> Skip to content
  • Published: 2 October 2008
  • ISBN: 9780670011384
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 112
  • RRP: $21.99

Knucklehead

Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka



How did Jon Scieszka get so funny, anyway? Growing up as one of six brothers was a good start, but that was just the beginning. Throw in Catholic school, lots of comic books, lazy summers at the lake with time to kill, babysitting misadventures, TV shows, jokes told at family dinner, and the result is Knucklehead. Part memoir, part scrapbook, this hilarious trip down memory lane provides a unique glimpse into the formation of a creative mind and a free spirit.

Watch a QuickTime trailer for this book.

  • Published: 2 October 2008
  • ISBN: 9780670011384
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 112
  • RRP: $21.99

About the author

Jon Scieszka

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.

Also by Jon Scieszka

See all

Praise for Knucklehead

"Just try to keep kids away from this collection. Inspired book design makes the volume look like an old-school comic. The front cover features an elementary-aged Scieszka popping up out of a military tank, surrounded by explosions and bombers, while the back advertises a "Treasure Chest of Fun" and displays chapter titles and excerpts along with nostalgic graphics. Scieszka answers the oft-asked question, "Where do you get your ideas?" with a slew of childhood anecdotes and his family's escapades that have given him plenty of material from which to draw. Born in 1954, the second of six brothers, he writes about Catholic and military schools, buying gifts, chores, and hand-me-downs-all familiar experiences related with a specific Scieszka twist. His mother, a nurse, insisted that her sons use proper terms for anatomy ("rectum" rather than "butt") and bodily functions ("urinate" rather than "pee"), making way for several laugh-out-loud moments. Some stories are just amiably funny, such as wearing recycled Halloween costumes, while others help readers understand more about how the author developed his unique sense of humor. Although it includes the car trip story from Guys Write for Guys Read (Viking, 2005), Knucklehead is aimed at a younger audience. Family photographs and other period illustrations appear throughout. Entertaining and fast-moving, silly and sweet, this homage to family life is not to be missed."–School Library Journal"Offering an answer to the perennial query about where his ideas come from, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature looks back to his early 1960s youth. Fans will not be surprised to learn that, except for his mother (a nurse, fortunately) he grew up in an all-male household: father, five brothers and "even our dogs and cats and fish." The resulting memories include group pukes in the back seat, slipping toy soldiers into the Christmas creche, playing neighborhood games like "Slaughterball" and idyllic summer expeditions into the woods around his grandparents' cottage-not to mention the pleasures of random dips into the household children's encyclopedia and spurning "those weirdos Dick and Jane" to "find out more about real things like dogs in cars and cats in hats." Illustrated with truly dorky school-yearbook photos and family snapshots, this account of a thoroughly normal childhood doesn't match Gary Paulsen's memoirs for hilarity or Tomie DePaola's for cultural insight, but it will draw chuckles of amusement from middle-graders (particularly less eager readers) and of recognition from their parents and grandparents."–Kirkus Reviews "In this arch, glib, unapologetically shame-free outing, Scieszka, who grew up as the second of six sons, has written an autobiography about boys, for boys and anyone else interested in baseball, fire, and peeing on stuff. The format of the book is perfectly suited to both casual and reluctant readers. The text is arranged into two- to three-page nonsequential chapters and peppered with scrapbook snapshots and comic-book-ad reproductions. The accessibly irreverent language pushes the boundaries of moderation even as it reflects a sort of skewed wholesomeness. But the real testosterone payoff here is in the stories, which range from losing battles with fractious parochial-school nuns to turns “watching” little brothers (wherein the author watched brother number six eat a cigarette butt and charged neighborhood kids to watch him do it again). By themselves, the chapters entertain with abrupt, vulgar fun. Taken together, they offer a look at the makings of one very funny author—and a happy answer to the dreaded autobiography book report."–Booklist Reviews

Related titles