Jon Scieszka is one of literacy's BFFs. The New York-based writer is best-known for penning such award-winning fractured fairy tales as "The Stinky Cheese Man" and "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!," but has carved out a secondary career as ambassador for reading "? primarily among school-aged boys, the segment least likely to stick their nose in a book for the sheer pleasure of doing so.
To that end, he launched the Guys Read Web site at www.guysread.com, a virtual book club which recommends titles to various ages. One such book boys might like is the site's own anthology, "Guys Write for Guys Read," which is now available in paperback.
Its tagline says it all: "Boys' favorite authors write about being boys!" This lineup, edited by Scieszka, includes such names as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman ("Coraline"), Christopher Paolini ("Eragon"), Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Eoin Colfer ("Artemis Fowl"), Brian Jacques (the "Redwall" series) and Anthony Horowitz ("Stormbreaker"). Even illustrators get in on the fun, such as "The Simpsons" mastermind Matt Groening and "Captain Underpants" creator Dav Pilkey.
All dish about their childhood, with many discussing how books changed their lives. (Or, in King's case, how run-ins with a flatulent babysitter helped prepare him for negative reviews from The Village Voice.)
For Scieszka, one three-page entry wasn't enough, so he's also just released "Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka," an autobiography of sorts, organized into chapters based upon things he loved growing up. This includes brief humorous essays on Mad magazine, Halloween costumes, "G.I. Combat" comics (and his disappointment upon receiving a set of toy soldiers he saw advertised in them), plastic models, scouting and swear words.
Many of the stories involve acts of incredible mischief between him and his five "? count 'em, five "? brothers. One incredible highlight recounts a car trip in which their cat scarfed down a Stuckey's Pecan Log Roll and then hacked it back up, thus setting off a chain reaction of vomiting among all the brothers. Now what kid today wouldn't want to read about that?