CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 1 . . . .September 2, 2005
Finally, a good book for boys. Sure, there have been countless novels written for young men over the years books of war, books of football and books of dragons and their evil overlords. But with Guys Write for Guys Read, editor Jon Scieszka has compiled a fantastic anthology of short works as selected by voters on the Guys Read website, the electronic component of a non-profit literacy program aimed at getting guys to read.
This varied collection contains stories, essays, magazine columns, cartoons, anecdotes and artworks by 90 different authors and illustrators, including Avi, Neil Gaiman, Matt Groening, Brian Jacques, Stephen King, John Marsden, David Shannon and Chris Van Allsburg (to name only a few). What brings together this eclectic group is that the works are all about being a guy some young guys, some old guys, some Canadian guys, some Australian guys, but all guys. And as Scieszka points out to his adolescent male audience in his foreword, "I know you are going to find something in here, because these things are funny, action-packed, sad, goofy, gross, touching, stupid, true, and all very short."
Within these works, which range from such subjects of sports, food, puberty, male bonding, bullying, superpowers, vomit and ultimate embarrassment, some noted entries stand out above the rest. Chris Crutcher's story of a bizarre high school football team initiation involving oysters, olives and an absence of clothing is slightly shocking (as one might expect from this author). Garth Nix's experience of the Australian army reserves and a crazy man named Lucky Dave is incredible, and Andy Griffiths (author of The Day My Butt Went Psycho) is the winner of most hilarious entry with a story consisting of the age-old contest of "My dad is better than your dad!"
Three Canadian authors are included in Guys Write for Guys Read: Arthur Slade, Gordon Korman and Kenneth Oppel. Slade describes the dangers of copying one's older brother as he attempted to dissect a bullet; Korman reminisces on the goofy violence of old Looney Tune cartoons; and Oppel provides his first experience of Dungeons and Dragons in a story to which many boys will be able to relate.
A common theme of authorship is found in many of the entries when did this passion start, and what effect did it have on these guys? Noted humourous examples are Eoin Colfer describing the downside of being a famous author, David Rice on grade school writing exercises, and Stephen King's realization that having a 200 pound babysitter fart on your five-year-old head prepares you for any literary criticism you might receive in later life. There are also two very touching stories, one by Richard Peck and the other by Terry Davis, on the role writing had on father-son relationships. Peck's story, "The 1928 Packard," includes what may be the most moving passage in the collection as he remembers his father through writing:
What an accomplishment to find a collection with stories as touching as Peck's, as macho as an Esquire or Sports Illustrated article, as silly as childhood drawings by Dav Pilkey, and as gross as a story about road trip involving Scieszka, his five brothers, their cat, an ill-advised pecan log roll and a lot of puking. Guys Write for Guys Read is the Boy's Own of the 21st Century (except better!), and one that will be enjoyed by guys of all ages (and the women that love and fight with them) for years to come.
Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.