Books by Jon Scieszka

Former teacher, Jon Scieszka, founded the Guys Read literacy initiative in response to the struggle many boys face with reading—a struggle that can have a negative impact on their self-esteem, their success in school, and their futures. He is the enormous

Released: Sept. 10, 2019

"A winning mix of fun and fact—readers will be eager for the next mission. (Graphic/science fiction hybrid. 7-11)"
Science and silliness intersect when four animal friends research a planet. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2015

"Scieszka's mission to provide quality books for boys succeeds again, though, of course, girls will be just as horrified as the boys. (Anthology. 9-12)"
The sixth volume in the Guys Read "Library of Great Reading" offers 10 stories to freak you out, "so scary you'd pee in your pants." Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 25, 2015

"Halfway through the series, the science and the sly (and slapstick) laughs are still going strong. (Science fiction/humor. 6-10)"
Can kid genius Frank Einstein improve on the human body? Read full book review >
Released: March 17, 2015

"There's so much actual information here that the story could pass as a textbook, but science and Scieszka fans won't likely mind. (Science fiction/humor. 8-10)"
Kid genius Frank Einstein's back for a second shocking (and silly) science adventure. Read full book review >
RACE FROM A TO Z by Jon Scieszka
Released: Oct. 21, 2014

"Clever fun, swooshing with motion and energy, this latest in the series will keep readers racing their engines for more. (Alphabet picture book. 4-8)"
Another in Scieszka's Trucktown series, this one features a boisterous truck race from A to Z. Read full book review >
TRUE STORIES by Jon Scieszka
Released: Sept. 16, 2014

"An unusually strong volume—a smorgasbord for young nonfiction readers (both boys and girls) and a good pick for the classroom. (Short stories. 8-14)"
A stellar lineup of nonfiction writers offers true stories, which, like the previous volumes in the Guys Read series, are written to appeal especially to boys. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 26, 2014

"Less wacky (and more instructive) than Scieszka's Spaceheadz series—but just as much fun. (Science fiction/humor. 8-12)"
Scieszka mixes science and silliness again to great effect. Read full book review >
BATTLE BUNNY by Jon Scieszka
Released: Oct. 22, 2013

"An enthusiastically taboo, devil-may-care outing for combat fans—and a great writing inspiration to use on old books headed for the bin. (Picture book. 5-10)"
What if a creative, military-obsessed kid took a pencil and went to town on a boring old book? Read full book review >
OTHER WORLDS by Jon Scieszka
edited by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Greg Ruth
Released: Sept. 17, 2013

"The perennially tantalizing 'What if…' gets an above-average workout here. (author bios; not seen) (Short stories. 10-13)"
The fourth Guys Read collection presents an all-star lineup with nine new stories and one oldie-but-goody. Read full book review >
SPACEHEADZ by Jon Scieszka
Released: Aug. 27, 2013

"Secret codes…science and math tidbits…hamster-translation websites…and the odd flying whale. ULTRA FRESH! (Humorous science fiction. 7-10)"
With the evil SPHDZ in control of the Brainwave, is there any hope left for mankind…or hamsterkind? Read full book review >
WHO DONE IT? by Jon Scieszka
Released: Feb. 12, 2013

"Clever in small doses—tedious after the first few dozen entries. (author bios) (Belles lettres. 10-12)"
A routine writing exercise filled with in-jokes and carried to ridiculous extremes by a mammoth stable of YA and children's authors. Read full book review >
THE SPORTS PAGES by Jon Scieszka
Released: Sept. 8, 2012

"The stories here offer action, humor and lessons about life and may well do the trick of connecting boys and books. (Short stories. 9-13)"
Ten writers and athletes contribute sports stories written exclusively for this volume. Read full book review >
SPACEHEADZ by Jon Scieszka
Released: Sept. 20, 2011

Alien Spaceheadz approach their goal of recruiting 3.14 million + one Earthling SPHDZ…can they save Earth!?

