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Jon Scieszka

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In college, Jon Scieszka was on course to become a doctor, but spent his spare time attempting to write the Great American Novel. He decided to shelve his medical ambitions and take a masters degree in Fiction Writing at Columbia University. Afterwards, he became a teacher in New York. Fans of Scieszka will not be surprised that he was a somewhat unorthodox teacher, who introduced his eight-year-old students to Kafka's Metamorphosis ("They loved it. You'd tell them about this guy who turns into a cockroach, and they'd go, 'No way, man, no way.'") Scieszka's teaching experience prompted him to try writing for children, viewing his new readers as "the same smart people I had been trying to reach... just a little shorter." In 1988, Jon took a year off from teaching and swapped material with the illustrator Lane Smith. The result of this collaboration was The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!. The book was initially rejected by publishers on the grounds that it was too weird/sophisticated. But it was not long before the book made it into print. A decade after its first publication, the book has sold over 4 million copies, been translated into ten languages and been widely acclaimed as a classic picture book for all ages. The next Scieszka/Smith collaboration The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales goes even further to break all the rules - pages are printed upside down, the contents page appears well into the book and the narrators - Jack and the Little Red Hen - skip in and out of well-remembered stories. A few purists were offended but the book won the prestigious Caldecott Honor. With books like Maths Curse and Squids Will Be Squids, Scieszka and Smith continue to stretch our notions of what picture books can be, and what subjects they can address. Anyone picking up a picture book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, can see that both author and artist trust the intelligence of the readers. The duo have also collaborated on a series of chapter books, which chronicle the adventures of The Time Warp Trio. These have been particularly welcomed as great books for reluctant boy readers.