By Jon Scieszka
Biographies are boring – period. That’s what I thought as a kid, and I have a feeling many kids think that now, too. Biographies are reserved for school assignments; not for pleasure reading and certainly not to make you laugh. Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) reads like no other children’s biography. It’s hilarious! Scieszka writes about growing up as one of six boys in Flint Michigan in the 1970s. If you’re not familiar with Scieszka’s books, he’s written many children’s book, including The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man, and seems to have especially captured the imaginations of boys.
I recently put Knucklehead to the ‘kid test’ this summer with the Laugh-Out-Loud Book Club; a group comprised of eight boys and two girls ages 8-10. We had just finished Scieszka’s Summer Reading is Killing Me! from the Time Warp Trio series, and I announced to the group that I was going to read Scieszka’s autobiography to them. I heard a groan, a sigh, and saw some eyes glaze over. But within minutes, the groans turned to laughter, and I knew they were hooked. The short chapters are chock-full of stories about every possible way Jon and his five brothers get themselves into trouble not to mention several incidents of puking, swearing, and blowing things up. In fact, my favorite chapter, Car Trip, features not only barfing boys but a vomiting cat as well! Many chapters end with the “Knucklehead Warning! Do not try this at home…or anywhere else.”
Autobiographies and biographies for kids can offer so much to their readers. When we finished Knucklehead, we all felt we not only knew Jon Scieszka better and what it was like growing up in a big family of boys, but we also got a feeling for that time period as well. Life without video games, computers, and cable TV didn’t seem bad at all – actually, it seemed like a whole lot of fun. I have no doubt, too, that the LOL kids had a new appreciation for the Biography section at the library. If I had read an autobiography like Knucklehead when I was young, I would have spent a lot more time in that section, too.