Fifth grader Michael K. and his human friends Venus and TJ have done a whizbang job of helping advertisement-spewing, oddball aliens Bob, Jennifer and Major Fluffy (their leader and hamster) recruit. The SPHDZ counter falls only a bit short, so Bob and Jennifer decide to ask Santa Claus for the final SPHDZ needed to save the Earth from being turned off. Little do they know, the Santa they're waiting in line to see is none other than Agent Umber of the Anti-Alien Agency! Michael K. & co. avert disaster, and the SPHDZ Counter hits its goal…then starts counting backwards! Evil Aliens are stealing the earthlings' Brainwave (the sum of the collected SPHDZ) for their own nefarious ends! Feeling betrayed, Michael K. gives up. Meanwhile, Mom K. and Dad K.'s secret lives (ZIA Agent and Secret Ad man) are on a collision course. Can Spaceheadz with unlikely allies get Michael K. back on board and save the cosmos? Scieszka and Prigmore deliver the most madcap installment yet in their uber-illustrated series. Surprise villains (foreshadowed in previous volumes)! Surprise interstellar-parking-lot plans! Surprise doughnut upchuck! Nonfiction interludes on networks, group intelligence and symbiosis—not to mention the goofy websites—add to the fun.

Fans will be in heaven, especially at the certainty of further installments. (Humorous science fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
THRILLER by Jon Scieszka
Released: Sept. 20, 2011

"This anthology is brimming with choice stuff for guys who appreciate the uncanny, the uncouth and the un-put-down-able. (Short stories. 9-13)"
This second collection in the Guys Read series packs a dizzying punch. Read full book review >
SPACEHEADZ by Jon Scieszka
Released: Dec. 1, 2010

Tapped to save the world by advertisement-spouting alien SPHDZ Jen and Bob (who resemble human kids), beleaguered fifth grader Michael K. continues his quest to recruit 3.14 million earthlings to be Spaceheadz lest the Earth be turned off. Even more beleaguered Anti-Alien Agency Agent Umber continues his quest to find the aliens in or near Brooklyn PS 858. Michael K. has some help in new friends Venus and TJ, but the whole group has to act as Big Buddies to the kindergarteners and help with their class play, while Spaceheadz General Accounting has given them one hour to get 1 million new Spaceheadz (thank goodness one Spaceheadz hour equals 700 Earth hours). Can they boost recruitment without giving themselves away? Will Agent Umber ever succeed at anything? Will the plumbing at PS 858 survive the surplus World War II rations the kids all eat? The second volume in Scieszka and Prigmore's nutty, antic series offers more goofy fun with some pretty obvious setup for episode three. The integrated websites will be updated and supplemented to extend the laughs. CLINICALLY PROVEN entertainment for fans old and new! (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
FUNNY BUSINESS by Jon Scieszka
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

"Your brain is doing some great work when it's laughing," states evangelist Scieszka in this humorous anthology, the first of a proposed Guys Read series that promises to cover a range of genres. Each tale is geared toward boys and sometimes relies on gross humor for laughs. "Will," by Adam Rex is a standout. Will attends a school for kids with super talents and hero abilities. When his class is attacked by a supervillian in a gadget-ridden exoskeleton, mayhem and the unexpected unfold, driven by quick-witted dialogue. On the flipside, "A Fistful of Feathers," by David Yoo, is a distressing tale in which Sam's dad has decided to make him less girly by buying him a live turkey that will be eaten on Thanksgiving. As Dad begins to favor the weirdly talented turkey over him, Sam's actions begin to verge on sociopathy. These tales are not for the faint of heart: The content doesn't shy away from dangerous stunts, damaged flesh, alien-body takeovers and switch-wielding grandpas. In other words, utterly dude worthy. (Short stories. 9-13)Read full book review >
SPACEHEADZ by Jon Scieszka
Released: June 22, 2010

