The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (September 2012)|
|The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales|
|Cover artist||Lane Smith|
|Dewey Decimal||[E] 20|
|LC Classification||PZ8.S3134 St 1992|
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales is a postmodern children's book by Jon Scieszka. Published in 1992 by Viking, it is a collection of twisted, humorous parodies of famous children's stories and fairy tales, such as "Little Red Riding Hood", "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Gingerbread Man". Illustrated in a unique style by Lane Smith, the book won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book award, was a Caldecott Honor book, and has won numerous other awards in various countries.
The book has proved to be popular with children and adults, as its lighthearted approach creates interest while educating young readers about some of the features of books (such as title and contents) by poking fun at those conventions.
The book was re-released in a tenth anniversary edition in 2002, and included a new story.
The star of the book is Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, who tells the stories and deals with the rest of the cast. There's a very annoying Little Red Hen - a parody of the fairy tale of the same name - who comes in to complain about no one helping her make her bread and because she doesn't have a story in this book. Chicken Licken believes that the sky is falling, but it is the table of contents tumbling on her head. Jack introduces Little Red Running Shorts, a counterpart of Little Red Riding Hood, by blurting out the entire story—including the ending—so she refuses to be in it. The Stinky Cheese Man, a counterpart of The Gingerbread Man, is afraid to be near anyone because he thinks they will eat him . . . though they are really trying to get away from his horrid smell... A smell of dank cabbage.
In the middle of the book, the Little Red Hen comes up to complain that there's still no one to help make her bread and ask again for her story. Jack ignores her and starts to introduce his story, when the giant climbs down the beanstalk to gripe that he doesn't like the story. The giant then tells an extremely nonsensical story using random sentences and picture clippings from parts of a book. Jack jeers at this improvisation, and tells an excruciatingly long and recursive story (that never ends until the end of the book) about how the giant forced him to tell a story or he would grind his bones in order to not have the giant grind his bones.
Also in the book are "The Princess and the Bowling Ball", "The Other Frog Prince", "The Really Ugly Duckling", "Cinderumplestiltskin" and "The Tortoise and the Hair". In the first, a retelling of The Princess and the Pea, the Prince finally finds a girl he really loves. Sick of his parents rejecting potential wives when they don't feel a pea under one hundred mattresses, he slips his bowling ball under her mattresses when his parents have her over. In "The Other Frog Prince", the princess kisses the frog: he says "I was just kidding," and hops back in the lake. "The Really Ugly Duckling" is Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling, where the ugly duckling grows up to be a really ugly duck, rather than a swan. "Cinderumplestiltskin" combines Cinderella and Rumplestiltskin into a tale where an imp comes to Cinderella and offers to spin straw into gold. Cinderella rejects his offer, and when he wants her to guess his name she shoos him out, saying she's not allowed to talk to strangers. In "The Tortoise and the Hair", a telling of The Tortoise and the Hare, the Hare says he can grow his hair (one on the top of his head) faster than the Tortoise can run. So they race, and race and race, this story has no ending, the last words of it being "not the end".
At the very end of the book Jack successfully lulls the giant to sleep and is about to sneak away when the Little Red Hen pops in, griping that she still never got her story or her loaf of bread, and asking who will help her eat the bread now. The giant wakes and uses the bread to make a sandwich out of the Hen, Jack flees, and the book ends.
The foreword includes a parody of Goldilocks and the Three Bears as an example of a "Fairly Stupid Tale". Also, the table of contents includes the title, "The Boy Who Cried Cow Patty," a story nowhere in the book. The latter story was printed on the back of the dust jacket for the book's tenth anniversary edition (whereas the original edition had the Little Red Hen complaining about buying this book while asking who "this ISBN guy" is and complaining that she's only in three of the pages as a book gag). There are lots of other book gags such as one of the pages being upside-down. Also a surgeon general's warning saying "It has been determined that these tales are fairly stupid and probably dangerous to your health." The title for the Other Frog Prince is crooked because it's on the frog's sticky tongue. When Little Red Running Shorts quits her story she walks right out of her own story. The Giant talks in uppercase letters when he says "I'LL GRIND YOUR BONES TO MAKE MY BREAD!" The Giant and Jack make a cameo in Cinderumpelstiltskin.
- This book contains numerous fourth wall bombings.