“Fables have been around for thousands of years. And it’s no wonder. Because even thousands of years ago, people were bright enough to figure out that you could gossip about anybody – as long as you changed their name to something like “Lion” or “Mouse” or “Donkey” first.” I thought this is the perfect beginning to this review, an excerpt from “Squids will be Squids “.
Or maybe rather this one? “A long time ago, people used to tell magical stories of wonder and enchantment. Those stories were called Fairy Tales. Those stories are not in this book. The stories in this book are almost Fairy Tales. But not quite. The stories in this book are Fairly Stupid Tales.” Got it. That’s the beginning of “The Stinky Cheese Man.”
This is the quirky, sarcastic and very distinct voice Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith use in all their books. Christopher brought The Stinky Cheese Man home from the school library and we all fell in love with it. As a matter of fact, it’s funnier to read these books as an adult than it is to read them as a kid. I would say that 10 is the perfect age to really “get” it, but Christopher loves the books, even if he doesn’t get every joke (but doesn’t know that), and he’s just 7.
In the Stinky Cheese Man, the story teller, who is part of the story, tells a hotchpotch of slightly re-framed fairy tales, with a mad hen screaming about her wheat and who would sow it and make bread of it popping up in between each non-story variation of another fairy tale. Eventually, the hen gets eaten by the giant… because she couldn’t be quiet… The giant really wanted to eat Jack, the storyteller, so Jack started telling a never-ending story so he wouldn’t be eaten (literally), but it was sort of a hen-screaming-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time kind of deal and the giant ate the hen instead. If you just had to read this paragraph twice to understand it, you now have the feeling of the writing style!
The book includes everything from non-endings to empty pages because Jack, the storyteller, had recapped the story so well already, that the actors left and didn’t want to tell the story “again”… but the authors had assigned 3 pages to them in the book, so now that they had left, one page was left over… hence: Blank. Get it? It’s like a reality-show-behind-the-scenes-of-fairy-tales-kind-of deal. Too funny! You’ll laugh more than your kiddos!
Here’s another excerpt from “Squids Will Be Squids,” where the author mostly makes up little silly stories to then come up with an even sillier moral of the story. You already read the preset to this book in the opening paragraph. So here is my favorite story… uhm, fable:
It was the end of summer vacation. Straw had done everything he could think of. (And there’s a little bundle of straw painted like a little dude) He was bored. So he went over to play with someone he had been warned to stay away from. “Let’s play checkers,” said Straw. “Okay I’m the red ones I get to move first I get two moves and you get one,” said Matches. “Forget it,” said Straw. “Let’s play Ping-Pong instead.” “Okay I get the good paddle you stand on that side I get to serce first and you have to close one eye,” said matches. “Never mind,” said Straw. “Maybe we should just watch TV.” “Okay you sit over there on the floor I’ll sit on the couch I get the remote and we have to watch my favorite video,” said Matches. “I think I hear my mom calling,” said Straw. “I’d better go.” And the moral: Don’t play with matches.
Wait… wasn’t this post called a book review for The Stinky Cheese Man and all we’ve reviewed almost nothing but Squids Will Be Squids? Why, now you get it! This is the groove of this wonderful author. And what’s the moral here: Writers will put anything in the headline to get your attention, click on it and keep reading the post just to get to the point where it talks about what was in the headline. And then that point may never come, but you still read it. Huh? Exactly! 🙂
Alright, let’s review some Stinky Cheese Man. Here is the almost-beginning of it, so you get a real taste (not of the Stinky Cheese Man. No one wanted to eat HIM):
Once upon a time, Chicken Licken was standing around when a piece of something fell on her head. She wasn’t the brightest thing on two legs, so she started running around in circles clucking, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We must tell the President!” Chicken Licken ran to her friend Ducky Lucky and clucked, “Ducky Lucky! Ducky Lucky! The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We must tell the President!” “Let’s go,” quacked Ducky Lucky. Chicken Licken and Ducky Lucky ran to their friend Goosey Loosey and yelled, “Goosey Loosey! Goosey Loosey! The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We must tell the President!” “Let’s go,” honked Goosey Loosey. Chicken Licken, Ducky Lucky, and Goosey Loosey ran to their friend Cocky Locky and yelled, “Cocky Locky! Cocky Locky! The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We must tell the President!” “Let’s go,” crowed Cocky Lockey.
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” cried Jack the Narrator. “I forgot the Table of Contents! I forgot the Table of Contents!” “Hey, you’re not in this story,” said Chicken Licken. “I know,” said Jack the Narrator. “But I came to warn you. The Table of Contents is –“ “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” clucked Chicken Licken. “We must tell the President!” So Chicken Licken, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey and Cocky Locky ignored Jack the Narrator and ran off to catch a plane to Washington. Just outside the airport they met Foxy Loxy. “Foxy Loxy! Foxy Loxy! The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We must tell the President!” yelled Chicken Licken, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Cocky Locky. “Well, come with me,” said Foxy Loxy. “I know a shortcut to the airport.” Foxy Loxy led Chicken Licken, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Cocky Locky to his cave. He didn’t get to eat them though, because Chicken Licken was almost right. The sky wasn’t falling.
The Table of Contents was. It fell and squashed everybody. The End.
What are my thoughts of these books? 2 thumbs up! What creative, extraordinary writers! I have all the respect to them as a writer myself. It takes some imagination and work to come up with such cool concepts and execute them in a way that’s funny for kids AND adults alike. I would call none of the stories inappropriate (even though some of them make a fairly stupid point) for even the littlest kids. They won’t get them or think they’re funny of they’re too young, but I don’t think there’s any harm done with getting these books. Most likely, the whole family will get some good laughs out if it. And hopefully pass them on! 🙂