P.S. 858 fifth grader Michael K. had hoped for a normal first day in his new school, but what he gets is crazy-weird. He's paired with two other new students, Bob (who talks like a commercial) and Jennifer (who sounds like a wrestling announcer), who seem to know him and who think he can do anything. They and their loquacious hamster, Major Fluffy, even say that they are aliens sent to Earth to recruit SPHDZ. They are sure Michael K can help them recruit 3.14 million kids—if not, the Earth will be turned off! While Michael K. is trying to figure out how to escape or at least mitigate the total weirdstorm, Agent Umber of the Anti-Alien Agency is hot on the trail. With this series kick-off, Scieszka and Sedita have just written the book (literally) on how to integrate new media into a "traditional" book for children. The story's websites are all functional (not to mention funny) and extend the narrative. Prigmore's black-and-white illustrations are a perfect match; in fact, artwork and text have rarely worked so well together in this format. Hysterical, sneakily instructive fun. You will be SPHDZ! (Multi-platform science fiction. 7-12)Read full book review >
ROBOT ZOT! by Jon Scieszka
Released: Sept. 22, 2009

Robot Zot invades Earth, vowing to destroy all earthly enemies—mostly kitchen appliances, as Zot measures a whopping four inches high. Scieszka and Shannon combine forces to deliver an hilarious, action-packed picture book characterized by grandiose face-offs, monosyllabic robot rants and wham-bam-boom pacing. Boys finally get the unadulterated action, hyperbolic humor and punchy language (Zot challenges, Zot blasts, Zot scans!) they love. Boys and girls will giggle as the little robot misinterprets a familiar world, the suburban home, calling the toaster the "Earth's shiny Captain" and a baby's toy phone "the Queen of all Earth." They will identify with the diminutive droid as he alters the scope of everyday surroundings. The kitchen morphs into a vast battlefield, the backyard into a beast-infested wilderness. The vibrant illustrations capture Zot's skewed perspective and misguided heroics in freeze-frame shots. Bright oranges, reds and yellows dominate the otherwise metallic palette and provide tough colors for tough kids. Sophisticated comedy, challenging vocabulary and pithy writing offer undetectable, beneficial learning opportunities, like zucchini hidden in a yummy cupcake. Must...Have...Robot...Zot! (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

Offering an answer to the perennial query about where his ideas come from, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature looks back to his early 1960s youth. Fans will not be surprised to learn that, except for his mother (a nurse, fortunately) he grew up in an all-male household: father, five brothers and "even our dogs and cats and fish." The resulting memories include group pukes in the back seat, slipping toy soldiers into the Christmas crèche, playing neighborhood games like "Slaughterball" and idyllic summer expeditions into the woods around his grandparents' cottage—not to mention the pleasures of random dips into the household children's encyclopedia and spurning "those weirdos Dick and Jane" to "find out more about real things like dogs in cars and cats in hats." Illustrated with truly dorky school-yearbook photos and family snapshots, this account of a thoroughly normal childhood doesn't match Gary Paulsen's memoirs for hilarity or Tomie DePaola's for cultural insight, but it will draw chuckles of amusement from middle-graders (particularly less eager readers) and of recognition from their parents and grandparents. (Autobiography. 8-11) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 2, 2008

As with 2007's Walt Disney's Cinderella, written by Cynthia Rylant, this volume showcases the color sketches of Blair, who was a production designer for many of Disney's classic animated films. Never intended as illustrations, her pictures effectively capture the look of the movie's costumes and sets—but the actual figures, from a chubby Alice on down, are just quickly-brushed-in placeholders or, in the case of the March Hare and the Dormouse, not seen at all. Matched to a text that has been whittled to perfunctory captions—"Tweedledee and Tweedledum happily recited their poem about the Curious Oysters. The Oysters were invited to dinner by the Walrus. But they ended up being the dinner"—this isn't likely to excite more than mild interest in children, although the art may be of interest to film historians. (Picture book. Adult)Read full book review >
PETE’S PARTY by Jon Scieszka
Released: June 3, 2008

