Jon Scieszka Background Information for Teachers and Parents
Encourage children to explore different books and look for authors that interest them! An author study is a great way to delve deeper and spend time learning about a favorite writer. This movie will explore the life and work of Jon Scieszka, and explore a few of his most popular books and series, such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and The Time Warp Trio.
Jon Scieszka was born in Flint, Michigan in 1954. His grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Poland. “Scieszka” means “path” in Polish. Jon was the second oldest of a large family of six boys. His father was an elementary school principal and his mother worked as a registered nurse. He attended Culver Military Academy for high school and graduated from Albion College. He had intended to go to medical school, but instead went to Columbia University and received his MFA in fiction writing. Later he became a teacher and taught every grade from second through eighth. He loved to share his funny and strange stories with his students and he has described his classes as being unruly and creative.
Review with children that an illustrator is a person who creates pictures to go along with words. An illustrator helps communicate what happens in a story in a visual way and enhances the enjoyment and experience of reading. Scieszka met an illustrator named Lane Smith and together they created what would become The True Story of The Three Little Pigs. The book shares the story of “The Three Little Pigs” from the wolf’s point of view. In the book, the wolf explains how he was baking a cake for his grandmother and wanted to borrow sugar from his neighbors, the three little pigs. He then accidentally sneezed on the houses and blew them down. Remind children that a point of view is a way of looking or thinking about something. Scieszka’s book shares the wolf’s side of the story and tells what happened through his eyes. Go through different examples of point of view together. For example, in a story, a character might be anxious when her dog runs away. But from the point of view of the dog, it might happy to be out on in the community and having a big adventure.
Another popular book by Jon Scieszka is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. This book is a collection of very short stories that are a fresh take on classic folktales. Many are irreverent, gross, or silly. For example, in the classic fable “The Ugly Duckling,” the main character grows up to be a beautiful swan. But in Scieszka’s version, the ugly duckling grows up to be a really ugly duck. The stories play with traditional folktales, often changing their moral or the point of view.
In many of Scieszka’s books, the words on the page are very large or small. They might be upside down or squished or in different colors. This breaks from traditional children’s books and allows the reader to have fun with the words and explore language.
Scieszka gets ideas for his stories from many experiences. In interviews he has mentioned that he gets ideas from looking out the window, talking to his children, or eating his children’s cereal. He also gets many ideas from growing up in a large family of rowdy boys. In addition, Scieszka was a teacher for about ten years, and many of his stories come from his experiences and for his passion for education. In Math Curse, the main character sees math problems everywhere and tries to solve them. The book asks simple math questions, such as the number of quarts in a gallon. But it also asks silly questions that are jokes or puns. The book is designed for the reader to have fun with math.
Remind children that a series is a set of books that feature the same character or theme, usually by the same author. One of Scieszka’s most popular series is The Time Warp Trio, about three boys who travel through time and go on adventures. The characters in the books are actually based off of his former students. In the books, the characters learn about history and important events and leaders. Scieszka also writes a few other series, including a picture book series called Truck Town.
Encourage children to write their own stories and go on their own adventures through their writing. Reading Jon Scieszka’s stories can be inspiring for many children, so encourage them to write a story that’s similar¬¬–and better!