A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Johanna Hurwitz (Busybody Nora).
- On the day in 1547, Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) is baptized in Alcala de Heraves, Spain. Read Don Quixote.
- Washington Monument opens to the public in 1888. Read Mystery at the Washington Monument by Ron Roy, illustrated by Timothy Bush.
- Itâ€™s Curious Events Day. Read Curious George by H. A. Ray.
Just when I think I canâ€™t be surprised about the existence of a holiday, one comes along that amazes me. Today we celebrate Moldy Cheese Day. Molds play an important part in the production of deliciousâ€”but often stinkyâ€”blue cheeses like Roquefort and Gorgonzola. Even the milder Brie and Camembert get created by the introduction of a mold, a member of the Penicillium genus. But I digress; this column has been devoted to books, not molds or cheeses.
In 1992 I was Editor in Chief of the Horn Book Magazine when the most talented new duo of the decade, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, published their second book, one deliciously entitled The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. In it the creators play with everything from the title page to the bar code, and they give us fractured versions of classic fairy tales. â€śLittle Red Riding Hoodâ€ť becomes â€śLittle Red Running Shortsâ€ť with quite a few liberties taken, and â€śThe Gingerbread Manâ€ť becomes â€śThe Stinky Cheese Man.â€ť As the introduction announces with pride: â€śThe stories in this book are almost Fairy Tales. But not quite. The stories in this book are Fairly Stupid Tales.â€ť
The Stinky Cheese Man completely divided the Horn Book review staff. Some thought this book too sophisticated for children, relying as it does on an understanding of the story being spoofed. Others thought it hilarious on every page and spot on for the audience. At that time, we held review meetings where everyone came to the office to argue about which books would appear in the next issue. I sent people back to their libraries and classrooms, to try out the book with children. Those who were dubious to begin with said children found it confusing. Those who loved the book found a ready audience. As is so often true, research with children sometimes tells us more about the researcher than the child. At that point I realized that I was witnessing the kind of controversy that greets classic childrenâ€™s books as they come into the world.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales would make a great impact on childrenâ€™s books in the nineties, solidify the position of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith as childrenâ€™s book geniuses, and keep children laughing for at least two decades. Every part of the book entertains; as a whole, it works brilliantly in its combination of design, art, and text.
The book won a Caldecott Honor for Lane Smith. Although Lane is, and continues to be, one of the most original and talented illustrators of his generation, he has never received the Caldecott Medal. Iâ€™ve always thought that fact a great miscarriage of justice. Well, maybe in the future. But in the meantime on Moldy Cheese Day, you can do no better than pick up a slice of Stilton and read The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairy Stupid Tales.
Hereâ€™s a page from The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales:
Originally posted October 9, 2011. Updated for .