This weak title, one in an early-reader series that's part of Scieszka's Trucktown brand, purports to provide active children with a similarly rambunctious easy-to-read package. Scieszka's author's note for the series boasts, "Everything about Trucktown has been built to excite and motivate young readers…This is…a world where kids are inspired to become readers by action stories, and helped to become readers with amazing illustrations and selected vocabulary." The result falls far short of such claims. Two trucks, Jack and Gabriella, follow a succession of legit and spoof road signs to a party at bulldozer Pete's garage. Three illustrators, including David Shannon and Loren Long as well as Gordon, collaborated to create Trucktown's unremarkable, stereotypical visuals. Jack is a sturdy red-and-blue flatbed, while Gabriella's a pink garbage truck with a flowery monogrammed and a yellow "bow." Typical visual personification for the vehicles—headlights are eyes; grilles are mouths—and muddy digital execution add little that's fresh. Also out in June: Zoom! Boom! Bully (ISBN: 978-1-4169-4139-2; PLB: 978-1-4169-4150-7). For emergent readers, more hype than help. (Early reader. 4-6)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 8, 2008

The irrepressible Scieszka has set his sites on entertaining a younger crowd and getting them (boys especially) hooked on the joys of reading. Best friends Jack Truck and Dump Truck Dan love to spend their days smashing and crashing. First they demolish a construction site; then they have a little too much messy fun with their friend Cement Mixer Melvin. On the construction side, they help Monster Truck Max stack barrels and build an amazing pirate fort for Gabriella Garbage Truck and Grader Kat. But all day they have been dogged by a mysterious shadow—are they in trouble for all their mischievous destruction? No. It's just Wrecking Crane Rosie offering a positive outlet for their destructive tendencies. Jack's and Dan's energy and zest are perfectly captured by the trio of illustrators who collaborated to create the characters for the entire series. With their anthropomorphized vehicles, lots of dust clouds and junkyard parts, and a font that incorporates truck parts into individual letters, they are sure to please. The combination of high-energy artwork and exuberant characters are sure to make the Trucktown series a necessary purchase for every garage library. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
COWBOY & OCTOPUS by Jon Scieszka
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

The Dynamic Duo set a new standard for unlikely pals in seven mini-tales on the ins and outs—and responsibilities—of buddyhood. The friendship that develops between bulbous blue Octopus and dim-bulb Cowboy begins when Octopus demonstrates that a seesaw works so much better with someone at each end. It survives every ensuing challenge, from a multi-course dinner of disgusting (to Octopus) beans and bacon, bacon and beans and just plain beans to Cowboy's honest, if undiplomatic, opinion that Octopus's new hat "looks like something my horse dropped behind him." Paper-doll cut-outs, the square-jawed cowboy and rubbery octopus almost never change, despite being placed in wildly varied settings assembled from clipped photos, newspaper and wallpaper. And despite vast differences between the retiring, mannerly mollusk and his extroverted bud, the two get along famously. How? It's usually clear enough, but for truly clueless readers, Octopus is generally good for a pithy summation. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2005

The complaint that there aren't enough books for boys can be dismissed after seeing Scieska's new collection, for which 88 writers and illustrators have contributed work. Awkwardly titled (its allusion is to Scieszka's Web site), this well-intentioned anthology runs the risk of stereotyping boys with its tales of barfing, farts, sex, basketball and war, and all of the very short pieces appeal to readers with short attention spans and the need for frequent visual stimulation. However, as a collection of brief autobiographical essays, excellent for reading aloud and as models for writing, this is quite good. Lloyd Alexander writes about a first date, Marc Aronson about the pure male joy in throwing things, Jack Gantos about daredevil neighbors and Gary Paulsen returns to the theme of peeing on electric fences, first explored in Harris and Me (1993). If it leads boys to the many works by the authors represented, it will have done a fine service to its cause. (foreword) (Anthology. 11+)Read full book review >
SEEN ART? by Jon Scieszka
by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
Released: May 1, 2005

