Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dope slap

Is there anyone in the kidlit world who isn't a Jon Scieszka fan? When Mr. Ambassador made a visit to my library in 2009, I was so impressed with how calm and natural he is with kids, while still keeping the adults entertained. I had a similar reaction in listening to his memoir: Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka. It's an entirely kid-friendly series of vignettes, but they are presented with a kind of nostalgia that adults will enjoy.

I only grew up with one brother, but I think I knew several Jon Scieszkas growing up. Certainly, I encounter them occasionally in my work today, and -- well, I still don't understand them, but at least I can appreciate a little more where they are coming from. That kid/reptile brain is constantly egging them on!

Knucklehead includes the six Scieszka boys lighting a dry-cleaning bag on fire, peeing simultaneously into the toilet ("sword-fighting" was a topic of intense interest from the kids who attended the presentation I linked to above), crawling through some kind of gross and scary sewer pipe, engaging in a broad range of warmongering mayhem, and playing something called Slaughter Ball that involved physical injuries. Several of the anecdotes come with the Knucklehead warning: Do not try this at home. I very much enjoyed two teacher/nun-Scieszka stand-offs: Once when he must come up with a comprehensive list of swear words -- which he compiles by making compound swears, such as damn-butt. And the other is when his fearsome teacher asks him to share a joke with the rest of his class. His timing is impeccable.

It's Scieszka's comic timing that makes this audiobook so appealing. He reads in this almost deadpan manner -- quietly and with little drama. The jokes and general hilarity just sneak right up to give you the dope slap. More than once I am caught just shaking my head in disbelieving laughter. Those boys did what?

The person that I'd really like to meet from this book is his mom, Shirley. That woman must have had nerves of steel.

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