Friday, June 4, 2010

The King of Comedy in children's literature: Jon Scieszka! (ages 3 - 10)

If you and your kids love funny books, head straight for the library and grab a handful of Jon Scieszka's books. Scieszka (rhymes with "Fresca") is truly the King of Comedy for children's books. Whether it's in the little preschool trucks that just bubble over with enthusiasm about crashing into anything and everything in Smash! Crash!, or it's the brothers crossing swords as they pee together in the toilet in his autobiography Knucklehead. He knows how to make boys laugh, girls laugh, parents laugh, and teachers laugh.

Jon Scieszka is driven by the mission of getting kids to enjoy reading. He wants kids, especially ones who've been turned off by assigned books, to find something they like, whether it's funny or scary, crazy or adventurous. He visits schools tirelessly, as these pictures from the Skokie Public Library show. Don't you just love this little guy's laugh as he listened to Scieszka read aloud?

Parents and kids will want to check out the site Guys Read. As Scieszka writes, "Boys often have to read books they don't really like. They don't get to choose what they want to read. And what they do like to read, people often tell them is not really reading." We can help by letting boys choose what they want to read, and by offering them a wide range of books, magazines and comics. Scieszka started this site as a way to inspire boys to share about the books they like, and a place that's especially geared for books that will turn boys onto reading.

Here's a quick sampling of some of my favorite books by Jon Scieszka.

For young kids:

Trucktown series - Jon wrote this series especially for little kids who love to smash into each other. Just picture a preschool playground, where the kids are driving trucks and laughing and laughing as they careen into each other.
Truckery Rhymes
by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by: David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2009
ages 2 - 5
available on Amazon or at your local library
Scieszka teamed up with amazing illustrators Shannon, Long and Gordon to create the look and feel for this series. Here, Scieszka created nursery rhymes with a silly, trucking bent.
Dizzy Izzy
Ready-to-Roll, level 1
by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by: David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2010
ages 3 - 6
available on Amazon
This is the newest in the early reader series for Trucktown: Ready to Roll. This series is aimed at preschoolers and kindergartners just learning to read. Each page has one sentence on it, with simple vocabulary. The pictures are vibrant and engaging. The stories are simple and yet funny - a winning combination.

Picture books for older readers:

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Lane Smith
NY: Viking, 1992
Caldecott Honor Book
ages 6 - 10
available on Amazon and at your local public library
Do you have a kid (or grown-up!) who loves irreverent jokes, who always wants to bend the rules and make folks laugh when they shouldn't? This is the book for you. Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) tells ten fractured fairy tales that will be common to elementary students - from the Princess and the Pea, to the Gingerbread Man. The stories are short, occasionally gross, and always go for a joke. The Really Ugly Duckling just grows up to be a Really Ugly Duck. The prince falls in love and wants his true princess to pass his mother's test, so he puts a bowling ball under her stack of 100 mattresses. And the gingerbread man is really a stinky cheese man that no one wants to chase or have around. This is a great collection for older reluctant readers - kids need to know the fairy tales in order to get the jokes.
The true story of the 3 little pigs
by A. Wolf
as told to Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Lane Smith
NY: Viking, 1989
ages 6 - 10
available on Amazon
Scieszka's bestselling book tells the familiar story of the three little pigs from the wolf's point of view, as Mr. A. Wolf protests that he had no bad intentions that night but just a bad cold. As he went to his neighbor's house to borrow some sugar, he sneezed a terrible sneeze and ended up blowing the pig's house down. It was all the newspaper's fault, exaggerating the circumstances out of control! Older kids will find this hilarious, as the wolf protests he was framed.

Chapter books for reluctant readers:
Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka
by Jon Scieszka
NY: Viking, 2008
ages 7 - 10
available on Amazon or at your local library
In Knucklehead, Scieszka 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).

SPHDZ Book #1!
(part of the Spaceheadz series)
by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Shane Prigmore
with Francesco Sedita
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2010 (June 22nd)
available on Amazon
Scieszka's newest series is Spaceheadz, an irreverent take on kids and advertising. I've just started reading this, but think some kids will love the short chapters, references to ads, and crazy situations that Michael K. finds himself in. Michael K. has just started fifth grade at a new school. On top of that, he's sitting next to some truly strange kids. In fact, they don't seem to be kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. Their mission is to convince 3,400,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But all that these aliens know about Earth they learned from watching TV, listening to the radio, or surfing the Internet. So they talk like walking advertisements, and believe everything they read and see. I'm looking forward to sharing this with some kids, and getting their reactions.

Jon Scieszka has unstoppable energy, knows how to get kids to laugh, and is right on about how to inspire kids, parents and teachers. In my mind, he is truly the King of Comedy for children's books.

The photos are from the Skokie Public Library's Flikr stream, and are shared under the Creative Commons license.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links, a small portion will go toward Great Kid Books at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.


  1. Love your post on one of my all-time favorite authors! I'll have to check out his new series--Spaceheadz...I haven't seen that one yet. Knucklehead had me laughing out loud and I bought copies of it for several adult friends!

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  3. He also wrote Henry P. Baloney, if I'm not mistaken? It's one of our favorite books!

    Child First put together a great list of Tips for Stuggling Readers that I wanted to share with you at

    Pragmatic Mom
    Type A Parenting for the Modern World

    I blog on children's lit, parenting and education

  4. "...the brothers crossing swords as they pee together in the toilet in his autobiography Knucklehead."

    This was actually a topic of conversation in my house this past weekend. Sounds like a phenomenon not limited to my own two boy household. Will have to check this one out for my boys. Thanks for the rec!

  5. Isn't it hilarious when crazy conversations in our own homes actually turn up in books?! I laughed out loud when I read Knucklehead so much - I could just see this bunch of boys growing up.

    The suggestions over at Pragmatic Mom are really helpful, especially "ensure her success". I really believe that most of summer reading should be at the easily achievable level. This is the time to send the message that reading can be something to relax with. To find something that is easy enough to do and enjoy.

    It can be hard, really hard, to find something that's exciting/interesting at the right reading level. That's where you need support as a parent, finding great advice from folks who know kids books.

  6. Great post highlighting an author that writes across reading levels! I haven't seen Jon's newest series so thanks for the heads up on that one! The True Story of the Three Pigs is one of my all time favorite read alouds!

    P.S. Thanks for stopping by my blog! ;)