On January 3, 2008, the Library of Congress named Jon Scieszka “Inaugural National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature”.
Over at The Year in Reading blog, Franki and Mary Lee are seeking to give the man his props for his work over the course of the year to promote and encourage literature for young people. They are encouraging more of us to write about his impact on us and those around us.
I was never a huge fan of the Stinky Cheese Man fractured fairy tale stories, but I know my students are, and when we are talking about how to fracture a story, one reference to this now-classic collection is enough to get most of us talking the same wavelength. And The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is wonderful and a great way to teach point of view in any classroom.
But, I loved reading Knucklehead, which is Scieszka‘s memoir of childhood in a house full (literally) of boys, and reveled in the mayhem of his world. I wish he had gone a bit deeper into how that all effected his writing. He touches on it but I wanted more. The book is very accessible to young people and boys, in particular, will find a voice they know and adventures they can understand. Plus, how can you beat a title like Knucklehead?
Another great piece of work by Scieszka is the Guys Read collection, which springs from his work to promote reading among middle-school-aged boys. He asked authors to write about their own experiences and uses those stories to encourage writing and reading. The book is a joy to read and I was excited to see it on the shelf of the local Barnes & Noble yesterday in the young adult fiction area.
Finally, Scieszkalaunched the Exquisite Corpse project online this year, in which he began a nutty story and other famous authors pick up a new chapter each week, with the goal of the story expanding for an entire year. My students and I have been using the chapters for reading (prediction of text, foreshadowing, plot design) but also for prompts for writing (what happens next?). And now, with holiday break about over, we are behind a few chapters! Some of you may recognize the concept from my recent Three-Headed Collaborative Story Adventure, and yes, Scieszkawas one of the inspirations there, too. (oooh, I see Natalie Babbitt is the latest author to add to the story).
So, thank you, Mr. Scieszkafor making reading and writing fun during your tenure as ambassador to young people’s literature and my youngest son is looking forward to the next Trucktown books. (me too)
Peace (in the books),