stinky cheese man

Children’s Book Authors: Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

November 08, 2009
by findingDulcinea Staff
Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, the author and illustrator team known for books like "The Stinky Cheese Man," are a children's book force to be reckoned with. The wise-cracking, fun-loving Scieszka did not start out as a writer, but his long road to being published seems to have made his perspective deeper and his imagination all the more intriguing.

Dr. Goofball

A conversation with Jon Scieszka is likely to include phrases such as "none of your beeswax" and "flapdoodle, poppycock and balderdash." That's just his style. The author trained to be a medical doctor, worked as an elementary school teacher, studied fiction at Columbia University and then spent five years as a house painter in New York. Now, he is a modern day teller of fairy tales.

According to his biography on, Scieszka’s first book, "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!" (illustrated by Lane Smith) was rejected by most publishers as being "too weird" and "too sophisticated." Fortunately, a bold editor at Viking Press published the book in 1989. Since then, it has sold more than one million copies.  

To learn about Scieszka’s early life and career, watch an interview with Reading Rockets. The author explains why he enjoys writing for children. "I knew they would understand Three Little Pigs told by the wolf, or they would understand goofing around with fairy tales. I think that's what informs all my writing. I always go back to just how smart those little kids are. I just know that at some deep level."

Writer On a Mission

Scieszka believes that all kids deserve to have fun reading. He also believes that much of the time, kids lose the desire to read because they are forced to read books that don’t interest them. In an attempt to combat this, he’s established an organization called Guys Read, which encourages boys to pick up books they wouldn’t necessarily find out about in school, but that might prove fun and exciting. Guys Read is an interactive resource to help boys spread the word about books they actually enjoy: Users are encouraged to read other guys' recommendations and then suggest their own favorites.

One work that often comes up on Guys Read is Scieszka’s own "Time Warp Trio" series, where ordinary boys named Joe, Fred and Sam travel back in time to discover extraordinary things about the past and the future. The series was turned into a program on the Discovery Channel.

In Pictures

But Scieszka is not alone in his success. His illustrator, Lane Smith, helps turn all of Scieszka’s characters into images. The two artists maintain a very close friendship. Other works they’ve produced together include "The Stinky Cheese Man" (now a household name for many American families) and "Math Curse." A collection of Lane Smith’s illustrations and a complete list of his work with Scieszka are available on his official Web site, Lane Smith Books.

A Comical View

Scieszka and Smith made an appearance at a Barnes & Noble store to talk with kids about how they came to work on children’s books, what the perks and challenges of the process are, and why each one thinks his job is better than the other’s. Be advised, however, that in true Scieszka-Smith style, this interview is actually a comic strip.

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