A child goes to the Museum of Modern Art looking for his friend Art, but finds lots of art instead. Compared to the zany antics of its predecessors, this offering is positively restrained. Once the appropriately minimalist collage-and-scribble child enters MoMA, an array of artsy types guides him past works by Van Gogh, Matisse, Dali, Warhol and Monet, among others, offering such helpful commentary as, "Isn't it just everything?" and, "Great atmosphere." Background, characters and typeface presented almost exclusively in a washed-out beige-and-taupe palette, cause the reproduced art to leap off the page. The unusual shape (twice as long as it is high, unopened) adds to a sense of infinitely recessing galleries as our hero vainly searches for Art. When, at last, he finds him, he leaves MoMA with a sense of art—and so will readers, although they may not quite know it. While this effort lacks the clarity of presentation of such recent works as Quentin Blake's Tell Me a Picture (2003) and Anthony Browne's The Shape Game (2003), its enigmatic treatment suits its modernist subject and teases readers with possibilities. (notes on art represented not seen) (Picture book. 7+)Read full book review >
SCIENCE VERSE by Jon Scieszka
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

In 1995, Mrs. Fibonacci laid a Math Curse; this year, it's Mr. Newton who says, " . . . if you listen closely enough, you can hear the poetry of science in everything." What follows is a madcap collection of science poetry that lampoons familiar songs ("Glory, glory, evolution") and poems ("Once in first grade I was napping"). The whole lacks the zany unity of its predecessor, opting for an impressionistic tour of scientific terms and principles; the illustrations are less integrated into the text as well, if individually often quite inspired (a set of antiqued nursery rhyme panels are just perfect). Some of the poems rise to the level of near genius (" 'Twas fructose, and the vitamins / Did zinc and dye [red #8]"), while others settle for the satisfyingly gross ("Mary had a little worm. / She thought it was a chigger"). If this offering falls short of the standard set by Math Curse, it will nevertheless find an eager audience, who will hope that the results of Mr. Picasso's curse will soon be forthcoming. (Poetry. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

Another adventure in history by the boys in the Time Warp Trio. This time they are back to the days of the Vikings, around the year 1000. Scieszka's boys are wrenched from a video game called NFL Smash where players can make up their teams, smash the opponent, and do victory dances in the end zone. Joe, Sam, and Fred enjoy trash talking that comes with the territory. "Your team is so ugly, they have to sneak up on their mirror" and "Your team is so dumb, they went to the library for a book of matches." Ridiculous and predictable adventures, ample lame jokes, and silliness punctuate the tale. A skald (or poet, if you are a little rusty on your Viking myths) narrates each battle or challenge with a short poetic recitation. The trash talk of the modern football game is picked up as Leif Eriksson and his enemy, Grim Snake-in-the-Grass, fight with words and real weapons. Their two skalds, Bullshik and Fulluvit (say it aloud), only act as a humorous diversion from the weak plot. When the boys get into the poem-telling act, their creations are exactly what will cause adult eyes to roll and little boys' chuckles to begin: "Abracadabra / clink think / Nose picker / butt kicker / Zim zam / drink!" Scieszka fits in some interesting reference to the Valkyries, Valhalla, and the fortune-telling properties of runes among all the silliness, and manages to sneak in a lesson about word origins tied to the Norse gods. Light fare at best, Bullshik at worst. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
SAM SAMURAI by Jon Scieszka
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Guys writing poetry? What a radical concept. Horsing around over a homework assignment, the Time Warp Trio inadvertently utters a haiku near The Book, and is "flushed down four hundred years," to ancient Japan where, after heroically wiping out an empty suit of samurai armor, nearly getting sliced into sushi by plug-ugly samurai Owattabut (guess why) and meeting their own granddaughters (see 2095, 1995) paddling along on a temporal jaunt of their own, the three entertain the great Ieyasu Tokugawa himself with a string of haiku that propel them back to Brooklyn—but merit only a C- from their teacher, Ms. Basho. Aswirl with mini-lectures and crumbs of general information about Japanese poetry and society, the arbitrary plot line and wiseacre dialogue will elicit the usual rumbles—of laughter, that is. It's not the freshest of the Trio's escapades, but the author plainly isn't ready to throw in the bowel—er, towel, quite yet. (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
BALONEY (HENRY P.) by Jon Scieszka
Released: May 1, 2001

