The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Sciezka & Lane Smith
Whoppers, Tall Tales and Other Lies: Collected from American Folklore by Alvin Schwartz
A Weave of Words: An Armenian Tale Retold by Robert D. San Souci, Illustrated by Raul Colon
Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella by Susan Lowell, Illustrated by Jane Manning
Scieszka, Jon. 1992. The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales. Ill. by Lane Smith. New York:
Scholastic. ISBN 0590476769
Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieska & Lane Smith is an interactive collection of fractured
fairy tales. These twists on the old fairy tales contain absolutely no moral lessons to be learned. Yet they have earned many
awards, to include the Caldecott Honor Book, ABBY Honor Book, School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, Publishers Weekly
Top Selling Kids Books of All Time List, and ALA Notable Children's Book.
The book jumpstarts with a rant by the
Little Red Hen followed by Jack, (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame), narrating. Jack walks, gallops, crawls and races us through
very different versions of the traditional fairy tales all the while pursued by the Little Red Hen, anxious to tell her tale.
Luckily the Giant (of the Beanstalk) makes her into a tasty snack along the way.
Although the book states that the illustrations
were rendered in oil and vinegar, they are predominately mixed media which dominate the pages only to be overcome by the ridiculously
incongruous use of type. The type runs all over the pages, changes font size and is even upside down at points. It is so unique
and intertwined with the illustrations that it is actually an illustration!
Kids love this book; I read it to a group
of fourth graders who howled in delight when the Stinky Cheese Man (think Gingerbread Man) tried to get anyone to chase him.
The illustrations are so vivid you can almost smell the stench. Even the cow’s eyes rolled back in her head and her
tongue appeared to stretch a good three feet in disgust. The sentence from the book, “If we catch him, our teacher will
probably make us eat him….” led to a very interesting discussion on how to make stinky cheese. I probably should
have sent a note home warning the parents!
reminded me of a cartoon I watched as a child, I believe on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’s Fractured Fairy Tales. I
loved the idea then but had to let go of the grownup in me to enjoy it this time. On the third reading, I found it hilarious.
Jon Scieszka and illustrator Lane Smith, who also created The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, succeed with another hilariously
warped version of the stories we grew up with.
Stephanie Zvirin, reviewer for Booklist,
said about The Stinky Cheese Man author and illustrator “…while their humor [Scieszka and Smith] won’t appeal
to everyone, their endeavors will still attract a hefty following of readers---from 9 to 99.”
Zvirin, Stephanie. 1992. The Stinky
Cheese Man and other fairly stupid tales. (book review). Booklist. September 1992, p. 56.
Schwartz, Alvin. 1975. Whoppers, Tall Tales and Other Lies Collected from American Folklore. Ill.
by Glen Rounds. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0937315759
Tall Tales and Other Lies Collected from American Folklore’s preface explains that “the book is a pack of
lies…about something that never happened and never would. And each is the work of a liar who lied just for the fun of
it.” Imagine the irresistible appeal of being able to lie as exuberantly as possible just for the fun of it.
This is the fifth book written by Alvin
Schwartz and illustrated by Glen Rounds they have collaborated on. Some of the whoppers are funny immediately, some really
aren’t and others need to be repeated a couple times to make sure it really couldn’t be true. For example:
hogs on this place are so thin and scrawny; they have to stand in the same place twice to cast a shadow.”
I shared this collection with five third
graders and they commenced to making up the biggest most amazing lies they could think of. They were thrilled with the prospect
that “tall tale lying” as one boy entitled it, couldn’t get them in trouble. I then had to backtrack and
lay some ground rules for telling tall tales. “To be used for entertainment only, not to get yourself out of trouble.”
The book covers every possible aspect of
tall tales from the weather to animals and insects to ordinary people and objects, including a man who ran so fast he not
only ran out of his clothes but his underwear too! The illustrations follow the story and are in simple pen and ink sketches
yet convey the comedic meaning immediately. The man who painted a dog so realistically that it bit him is portrayed as jumping
backward while the dog leaps off the canvas, fangs at the ready.
This collection is recommended for anyone
who is having a hard day and needs a smile or a huge belly laugh as the people in this book definitely have had worse days
and managed to tell tales about it!
Lowell, Susan. 2000. Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella.Ill.
by Jane Manning. U.S.A.HarperCollins. ISBN 0060274668
Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella is a delightful turn on the traditional telling of Cinderella. Take a pretty
little girl with a mean stepmother and stepsisters made to work all day around the ranch and add a wacky fairy godmother with
attitude and a golden six gun.
