If you don’t have one of Jon Scieszka’s books on your kid’s shelf, get thee to your local bookstore now. His stories are smart, subversive and filled with the kind of irreverent subjects that kids love.
Our favorite, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, tells the well-known story from the wolf’s perspective. (What happened? He was set up by the man. Uh, or, by the pig.) His The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales earned its place as a Caldecott Honor book by skewering classic fairy tales. (The ugly duckling grows up to be . . . an ugly duck!)
In January, the Library of Congress named Scieszka the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a role he accepts with equal measure of gravitas and goofiness. He heads a group called Guys Read, which tries to encourage literacy for boys. And you can happily lose twenty minutes surfing his website, which has something called “Ask Beef Snak Stick!” that . . . well . . . you just have to see it for yourself.
Babble caught up with Scieszka (rhymes with “Fresca”) on tour for Trucktown, a series of books about trucks that act like preschoolers. He talked about what it was like growing up as one of five brothers, the origins of the Stinky Cheese Man and why children’s authors should aim higher than the fart joke. – Jennifer V. Hughes
So are there any perks that come with the position of Ambassador for Children’s Literature? Diplomat parking in NYC? I’m envisioning maybe a military-style uniform with gold epaulettes.
Everyone loves to speculate on what comes with that. I keep asking the Library of Congress guy for my helicopter. I’m hoping to get a cape soon. Diplomatic immunity would definitely be good.
How did you come up with the idea for The True Story of The Three Little Pigs?
I think it came from growing up with five brothers – we always blamed someone else when anything happened. It also came out of teaching second grade for a few years and those little guys, that’s just what they loved. It’s about messing around with a fairy tale they know so well. I actually get a ton of mail from kids who write a fairy tale and then they mess it up.
Really? Like what?
I had one little guy write me a version of “The Princess and the Pea” written by the pea. It was very short: “Oh. It’s dark. I can’t see anything.” (Laughs.) I thought it was brilliant in a really twisted way.