It's "Permanent Lifelong Detention" for Henry P. Baloney, unless the tardy alien can come up with "one very good and very believable excuse" for Miss Bugscuffle. Henry earnestly spins the tale of his near-disastrous trip to school: "I misplaced my trusty zimulis, then I . . . um . . . found it on my deski. But . . . someone had put my deski in a torakku." The Math Curse (1995) team of Scieszka and Smith combine talents once again, this time to celebrate wordplay in its near-infinite variety. Henry's story is peppered with words from such diverse sources as Estonian, French, and Inuktitut (there's a "decoder" in the back). Each time a new word occurs for the first time, it is set off in yellow type—the trick is to decode it through illustrations ("zimulis" clearly applies to a standard-issue Quest pencil, number "ZZ") and from context ("I jumped smack in the middle of a . . . razzo launch pad."). Henry himself is an appealingly bug-eyed, freckle-faced green urchin who leaps, fast-talks, and erases his way through a retro-looking space-age world, learning the hard way the importance of linguistic accuracy when he forgets the Astrosus word for "thank you," using instead the word for "doofbrain." Clearly intending to do for words what the previous book did for numbers, the illustrations and narrative sizzle along in a madcap rush until the story is brought to an abrupt halt when the humorless Miss Bugscuffle decides to allow Henry to apply his talents to the day's assignment of writing a tall tale. Carefully—if zanily—adhering to the "three-finger rule" (no more than three unfamiliar words per page), Henry P. Baloney's story might go a long way toward convincing kids that learning to read is an adventure in itself. If only all pedagogy were this much fun. (Picture book. 6-12)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2001

Fred, Sam, and Joe once again time-travel with the help of The Book. Only this time, they are traveling with a purpose: to get to 2095 again and visit with their great-granddaughters who have The Book in their possession. Inspired by David Mullany's 1952 invention of the Wiffle ball, the trio wanted to go into the future, see what had been invented, and return to the present and be inventors themselves. Of course, things do not turn out as the boys plan. They blunder back to 1877 and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and are inexplicably joined by their granddaughters from the future. In a confusing and fast-paced romp, the boys meet an annoying, babbling Thomas Alva Edison and Brooklyn Bridge engineer Washington Roebling. This current offering lacks the satirical humor of many of the books in this series. Perhaps it is time for the trio to take a break. (Fiction. 8-11)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

Never ones to learn from past mistakes, Joe, Sam, and Fred, collectively the Time Warp Trio, again horse around until they knock open The Book and are whisked away to another era. This time it's ancient Rome, and a gladiator school run by one (don't you dare laugh) Dorkius. Losing no time setting off a food fight in the gladiatorial lunchroom and getting on the wrong sides of aptly named Horridus and Brutus, off they hie to the newly built Colosseum, to woo the crowds with some WWF-style razzle-dazzle, lead their hulking nemeses on a merry chase through the streets of Rome, and reclaim The Book, their ticket to the present, from a Vestal Virgin. As usual, the tale tumbles along at a frantic clip past cliffhangers, wisecracks, and even some subliminal tidbits of facts, the last capped by a handy list of English/Latin phrases, such as "Which way to the vomitorium? / Qua via itur ad vomitorium?" Even with a new illustrator slipping into Lane Smith's accustomed place, the Time Warp Trio continues to rule the "skinny book" shelves with just the right hook for that elusive not-quite-avid-reader audience that loves them. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME by Jon Scieszka
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Scieszka and Lane's intrepid heroes of The Time Warp Trio are once again up to their necks in very silly historical circumstances. Joe, Fred, and Sam are horsing around during their school play—which they wrote themselves—about the ancient deities of Greece. When a cardboard thunderbolt accidently hits the magic blue book stashed in Joe's backpack, the three boys are transported back to ancient Greece—or so they think. When they meet some of the wisecracking gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus, they realize they've been transported to the fictionalized Greece of their play, complete with dialogue they wrote using "The Book of Snappy Insults." While flinging around backhanded compliments with Hera (who's not bad on the uptake), the three time travelers try to locate their blue book of magic so they can return home. Instead, they end up as that night's entertainment for the gods. The opening jokes fall flat, but then Joe comes up with some last-minute parlor tricks. Just when everything's going well, a pack of Greek monsters arrives, and the mountain top threatens to become a battlefield. The wordplay is still fast and funny, and fans of the series will not mind that the deities have become sort of stock types; the abundance of goofy Groucho Marx-style zingers will keep everyone else smiling. (Fiction. 7-11) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

