The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, is a funny picture book in which the characters interrupt the stories by arguing about their writing and publishing problems. This side story is all about that final step of the writing process – publishing.
The main stories, the “fairly stupid tales,” are fractured fairy tales with humor perfect for kids in the middle grades. The stories include “The Princess and the Bowling Ball,” “Little Red Running Shorts,” and the title story “The Stinky Cheese Man.”
In “The Princess and the Bowling Ball,” the prince, who wants a bride, sees that none of the princesses are noticing the pea under the mattress and decides to speed up the process by substituting a bowling ball for the pea. In a story called “The Other Frog Prince,” the princess kisses a frog – and that’s the end of the story! In “The Tortoise and the Hair,” the rabbit claims that he can grow his hair faster than the the tortoise can run; this story does not come to a quick, exciting ending.
The narrator of the collection, who is also Jack from the story “Jack’s Bean Problem,” and the Little Red Hen are the two characters who interrupt with their arguments. Jack wants to get the book ready to publish, and the Little Red Hen wants to include her story in the book. Their arguments touch on text features, story elements, and common writing problems.
They point out features of a book like end papers, the title page, the dedication, and the introduction. Jack has problems like needing more sentences to fill up a page, and dealing with stories that use too many words written in uppercase letters. He points out ideas that are “overused” in fairy tales like the evil stepmother and a wicked witch. Text features like color print, a variety of text sizes, text set in boxes, and eye-catching illustrations actually used in the stories can also give students ideas for their own projects.
Maybe teachers don’t often teach middle graders much about the final step of publishing in the writing process, but it could be a fun lesson with a mentor text like The Stinky Cheese Man.
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