Jon Scieszka writes books for young people — marvelous, twisted, hilarious stories often added to by the artwork of the calculating Lane Smith.
The equation begins with Math Curse (1995, blue dot). A little girl falls into the endless multiplication of math madness. “Why can’t you just keep 10 cookies without someone taking three away? Why?” she wonders. And poof, the pupil’s life is math-icized.
How many M&Ms would it take to measure the Mississippi? How many would you eat while measuring?
And what about pie? Pie eyes, pie charts, pie for lunch. Pie in the sky. But no pi.
Wonderful fun. Especially if you’re happily waving fractions goodbye for the summer (this book is a must-read for anyone who has to take math over again).
From there, lope over to the animal kingdom. Squids Will Be Squids: Fresh Morals, Beastly Fables (1998, also a blue dot book) updates Aesop’s famed stories. As old Aesop discovered, it’s best to change names when you spread gossip about your neighbours.
These are modern fables offering important life lessons for skateboarders and students who avoid homework. Like what not to say to your mom when she’s freaking out. There’s also farting and a list of the ingredients of beef jerky.
Scieszka and Smith follow along as children grow older, with the Time Warp Trio series. Joe, Sam and Fred are three kids given a Magical Book that zooms them about in time.
The library has four Time Warp stories, filed under a yellow dot. Begin with Your Mother Was A Neanderthal (1993). In 40,000 BCE three, er, naked boys appear to have had some sort of time travel misadventure. There’s a tiny bit more math in here, as the concepts discovered by the Ancient Greek genius Archimedes help rescue the boys from prehistoric times.
Next, Tut Tut (1996), as The Book takes our heroes to Ancient Egypt. This time, little sister Anna and the family cat are accidentally caught in the green time mist.
The Book has only ever taken the boys back to historical events. But things go awry in Summer Reading Is Killing Me! (1998). A summer reading list gets pushed into The Book’s pages, and the trio are dragged into a messy mish-mash of famous stories. “Dracula was dragging Winnie the Pooh in a headlock. Mr. Twit was breaking Harold’s purple crayon.” The bad guys are slowly capturing the goody-goodies; even Mary Poppins gets trussed up.
It’s up to our heroes to outsmart The Boss, the baddest of them all, as he plots to rewrite the favorite books of generations of children. A summer reading list of books that are actually fun to read is enclosed. Yes, books that are Fun To Read. Promise.
Finally, check out It’s All Greek To Me (1999), as the three are whisked away from their acting debut, and instead face an all-too-real three-headed Cerberus, guardian of Hades. Then Zeus gets annoyed, and things get worse.
These short reads make history come alive.
Much of Scieszka’s work is marketed at boys who think they don’t like to read. (His website http://www.guysread.com offers titles where things blow up real good.) Scieszka has also edited Guys Read: Funny Business (2010, in Young Adult), which features humorous tales of robots, crazy turkeys, best buds, and more.
And yes, girls and grown-ups can read these books too. Step into someone else’s skin; it’s a lot of fun.
The Lennoxville Library will read along with you. If you’re aged 5 to 12, sign up for the TD Summer Reading Club. The program runs from July 3 to August 7, every Wednesday afternoon. This year’s theme is Go! Explore Near And Far. Pop by the library for details.
– Eleanor Brown, June 21, 2013
A GREEN dot means non-fiction for children; other dots are for children’s fiction: suggested ages 0 to 2, RED; ages 3 to 6, BLUE; ages 6 to 9, YELLOW; ages 9 to 12, ORANGE.