This latest bright, glib collection of tales irreverently updates Aesop-like fables as Beavis and Butthead might have rewritten them. Scieszka and Smith (Summer Reading Is Killing Me, p. 816, etc.) forego tradition by ditching standard animal characters for the likes of a squid, a musk ox, and an animated stick of beef jerky. The introduction explains that fables were a way people could "gossip about anybody—as long as you could change their name to something like ‘Lion' or ‘Mouse' or ‘Donkey' first." Some of the morals work (when Skunk, Musk Ox, and Cabbage argue about who smells, the moral is "He who smelt it, dealt it"); others are tags without the snap. In illustrations that are as fresh and eyecatching as ever, the goofiness is as enticing as junk food, the colors Fruit-Loop bright, but fables usually have purpose, not punchlines; without such purpose, this is just another joke book for the '90s. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1998

In this latest Time Warp Trio entry, Fred, Joe, and Sam have sworn off using that volume of dangerous time-travel, The Book. When Fred sticks Sam's summer reading list inside it, they find themselves whisked off, not to another time, but to a world where all the characters from the books on the list are congregated, where the evil characters are determined to crush all the good characters and take over the stories. Aided by the Girl, who seems to be a composite of female heroines from all the formula series books the boys never read, Fred, Joe, and Sam battle the leader of the bad guys, an embittered Mr. Bear ("Just because I'm a teddy bear, I get no respect") to find The Book and get back to the real world. Filled with humorous action and suspense, this book will have special appeal to those who get the hip-deep references to dozens of children's books (without such understanding, the middle section becomes somewhat incomprehensible). With plenty of action and silly humor, the book itself is a pretty good addition to summer reading lists. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 7-11) Read full book review >
MATH CURSE by Jon Scieszka
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

An unsuspecting student falls victim to the Math Curse when her teacher notes that ``You can think of almost everything as a math problem.'' Suddenly, everything is: ``I wake up at 7:15. It takes me 10 minutes to get dressed, 15 minutes to eat my breakfast, and 1 minute to brush my teeth . . . if my bus leaves at 8:00, will I make it on time?'' If it's not a time problem, it's equivalents (``How many inches in a foot?''), multiplication, nondecimal numbers, money combinations, and more. What's the cure? It comes to her in a dream: A problem with an answer is no problem at all. Smith's big paintings-cum-collage are, as usual, way strange, perfectly complementing the wild, postmodern page design with concatenations of small objects, fragments, and geometric shapes and figures, all placed on dark, grainy backgrounds. Another calculated triumph from the fevered brows that brought forth The Stinky Cheese Man (1992) and other instant classics, this one with a bit of brainwork deftly woven in. Readers can check their answers on the back cover. (Picture book. 7-9) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

Scieszka grabs a character from a nursery rhyme here, a nursery rhyme there, one from Lewis Carroll, still more from elsewhere, and builds them into a parfait of verse—a lyrical chaos of great beauty that eventually folds in upon itself, coming full circle. On each page a new line is added to the poem, and each page brings another knockout painting by Adel (some drawing inspiration from the same sources employed by Scieszka, such as Carroll's Tenniel), rendered with the touch of a brand- new old master. Not as nutty, but just as imaginative, as Scieszka's earlier efforts (The Stinky Cheese Man, 1992, etc.), with lots of references and subtleties that may take some explaining, as is the case with the paintings for that matter. But it's all pretty sensational on any level. This one will wow even the most sophisticated. (Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

