Review: “The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales”

Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

Roll: 1,1. Result: Review, Book

snake-eyes! unreal.

I’m reviewing the Stinky Cheese Man because it is short enough that I can reread it right now if I need to, but it’s also just a fun book, and I can’t remember enough of the details of any novels I’ve completed this year.

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales

by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith

I love this book. Before I go on, I must say that merely gazing upon the physical book induces fits of gleeful nostalgia as well as bemused trepidation. The last time I read this book, I would have described it as “a really funny collection of silly versions of classic fairy tales.” Now I would describe it as “a sardonic explosion of twisted life lessons and grim illustrations in a child-friendly book format.” Oh, and it is still funny. Why?

This isn’t just a collection of stories written in a book. This is a bound collection of pages infused, and dripping, with story. The title page is a plot element, characters peel themselves out of the illustrations, and there is even story on the back cover referencing the bar code. The narrator is a character in the meta-narrative, which spans the full length of the book, including the dust jacket.

In a lot of ways, the stories this book contains are smarter than the fables and fairy tales they are based upon. They force you to consider how the classic characters would truly act in these odd situations. The collection is an interesting foil to the traditional stories children learn growing up.

And if the tone is sarcastic, the art style is a spot-on match. The contrast within one object or texture’s shading is full-range, with lighter edges pushing white, shadowed ones pushing black, and the majority of hues otherwise trending dark. Beady eyes, snarling lips, and jagged teeth abound in tales where nobody wins and you yourself live the happy ending. Besides the tone, I don’t think the font is the same size or arranged the same way on any two pages, each of which could be its own work of art.

In the end, I’m still as in love with this weird, weird piece of experimental storytelling as I was when I first read it, not long after it was first published in 1992. I hope it never goes out of style, and that many more kids are able to experience The Stinky Cheese Man’s accurately boasted “56 action-packed pages.” As Jack the Narrator says “New! Improved! Funny! Good! Buy! Now!”


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