Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Review: Knucklehead

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up by Jon Scieszka. (Grades 4+)

Growing up as the second-oldest of six boys, Jon Scieszka had many an adventure as a child. His dad called them Knuckleheads since it was easier than saying "Jim, Jon, Tom, Gregg, Brian, and Jeff!". As in "Get out of the water now, you Knuckleheads!" was just so much easier, and much quicker than saying, "Jim, Jon, Tom, Gregg, Brian, Jeff, get out of the lake now because it is raining and lightning bolts are crashing in the trees all around you." (pg 106.)

In Knucklehead, Jon tells us about his life in elementary school. Grew up in Flint, Michigan where he attended Catholic school and spent summers at a cottage on the lake. He played pranks on his brothers and they played pranks on him.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny and its short chapters make it ideal for reluctant readers. It has a certain gross-out factor and one notable chapter about swearwords (but nothing worse than hell and damn), so be aware of those potential red flags.

To flag all the funny and interesting passages in the book, well, you'd practically mark the entire volume. This book will be an easy sell for booktalking by sharing a passage or two and I'd like to share a couple of my favorite teasers:

When talking about sharing a room with his brother in the cold basement and the space heater they used in the winter:

The twisty metal coils on the heater had a great orange glow when they got hot. Just like the fires we would build with Dad out at the lake.

I guess that's what made me and Jim think we could put out the heater the same way we put out the fires at the lake - by peeing on it
. (pg. 16)


Watch your brothers. That's what my mom used to tell me and Jim - "Watch your brothers."

So we did.
We watched Jeff roll off the couch.
We watched Brian dig in the plants and eat the dirt.
We watched Gregg lift up the lid on the toilet and splash around in the water
. (pg 35)

I was laughing the whole way through this book and I can't wait to booktalk it to some elementary- and middle-school kids. This will be a sure hit with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid crowd.

Read more reviews at Bookends, Fuse #8, A Year of Reading, Becky's Book Reviews, and 100 Scope Notes (among others). Also check out the book trailer, an interview, and Jon Scieszka Worldwide.

Happy Non-Fiction Monday! Anastasia's got the round-up at Picture Book of the Day!


max said...

Author James Patterson has a ten year-old son who doesn’t like to read. So Patterson has established to help other reluctant readers.

I, too, grew up as a reluctant reader. And my father was the author of over 70 books. Now I write action-adventure and mystery books especially for tween boys. My blog, Books for boys, is # 4 on Google today.

Max Elliot Anderson

Anonymous said...

This book has been a big hit with my 3rd and 4th grade boys. The funny thing is that I had put up a poster of the book that had been on the wall for weeks before the book ever was checked out. I just knew that kids would see that funny book cover and want the book. Finally, I pulled a 3rd grade boy aside, put the book in his hand and told him he had to read it. After that, the book never made it back on the shelf. Boys would come in with a friend and say, "I want to check this in and he wants to check it out." It really took word of mouth to get this book circulating. This is also a great book for showing kids that the words "biography" and "boring" are not necessarily synonymous.