Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Review: Guys Write for Guys Read

Title Guys Write for Guys Read
Author Jon Scieszka, Ed.
Genre Nonfiction (YA), Short Story Anthology
Rating C

Summary Sixty-eight authors and twenty-three illustrators, all male, contributed essays on various topics (most often how they developed a love of reading, but sometimes just what it's like to be a guy).

First Line "Hey guys--now here is something for you to read. A bunch of pieces by a bunch of guys... all about being a guy."

Review Some of these short stories were really funny and I'll remember them for a long time. Some were so good that I had to grab my fourteen-year-old nephew who has a love/hate relationship with reading (sometimes he's hot, sometimes he's not) and have him read it right then. Others were boring (or would have been boring to a young guy). It was a 50/50 split for me (hence the C rating).

Most poignant piece in my opinion was "Funny You Should Ask" from The Life of Reilly by Rick Reilly where the author gives his son a very long and philosohical answer to his question of, "Dad, why are we here?" only to later receive clarification from the son that, "No, what I meant is, why are we here when Mom said to pick her up forty minutes ago?"

Two Funniest Stories:
#1: A super-short story about a time when a class of fourth graders is assigned to write a short story about what they'd do if they were Robinson Crusoe and their teacher said, "...You can write anything you want." One kid chooses to write, "This is my story: One day I was on a ship and it crashed on an island. There was this monster and it ate me. The End." The kid ended up getting sent to the principal's office and got paddled. So much for writing anything you want. David Rice knocked out the full story arc in only six paragraphs in "The Death of a Writer."

#2: A story about a guy who, when he was younger, watched his nephew pee on an electric fence (with startling results) and then sees his son do the same thing when he's about 14 years old (with painful results). The son asks if he'll ever outgrow the phase of doing stuff like that and the dad responds, "It's the way we are." The story telling is humorous and sweet and comes from the award-winning author Gary Paulson (who's not known for his humor) in an excerpt from How Angel Peterson Got His Name.

The most memorable story was Chris Crutcher's essay on getting initiated (aka, hazed) into his high school's athletic fraternity. I had my nephew read this one and his question when he was done was, "Why'd they have to be naked?" Classic.

I think this book, and what the Guys Read organization does as a whole, is awesome. I'm not sure this is a book that I'd recommend for a lot of middle grade/young adult guys to sit down and read straight through like I did, but I could definitely see recommending selected stories to guys at different times to meet certain needs (like when my nephew was in his room, playing his guitar too loudly--he's teaching himself to play--and I had him read an essay I'd just finished reading, "E, A Minor, B7" by Bruce Brooks, about how every 8th grade boy is in a band. He read it, laughed, and kept strumming). I could see teachers integrating selected essays into their curriculum as nice adjuncts, but it's not necessarily a cover-to-cover anthology... take the foreward's advice:
"So look around in here for something you like. You don't have to read in any order. You don't have to like everything you read. You don't even have to read everything."

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