SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS :
FRESH MORALS FOR MODERN FABLES
Jon Scieszka has created a collection of wacky, modern-day fables in his book, SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS. In his “serious
historical forward,” Scieszka explains what a fable is (a gossipy story about someone with their name changed to an
animal), who Aesop was (“the guy most famous for telling fables”), and what this book is about (“beastly
fables with fresh morals about all kinds of bossy, sneaky, funny, annoying, dim-bulb people. But nobody I know personally.
Really.”). Children will enjoy the silly stories as well as the morals they pronounce. For example, in “Frog’s
new shoes,” Frog saw an advertisement on TV which showed a guy in new skateboard shoes doing all kinds of fantastic
stunts. Frog bought those same shoes but wiped out when he tried to do those same stunts. “Moral: Everyone knows frogs
can’t skateboard, but it’s kind of sad that they believe everything they see on TV.”
The zaniness continues with fables about, among others, a grasshopper’s homework; rock, paper, and scissors working
on a science project together; and toast and froot loops arguing about who was loved the most. The morals are actually relevant,
but some are somewhat obvious, making the adult reader believe that the offbeat story was contrived just to be able to say
a silly moral such as, “Don’t ever listen to a talking bug,” the underlying moral being “do what you
think is right” (or, more poetically, “to thine own self be true”).
The book’s visual presence is as zany as its written content. There are many different type styles in several
different sizes. The title of each fable, as well as its moral, is written in large Olde English type with the moral being
offset with simple scroll work. The drawings by Lane Smith are bold, bright, and (like the prose) slightly off-beat, such
as the illustrations for “duckbilled platypus vs. beefsnakstik.” The beefstick is personified with his arms akimbo
and a necktie made from the plastic packaging of the snack.
The pages were designed by Molly Leach who, interestingly, is the illustrator’s wife. This made me wonder about
the layout process: Did she tell him how she wanted the pages to look and what
to draw to make them that way, or did he draw the pictures and she had to figure out what to do with them? Whatever the method,
the collaboration was highly successful -- this book is good for a chuckle from all generations.
Scieszka, Jon. 1998. SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS : FRESH MORALS FOR MODERN FABLES. Illustrated
by Lane Smith. Designed by Molly Leach. New York:
Penguin Group. ISBN: 067088135X.
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