter 33: Car Trip

Of all the Scieszka brother memories, I believe it was a family car trip that gave us our finest moment of brotherhood. We were driving cross-country from Michigan to Florida, all of us, including the family cat (a guy cat, naturally), in the family station wagon. Somewhere mid-trip we stopped at one of those Stuckey's rest-stop restaurants to eat and load up on Stuckey's candy.

We ate lunch, ran around like maniacs in the warm sun, then packed back into the station wagon—Mom and Dad up front, Jim, Jon, Tom, Gregg, Brian, Jeff, and the cat in back. Somebody dropped his Stuckey's Pecan Log Roll on the floor. The cat found it and must have scarfed every bit of it, because two minutes later we heard that awful ack ack ack sound of a cat getting ready to barf.

The cat puked up the pecan nut log. Jeff, the youngest and smallest (and closest to the floor) was the first to go. He got one look and whiff of the pecan-nut cat yack and blew his own sticky lunch all over the cat. The puke-covered cat jumped on Brian. Brian barfed on Gregg. Gregg upchucked on Tom. Tom burped a bit of Stuckey lunch back on Gregg. Jim and I rolled down the windows and hung out as far as we could, yelling in group-puke horror.

All in all, Knucklehead has everything that you'd want in summer reading for kids who might be a bit reluctant to pick something up: lots of laughs, body humor (just ask them about "crossing swords"), funny pictures and short chapters.

If you'd like to read more, check out these links:
Fuse #8's review
NPR Weekend Edition story
The Reading Zone - a teacher's review

Find it at your local public library, an independent bookstore near you, or Amazon.


  1. Hey, thank you for the advice. I will try the book. I read to my son every night and I like a book that make me and him laugh. We seem to bond better.

  2. What a marvelous book this sounds to be. Just in my taste. I found you because I am perusing blogposts that mention Stuckey's, as I just blogged about Stuckey's a moment ago...

    Have a great day!

  3. I'm a public librarian and have taken it on school outreach visits. Students just crack up when I read an excerpt from Knucklehead. The next day, children will come in and ask for it. Jon Scieszka is a very funny man!

  4. This book is so funny! We try to book talk it whenever we have a chance.