"Irrepressibly zany fun. (Fiction/Picture book. 5+)"
From the front jacket copy ("...56 action-packed pages, 75% more than those old 32-page 'Brand-X' books") to the Little Red Hen's back-cover diatribe ("Who is this ISBN guy?"), the parodic humor here runs riot. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1992

A third fast-paced entry in the ``Time Warp Trio'' series (initiated with Knights of the Kitchen Table, 1991) takes the boys from watching a cowboys-and-Indians show that one of them describes as ``just a bad character actor reinforcing mindless stereotypes'' to a parodied western adventure that's just as lively but more PC: The cowboys are multiracial, and when the boys are captured by Indians, there's a debate about their potentially gruesome fate; ultimately, the good braves save the boys from Custer's cavalry and are in turn saved by the boys as they contrive to return to the present. The humor's not quite so freewheeling here, but kids will enjoy the nonstop action, undeterred by the occasional more thoughtful details. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1991

The co-author (with A. Wolf) of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (1989) assays another humorous embroidery of a traditional tale with somewhat less notable success. The picture of the erstwhile frog and his princess bickering (``Stop sticking your tongue out like that''; ``How come you never want to go down to the pond anymore?'') is genuinely funny, and the prince's quest for a witch to turn him back into a frog—during which he runs into witches from several other tales—is amusing. But the conclusion—glad to get back to his princess, he kisses her and they both become happy frogs—seems limp and unmotivated. Meanwhile, Johnson's paintings, though he adopts some of Lane Smith's fey menace and induces tension by canting his perspectives, lack Smith's wit, imagination, and masterful sense of design. Still, the situation and dialogue are irreverently comical and Johnson's caricatures are adroitly satirical. It's an entertaining effort— just not up to that superlative first book. (Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1991

The author of the hilarious The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (1989) comes up with an entertaining formula in this first ``Time Warp Trio'' story: Narrator Joe is given a magic book (''The Book'') that transports him and two friends to King Arthur's Britain, where they find themselves confronted by a fearsome Black Knight—who's easy to defeat with some quick dodging when he's in mid-charge. Then Lancelot, Gawain, et al. happen by and take the boys for heroes—a reputation they sustain by tricking the loathsome giant who's menacing the castle into fighting the terrible dragon (Smaug) that has also just turned up. Scieszka unobtrusively slips in several classic references and defines some chivalric jargon by having the boys comically paraphrase it; there is some daring juvenile humor on the subject of the giant's various atrocious smells, and the contrast between the boys' breezy manner and the knights' pseudo-formality is also good for several laughs. A little forced, but this should serve its purpose. Smith's drawings deftly reflect the blend of everyday kid with zany, mock-gruesome adventure. See also a simultaneously published sequel, The Not-So-Jolly Roger, reviewed below (in brief). (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1991

A second ``Time Warp Trio'' story (cf. Knights of the Kitchen Table, above), only slightly less clever than the first. The boys now find themselves on a desert island. Blackbeard comes to bury treasure—and his two helpers; he catches the boys and takes them to the pirate ship (Israel Hands is among those aboard). There's some suspense, more slapstick, and the singing of some fine chanteys before the boys are again saved by The Book. Smith's funny/wicked pirates make an excellent contribution. ``Historical afterword'' on Blackbeard; another (tongue firmly in cheek) on the boys. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1989

One of life's more important lessons is that a second view of the same events may yield a story that is entirely different from another but equally "true." As Alexander Wolf tells his story, he was innocently trying to borrow a cup of sugar from a little pig when he sneezed so hard that the pig's obviously inadequate straw house fell down and killed him, so—rather than let all that good ham go to waste—the wolf ate him. But when the third little pig, safe in his brick house, not only refused to discuss loaning sugar but was rude about the wolf's Granny, the wolf tried to force the door, the pig called the cops, and the wolf was jailed—complaining that reporters blew the story all out of proportion and that he was framed. Scieszka carries off this revision with suitably mordant humor, ably reflected in Smith's dark, elegantly sophisticated illustrations. Not for little children, but middle grades and up should be entertained while taking the point about the unreliability of witnesses. Read full book review >