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Deidre's Book Reviews

The Stinky Cheese Man
True Believer
The Tale of Despereaux
The Giver
The First Part Last
A Single Shard
How Angel Peterson Got His Name
SHAKA: King of the Zulus
The Gold Cadillac
Freedman's Voice that Challenged A Nation
Messages in the Mailbox
Seymour's Stars
Author Study: Joyce Carol Thomas
My Favorite Joyce Carol Thomas Books
Suggested Response Activity
Review of Thomas's Hush Songs
Review of Thomas's Gingerbread Days
Ride a Purple Pelican
My Momma Likes to Say
My Man Blue
Beast Feast
The Stinky Cheese Man
Once Upon A Time
My Friend Rabbit
Caring for Your Pets
Two Bad Ants


               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.   


Last updated: February 7, 2005

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