Boom! Crash! Ka-Pow!: John Scieszka talks about TrucktownBy Philippe Teston | April , 2008
We all know that trucks help transport things from place to place, but what would happen if they came alive — and even better, if they smashed and crashed everything in sight? Welcome to Trucktown, a new book series by Time Warp Trio author and Young People's Literature Ambassador Jon Scieszka. Not only does Jon love writing about rambunctious trucks, but he is also excited about helping kids enjoy reading. We talked to Scieszka to learn a little more about the crazy trucks in his life.
P&C: So what, and where, exactly, is Trucktown?
Scieszka: It's everywhere! And it lives in the minds of little boys and girls who love crashing around trucks, like I did when I was little.
P&C: It looks like the Trucktown gang is pulling into bookstores in our neighborhoods. What kinds of adventures will we be driving into together?
Scieszka: Well, that's the fun thing about Trucktown, because it is just this whole town of 14 different characters, and everything is happening. One of my favorites, the third one coming out, is going to be "Trucktown Nursery Rhymes." It's got everyone. So it's "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack crashed through a wall of bricks!"
P&C: The members of Trucktown have really interesting and different personalities. There's the troublemaker Jack Truck, worrywart Cement Mixer Melvin, and the loveable but talkative Gabriella Garbage Truck. Of all the trucks, which one do you identify with most?
Scieszka: That would have to be Jack Truck. I really like him just because he's such a live wire, and like you said, a little bit of a troublemaker. He's always trying to put together a good gag, maybe to freak out Melvin or just to cause some trouble.
P&C: So you've written another successful book series — The Time Warp Trio — that was turned into a TV show for the Discovery Kids channel. What makes the Trucktown series different?
Scieszka: Trucktown was designed in this kind of unusual way, and it's really been planned out from the beginning just to make sure everything that it's great storytelling in all the different media. The new web site, the one that's up now just has to do with the books really. But there's a company working now to make it more like an interactive world where kids can log on. 'Cause I found that that's what kids want to do, they want to be part of it.
P&C: When the trucks aren't smashing and crashing all around Trucktown, what other fun activities are they up to?
Scieszka: Well I really love imagining them doing all sorts of things. We're working on a couple books where they go on vacation, which is kind of fun just imagining the trucks going off to the beach, building sandcastles. Their smashing and crashing is all about building things and knocking down old stuff, having a party on the road.
P&C: Teaching kids in grade school must have been an interesting experience. Were there any moments so memorable that you incorporated them into your books?
Scieszka: It's more like everything that happened in the schools ended up getting into the books, because that's what all my books are based in, kind of that realization of how smart kids are. To go and hang out with 4 year olds, whom I've never really hung out with before, it just reminded me that they're brilliant. And at the same time they're just crazy. Sometimes the stuff in TV and books is just not 4 year olds. And everyone's so careful about saying, "Oh, you can't have a mean character. You can't have a character that talks too much." We need all that stuff. It's based on kids.
P&C: Guysread.com is a program that you started to help young boys to start, and enjoy, reading. What else can we do to motivate kids to get excited about books?
Scieszka: What motivates boys is really what motivates anybody. And part of that is just letting kids choose from a wider range of reading. Not just fiction, because we tend to promote only fiction. And then the second thing we can do is actually let kids have more of a choice. Instead of requiring one book we can say, "Here's a bunch to choose from, what would you like to do? Do you like to read about pre-historic sharks or do you want to read Little House on the Prairie?"
P&C: So do you have any advice or jokes for the tykes reading your books?
Scieszka: Just keep playing around, because that's the most important thing and that's the way they learn.