The fairy godmother makes
her entrance as Cindy Ellen weeps because she can’t go to the rodeo with her stepsisters. When asked by Cindy Ellen
to help her go to the rodeo, the fairy godmother responds,
“Magic is plumb worthless without gumption. What you need first gal, is some gravel in your gizzard. Grit! Guts!
Stop that tomfool blubbering, and let’s get busy. Time’s a wastin’.”
So, in addition to the
“creamy white Stetson, golden buckskin chaps and spurs set with diamonds as big as sugar lumps,” Cindy Ellen learns
to believe in herself. She goes to the rodeo, wows the audience and the rancher’s son Joe Prince with her confidence
and rodeo abilities and then rides home before . The scene is repeated the
next night for the square dance, Cindy Ellen is warned,
“Remember Miss Cindy, pretty is as pretty does, magic can backfire…”
After dancing with the
handsome cowboy all night, Cindy barely leaves by the last stroke of leaving
behind a tiny spur with a big diamond on it. Joe Prince travels the countryside searching for the mystery cowgirl. When trying
the spur on one of the sisters, who jammed her feet into too small boots, the spur fit for a second before “the boot split open, and her toes popped out like puppies from a basket.”
Cindy of course appears,
the spur fits and they live happily ever after. What is interesting is Cindy’s family moves to town, the stepsisters
marry city slickers and everyone lives happily ever after.
The illustrations are
bright watercolors. Each two page spread has a full page illustration on one side and illustrations wrapped around the text
on the other. The pictures are part of the story; the facial expressions are so descriptive the reader will smile. When Cindy’s
spur fits, her stepsisters and stepmother glare from the opposite page while her horse laughs with delight.
This is a wonderful story
especially for a little girl who might need a little dose of gumption and grit. The prose is very descriptive and actually
almost sing-song in parts. It is filled with colloquialisms, rodeo terms and western phrases but with the vibrant illustrations,
the reader knows exactly what is happening.
I brought home a large stack
of Cinderella versions from the library to choose for this assignment. This one was picked because my daughter liked Cindy’s
spirit and that Cindy had her own horse.
Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella isn’t the best, most thoughtful version of Cinderella available but
it does show that with a little gumption, things can work out in the end.
San Souci, Robert D.1998. A Weave of Words, an Armenian tale.Ill. by Raúl Colón.
NY Orchard Books. ISBN 0531300536
Weave of Words, an Armenian tale retold by Robert D. San Souci and beautifully illustrated by Raúl Colón is a wonderful
work of art. The story begins a bit like Beauty and the Beast with spoiled lazy
Prince Vachagan and a beautiful hardworking Anait, daughter of a peasant. The prince meets her when out hunting, falls in
love with her beauty and wisdom and asks for her hand in marriage. Anait refuses upon learning that the prince can not read
or write and has no trade or skill. Prince Vachagan responds, “But one day I will be king!” Anait replies wisely,
“Times change. A king may become a servant.” She asks that to prove his love he should learn to read and write
and be able to create a handiwork of his own.”
Prince Vachagan returns to his palace,
unable to forget Anait, he learns to read and write and through much perseverance to weave. They were married, and it became
Anait’s turn to become the student. She learned to ride and use a sword and assisted her husband in governing the kingdom.
When trouble in the east threatens their
kingdom, Vachagan, now king, rides out, dressed as a hunter, to investigate. He is taken prisoner by an evil dev and only
saved from death because he claims to be able to weave carpets of great value. When one of his carpets is taken to the queen
to purchase, she reads the message woven into its border and sets out to rescue her husband. After a horrific battle where
Anait fought boldly even when her soldiers retreated, Vachagan is rescued.
The lush illustrations created with watercolor
washes, etchings, colored and litho pencils enrich the well written text. As the storyline unfolds the illustrations mirror
the action. The colors become more golden as the couple joyously marry and subtly change with shades of red and browns as
Vachagan is imprisoned by the evil dev and chained in the cave. These mixed media illustrations are multi layered with a depth
that draws the reader into the story as the words flow in harmony alongside.
The text ends with the grateful and happy
couple exchanging “as many kisses as pomegranate has seeds.” And also with a wish for the reader—
“So they attained their heart’s desire, and may you likewise