by John Scieszka

Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka
by John Scieszka

Knucklehead is a great book for reluctant readers, especially if you are doing a unit on biographies. In the book, popular author Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man, The Frog Prince Continued...) recounts his early years growing up in a household with six brothers and two caring parents. The series of goodhearted ribbing and pranks and family fun help explain how Jon Scieszka got so funny!

Hearing that the book is a memoir about life in a family of six boys, I had assumed it would be full of naughty behavior and frustrated parents. I was delighted to find that is not the case. Instead, this book is truly a homage to family life. While there is certainly a lot of funny adventures and practical jokes and typical brotherly antics, the reader can clearly see how close the brothers were to each other and their parents, and how both of the parents seemed to have the perfect dispositions for handling such a brood. In fact, they seemed to really get a kick out their rambunctious gang.

In a starred review of the book, School Library Journal called this autobiography for kids "Entertaining and fast- moving, silly and sweet...not to be missed."  Booklist summed it up as "an autobiography about boys, for boys and anyone else interested in baseball, fire, and peeing on stuff." They are probably right about the audience. Pass this one on to boys in your classroom, especially reluctant readers. They are sure to appreciate its charms.

This book was an American Library Association Notable Children's Book  in 2009.

Reading Level for Knucklehead:

Interest Level: Grade 3-7
DRA Level:  40
Lexile Measure: 750L
Guided Reading Level:  R

Read-Aloud vs. Individual Reading:
Kids in third and fourth grade will likely need this book to be a read-aloud rather than for individual reading, as children generally do not read on the reading level (difficulty level) of this book until the middle of fourth grade. The majority of fifth, sixth, and seventh graders should be able to read this book independently.

See Inside Knucklehead:

Below are the first six pages from inside this book.  As you can see, it's a chapter book but it's full of fun, kid friendly illustrations, and the chapters are super short (which really helps with the hesitancy that reluctant readers sometimes have to read chapter books.)

Short Knucklehead extension activity idea:

On the author's personal website, there's a page with more pictures from his life and family, plus photographs of the many drafts he goes through when writing a book.  As teachers, we LOVE this modeling of the writing process, especially since kids can sometimes be reluctant to revise, revise, and revise again in order to make their writing better.  Showing a successful, popular author going through these steps will help kids see that they are necessary in order to create a really great work of writing!  To see his website, click here:  short Knucklehead extension activity