Saturday, March 29, 2008

In the Coop with Jon Scieszka

<--- Jon and friend, David Shannon! Sometimes, you just know an author is destined for greatness the very first time you read one of their books. We knew that about Jon Scieszka when we read The Stinky Cheese Man so long ago and blew lemonade out our beaks. Lesson learned: Lemonade hurts when you blow it out your beak. Other lesson learned: Jon Scieszka rocks! We were thrilled earlier this year when Jon was named the first ever National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! He is simply the perfect choice for this award.

So, Everyone, cover your beaks, raise your lemonades high and let's all welcome Jon to the Coop!

Congratulations on being named the first ever National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Why is this role important?

Someone needs to be wearing the crown and sash and epaulettes! It is also spectacular that we finally got a little more national attention for kids' books. We get stuck in the back pages too often.

When your term as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature ends, would you like to become ambassador (or President for Life) of a real country? If so, which one?

What do you mean, "ends"? As I understand it, I maintain my Ambassadorial privileges for life. Though it might be more fun to rule my charges from Monaco, or maybe Tahiti.

How do you know when what you write is funny??

You never know for sure. Plenty of things I've written have amused me, but no one else. And it's always interesting to see what makes different audiences laugh. Something like SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS is a great test of what kids find funny . . . or not at all. Some kids tell me that is their favorite. Other kids say they didn't "get" any of it.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?

It's all in the rewriting. And in the timing. The best test is to go out and read what you've written to a couple different groups of kids. You will know right away if it's funny or not.

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?

Both. I went to catholic schools for elementary. And the nuns were not to thrilled with the guys (me and my friends) who sat in the back of the class telling jokes. The first laughs would get me in trouble with the teacher. But then when I told the joke to everyone else on the playground -- I was a hero.

What are some of your favorite funny books?????

I love the old New Yorker guys like S.J. Perleman, Thurber, Benchley, Will Cuppy. Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are some of the funniest things out there too.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

Wow. That's a scary thought. Hanging out with a storytelling wolf? A little man made of bad smelling cheese? Talking squids? That's a nightmare. I think I would choose to live in someone else's book. How about the Swiss Family Robinson? I always loved how they found absolutely everything on that island and on their ship that got wrecked. And living in a tree! Spectacular. Though Father was a bit of a preachy kind of guy. Now that's sounding kind of hellish too. Okay, never mind. I want to live in Go, Dog Go!

Do you prefer The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?

Both. For different reasons. Groucho and company for their snappy patter. Mo and the boys for smack-you-on-the-head funny.

What was your best Halloween costume ever?

Bum. I was a pretty good witch. And a scary bunny rabbit. But I was an excellent bum -- I had the black marker whisker stubble, baggy suitcoat, and no mask. Beauty.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?

I've already got it. I sit around and think up funny stories for kids.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch.? Pick your winner.

Total clown. The mime is all about thinking he is a fine artist. The clown has been in situations and seen things you don't want to know. He is ripping through the white-faced silent guy in the first round, then celebrating with a shot of bourbon and a quick cigar before his next birthday party gig.

Funniest dead person you'd like to meet??

I have to agree with Mo Willems -- dead people are not all that funny. Mostly stiff, in fact. But a guy I would have liked to joke around with when he was alive? Robert Benchley.


MotherReader said...

Great interview of - I've gotta say it - the 2008 WAPB Award Winner. Do you think he knows?

He's such a trip. He's deserves all of those honors.

Three Silly Chicks said...

Everyone should know about the WAPBs! WAPBs rule!

Wild About Words said...

Great interview! Thanks!