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Jon Scieszka began to train as a doctor but left to take a course in fiction writing at Columbia University and to become a teacher. He lives in Brooklyn and spends his time writing and talking about books. Lane Smith, an acclaimed author/illustrator, has achieved major success in his collaborations with Jon Scieszka. He also provided the original concept and illustrations for the hit film James and the Giant Peach. He lives in New York.
Gr 3-6-The masters at tweaking chuckles out of familiar tales have now fractured 18 "beastly fables" and twisted "fresh morals" from them. The foreword supplies a background on fables and sets up the device that if you can't say something nice about someone, change the guy's name to an animal. The title is from "Deer, Mouse, Rabbit, & Squid." All four critters are trying to decide what to do: Deer, Mouse, and Rabbit suggest a movie, playing Frisbee, and shopping; Squid responds negatively to all, claims each one is boring and goes home. The other three waste no time and run off to do just what they wanted. "Moral: Squids will be squids." The full-color illustrations are typical of Smith's style and creativity with playfulness in the type size and page design. The warped humor and offbeat bits of wisdom often overstretch to the bizarre and stupid but children will love most of the jejune logic. The most popular fable will be "He Who..." which involves a skunk, musk ox, cabbage, and a terrible smell. You can figure it out from the moral: "He who smelt it, dealt it." Moral of this book: When two wacky minds create zany writing and quirky illustrations, success is a given.-Julie Cummins, New York Public Library
"[Has] and in-your-face attitude that will hold reader's rapt attention." -Publishers Weekly
Scieszka and Smith, creators of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, turn their attention away from fairy tales to reinvent the fable, thinly disguising sage bits of advice as pithy morals. Foxes and grapes are too pedestrian for these veteran absurdists, who tackle boastfulness in "Duckbilled Platypus vs. BeefSnakStikR" and who denounce vanity in the story of a skateboarding frog. Unusual characters notwithstanding, each piece highlights an everyday, modern situation in the manner of Aesop's classics. Topics in these 18 tales hit the bull's-eye, running the gamut from the toxic clique (Shark, Wasp and Bacteria wonder why no one eats lunch at their table; "Moral: Think about it") to the dynamics of a group project (Rock, Scissors and Paper all blame one another for their bad grade; "Moral: Shoot") to handling friends and family. In "Termite, Ant, & Echidna," for instance, foolish Ant throws aside his best friend when he meets a new playground pal, realizing too late that "Echidna is another name for Spiny Anteater." Scieszka ventures deep into child appeal territory, as in a gas-passing anecdote about a skunk, musk ox and cabbage ("Moral: He who smelt it, dealt it"). Smith ardently keeps pace with Scieszka's leaps of fancy, lending credence to a talking piece of toast, a walrus with a phone and a spiny, spiteful blowfish. In one full-bleed painting, little green Grasshopper cowers in the giant shadow of his mother as she grills him about his homework; strokes of eggplant-colored paint extend the sweeping size of her tentacle-like appendages, while splatters of softer shades suggest the sweat from her brow. In another, the titular fable, Smith utilizes a cartoon-like progression of panels to contrast the animated expressions of Deer, Mouse and Rabbit as they enthusiastically attempt to plan an outing with that of the deadpan, naysayer Squid. Meanwhile the design, with text printed in three typefaces of multiple sizes and colors, drives home each moral. The oversize format allows for a variety of page layouts, not to mention an in-your-face attitude that will hold readers' rapt attention. Unlike Paul and Marc Rosenthal's satiric effort in Yo, Aesop! Get a Load of These Fables (Children's Forecasts, Mar. 23), this crafty volume pays tribute to the original fables' economy and moral intent. Scieszka and Smith thriftily present one tale per spread, and beneath this duo's playful eccentricity readers will discover some powerful insights into human nature. Ages 7-9. (Sept.)