You know what book doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough? The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Basically it’s a book of modern twistings of your favorite fairy tales such as The Gingerbread Man, with Jack from Jack and The Beanstalk as narrator.
This book is basically the best example of post-modern literature for children. The characters know they are in the story, reference the work they are in and the rules of fairy tales. Especially Jack and Little Red Hen who try to get the stories going and questioning why there are blank pages.Typical morals are turned upside down, deconstructed and even show how they are ridiculousness. The main protagonist, Jack, comes off more as a Han Solo type than the typical good hero like Luke Skywalker. Heck, there isn’t even a villain in the book, something that doesn’t happened in Fairy Tales. Than again, this is the same author who brought us the book, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs; a book that switches the point of view on to the wolf and makes the story more gray.
It’s strange that this book isn’t explored more or even recommended to younger readers like Where the Wild Things Are and every Dr. Seuss book. One reason that it might not be recommended is that it does tend to stray towards more dark, cynical humor than most children books and even some adult books. The idea that a moral like the ugly duckling growing up to be just an ugly duck might be seen as mean-spirited and not a good moral for the kids. Even if the lesson itself is actually important; that you can’t completely bank on your looks. Another reason is because it’s so post-modern, parents who have grown up with more traditional stories might not understand the humor or how the book is set up. The idea that characters would know they are part of a story and even try to get the story moving might seem like too much for children.
Personally, I feel like this is a disservice to children. Children should be exposed to all the various movements in literature and art, and Jon Sciezka has crafted a book that serves as an introduction to post-modernism. I would even argue that this book would a great starting point for any student interested in studying post-modernism. And even beyond using it as study material, the book is just a fun read for all ages. I would definitely recommend you check out this book and Sciezka’s other works like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and Math Curse.
- Interview with Jon Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man, in Babble.com’s Five-Minute Time Out. | Babble (babble.com)
- The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (designofthepicturebook.com)