Scieszka, Jon. 1992. THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER
FAIRLY STUPID TALES. Ill by Lane Smith. New York:
Penguin Books. ISBN: 0-590-47676-9
Jon Scieszka's Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales
is a humorous collection of traditional fairy tales with a wicked twist. The book includes ten familiar stories with
a change in the characters and/or the specific events that take place.
Each story starts as the traditional, familiar tale but, ends up taking
a turn and has a completely different and unexpectant ending. Chicken Licken thinks the sky is falling and runs around
collecting friends and screaming, "the sky is falling!" However, instead of the sky falling - the author took a different
approach and made the book's Table of Contents fall and smash Chicken Licken and the friends.
In the story of the Really Ugly Duckling, Scieszka describes all the
ducklings as ugly. Unlike the original tale, the really ugly duckling does not grow up to be a beautiful duck - he stays
really ugly. The frog prince tricks the princess into kissing him and then jumps back in the pond saying, "I was just
kidding." The frog never turns into a prince - a weird twist from the traditional tale.
The story of Little Red Running Shorts (instead of Little Red Riding
Hood) never gets told in the way you would expect it. The narrator, named Jack, summarizes the story very quickly, upsetting
the characters: Little Red Riding Shorts and Wolf. The story never takes up the three pages that it is supposed
to so the last page of the story is completely blank.
The Stinky Cheese Man's author uses a clever approach to teach his
readers about the different parts of a book. Little Red Hen points out the ISBN label on the book. Jack,
the narrator, makes a joke of the title page, table of contents and the end page. There is no formal organized structure
to the book.
It is not your typical traditional tale. But the combination
of the offbeat illustrations, varied letters and font types make the book hilarious. It is amazingly funny to read the
stories and watch the characters flow in and out of the different stories. For example, the giant at the top of the
beanstalk eats Little Red Hen and Cinderella is mixed in with Rumpelstiltskin.
The pictures are all wild and crazy. They definitely enhance
the text. One of the most interesting illustrations is in the Stinky Cheese Man story. It shows the cow with its
eyes popping out of the sockets and tongue floored to the ground- gagging from the terrible smell of the stinky cheese man
(who is a smelly version of the Gingerbread Man).
I categorize this book as a combination of beast, noodlehead, and
trickster tale. The short stories center on characters who outsmart other characters (Jack), some that are not too
bright (Red Hen), and beast (the giant and frog prince). The entire book exaggerates to the fullest - which is the most
stylistic element in tall tales, according to Tunnell and Jacobs (pg. 77).
This book truly challenges the imaginations of all age groups.
Even with its weirdness, it fits the mold of a traditional fantasy. The plot is made simple and direct,
and there are allusions and repeated patterns and elements throughout the book.