Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Battle of the Birthdays - Scieszka vs. Prelutsky

Happy Birthday Jon Scieszka and Jack Prelutsky - September 8


I hope someday September 8th will become a National Day of Reading.  Jon Scieszka and Jack Prelutsky, two of the greatest modern day children's authors, share the same birthday on the eighth day of September.  I thought it would be fun to have a "Battle of the Birthdays" to compare these two great authors in ten different categories.

1. Birthdates - Jon Scieszka was born September 8, 1954.  Jack Prelutsky was born on September 8, 1940.  As Billie Burke once said, "Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese."


Advantage: Prelutsky is older, but age may not matter. Scieszka is not a cheese, but he did write The Stinky Cheese Man. So, I can't give the advantage to either.

2. Start of Career - Scieszka almost became a doctor but turned down medical school to obtain a writing degree from Columbia University. Later, he opted to become an elementary teacher which sparked his interest in writing for children.  Early in his career he was rejected by many publishers until he teamed up with Lane Smith and created The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. The wives of Scieszka and Smith actually knew each other and thought they would work well together.

Prelutsky stumbled into the field of children's literature when he was 24 years old. He had been spent about 6 months doodling creatures and writing verses to accompany each drawing. A friend suggested that he submit his work to an editor.   Much to his surprise his poems and drawings were well received and were published as his first book.


Advantage: Prelutsky. Both Prelutsky and Scieszka were well supported by friends earlier in their career. However, I will side with Prelutsky as the start of his career was totally unexpected.

3. Number of Books - Before long Scieszka is going to surpass Prelutsky in number of titles, if he hasn't already. Scieszka's Trucktown Series is scheduled to have over 50 books in the series.  Prelutsky has published over 50 books in his 40 years of writing.

Advantage: Scieszka.

4. On the Web - Prelutsky has his own website that feature many of his poems.  My favorite part is a section that displays letters that children have written him over the years (hilarious!).  Overall, there is very little media available on the web for Prelutsky.

Scieszka also has his own website, and many other websites including, Guys Read, that mentors and encourages boys to read. Scieszka also has sites for individual books like Baloney Henry P. and his new endeavor Space Headz. Also check out,  Time Warp TrioTruckTown, and the Cowboy and Octopus Blog.


Advantage: Scieszka. He is all over the web and fully embraces the power it has to extend the experience of his books.

5. Our Favorite Books -  My family's favorites of Scieszka include Baloney, Henry P.
(my daughter), Truckery Rhymes and Robot Zot! (son), Cowboy and Octopus(parents).  I really like The New Kid on the Block by Prelutsky.  My children and wife like his holiday poetry books like It's Halloween. My wife can still recite poems she had to memorize in grade school from It's Thanksgiving.

Advantage: Even. We have great memories reading all of these books.

6. Awards - Scieszka has won numerous awards for his books including his most decorated The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man.  The biggest award bestowed upon Scieszka was when he selected as the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in 2008. This award is the U.S. equivalent of the U.K's Children's Laureate.

Prelutsky has had many national bestsellers including The Wizard, The New Kid on the Block, and Scranimals, illustrated by Peter Sis. The biggest award given to Prelutsky was in 2006 when the Poetry Foundation chose him as the first Children's Poet Laureate.

Advantage: Even. You can't distinguish between two inaugural Laureates. Another draw in this category.

7. Printable Lesson Materials -  For Prelutsky, there are oodles of activity packets available. Check out: HarperCollins, another from HarperCollinsJackPrelutsky.comFairfax County Public SchoolsIt's Raining Pigs and Noodles LessonLife of Jack Prelutsky LessonRandomHouseMy Parents Think I am Sleeping Activity Packet, and Diffendoofer Day Lesson Packet.

For Scieszka, check out: Robot Zot ActivitiesFractured Fairy Tales from ScholasticTime Warp Trio Activities, and TruckTown Activity Booklet (takes a long time to load - but worth it!).

Advantage:  Prelutsky. I was easily able to find a plethora of printable lesson activities.  Scieszka has lots of web media available, but not as much in the area of printable activities.

8. Read Alouds - There is no doubt that Prelutsky's poetry is fun to read aloud.  We loved listening to Jack sing his poems from A Pizza the Size of the Sun on CD in the car this week.  Many of Scieszka's books are tough read alouds because there is so much emphasis on the visual presentation of the book, and that deserves close observation, i.e. The Stinky Cheese Man and Seen Art?. Many of the Trucktown books are coming out as leveled readers which are always tough as read alouds. However, I do love reading Cowboy and Octopus aloud.

Advantage: Prelutsky.

9. Who is sillier? - According to a Scholastic interview Scieszka says his audience is "hard-core silly kids". A critic once said that Scieszka, "enters classic fairy tales, turns them upside-down, and exits with a smirk." When selected to be National Ambassador for Young People's Literature he said, "I'm am honored to know that people would think of me, since I had a book with 'stinky' in the title."

Silliness oozes from most of Prelutsky's poetry. He was asked how he is able to write such silly poems and he responded by saying, "I don't try to be funny, I just am.  I used to try to write love poems and they'd always come out funny."  However, Prelutsky has also written less goofy books like Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your SleepThe Swamps of Sleethe: Poems From Beyond the Solar System
and a book of haikus - If Not for the Cat.

Advantage: Each is extremely funny, but their approach is completely different which makes it hard to compare. I would lean toward Scieszka being more silly, yet my wife argues toward Prelutsky. Toss Up, once again.


10. New Books -  Scieszka has lots of new things going on. He is currently promoting his SpaceHeadz series, plus a new TruckTown Book, The Great Truck Rescue was released on August 31, 2010.  On September 21, 2010, the first book from the Guys Read Library will be released under the title Guys Read: Funny Business, which a collection of stories from 11 great writers.

Prelutsky just released a new book, The Carnival of Animals on August 24, 2010 that includes CD of classical music and Jack reading the new verses.   The illustrator of the book is Mary GrandPre who illustrated the Harry Potter books.

Advantage: Scieszka. He has so much going on with Guys ReadTruckTown, and SpaceHeadz!




Final Verdict:   It is too close to call. Leave a comment below to let me know who you think should win the "Battle of the Birthdays". But, one thing is for sure at some point in my lifetime there will be a "Read Silly Books Day" or "Reading Can't Be This Fun Day" that will be celebrated every September 8th!

Check out my Previous Posts on Jon Scieszka and Jack Prelutsky.

More Links:
1. Cowboy and Octopus Travel the World - YouTube
2. Time Warp Trio on TV
3. Jon Scieszka Video Interview- Reading Rockets, Barnes and Noble, Trucktown Promo
4. Jack Prelusky Video Interview- Reading Rockets
5.  Penguin Story Time with Jon Scieszka - Episode 1
6. SpaceHeadz Blog Tour on Book Dads Blog with Guest Post by Scieszka
7. Jon Scieszka - Meltdown Audio Interview 2011

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