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Knuckleheads Hardcover – September 1, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Middle Grade Action & Adventure

Editorial Reviews


What is the sound of one hand clapping? Or perhaps a better question would be, if someone puns alone in the woods, is it still funny? This collection of four fractured fairy tales prominently features body parts without being bawdy. Most of the characters, like Handsel and Gretel, have hands for heads (though they also have arms and hands in the normal arrangement). Others, like Handerella's ugly stepsisters, have feet atop their bodies, while Nose White's most prominent protuberance is obviously her proboscis. Thumbelina gets short shrift, being a single (inexplicably blue) digit whose story is told in just two pages. Jokes, both visual and verbal, abound, as do puns and other forms of wordplay. Repeated readings may reveal some of the more subtle humor, but most of it will slap readers across the face immediately and (dare we say it?) quite handily. Not, perhaps, for a wide audience, but there are definitely those who will be willing to give this quirky work a hand (sorry!) and a loud hurrah. Original and entertaining. —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Joan Holub's right hand has written many books for children. So far, her left hand has show no writing talent, and spends most of its time lazing around in lavish costume jewelry. Joan enjoys thumb wrestling and hand tools, and is often seen wearing garden gloves, oven mitts, or glittery fingernail polish--depending on the occasion. She lives Texas.

Michael Slack is an artist, character designer, and occasional animator. His illustrations have appeared in Time, Nickelodeon, Ranger Rick, and the New York Times. He illustrated Ick: The Game for Chronicle Books. This is his first children's book. He lives in California.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 5
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; first edition edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811855236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811855235
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.4 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,136,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joan Holub has been a graphic designer, book designer, illustrator, and is now a children's book author. She has written and/or illustrated over 140 books:
* MIGHTY DADS, a New York Times bestselling picture book illus by James Dean, creator of Pete the Cat (Scholastic)
* LITTLE RED WRITING, a picture book illus by Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet (Chronicle Books). Guess who the wolf is! 3 starred reviews + 4 notable lists
* GODDESS GIRLS series puts a modern, middle school spin on Greek Mythology for ages 8-12, co-written with Suzanne Williams
* HEROES IN TRAINING series, chapter books for ages 7-10, co-written with Suzanne Williams
* GRIMMTASTIC GIRLS series, ages 8-12, co-written with Suzanne Williams
* THIS LITTLE PRESIDENT, a board book, 2016
* ZERO THE HERO, a picture book illus by NYTimes bestselling Tom Lichtenheld
* THE KNIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS, picture book illus by Scott Magoon
* MINI MYTHS board book series, Greek mythology for preschoolers. Play Nice, Hercules! Brush Your Hair, Medusa! Illus by Leslie Patricelli

Who Was Babe Ruth?
What Is the Statue of Liberty?
Who Was Marco Polo?
What Was the Gold Rush?
What Was Woodstock?
What Were the Salem Witch Trials?
Vincent van Gogh Sunflowers and Swirly Stars
The Gingerbread Kid Goes to School


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Puns. Puns are hard. I think that it's safe to say that every adult has a kind of pun-limit. We can only take so many of them until we hit that limit and our groans turn from humored acknowledgments of cleverness to real moans of pain. Of course this limit is entirely reliant on the quality of the puns at hand, particularly when you're dealing with picture books. Now we turn our attention to "Knuckleheads" by Joan Holub, as illustrated by Michael Slack. As I read through the book I found my pun limit thwarted time and time again. The sheer weirdness of the concept combined with the four storylines . . . well, basically this is like nothing you've ever seen (let alone dreamed up) before. You can't deny it. If fairytales were performed entirely by sentient isolated body parts, this is certainly how their stories would go.

Four stories, all held together by a single green-skinned witch. Four stories, all based on famous fairy tales, in which the characters have been replaced with hands, feet, noses, thumbs, and other extreme extremities. In the first tale "Handsel and Gretel" two troublemakers outwit an evil witch. The witch is caught, but escapes into the next story "Handerella" where she masquerades as the little hand's evil stepmother. Instead of a beautiful gown, Handerella goes to the ball in an evening glove with a ring (toe-pazz?) and when she runs away in the night the prince ("Finger Prints") tries to find the lady in the kingdom that will fit the ring. Foiled once more the witch briefly participates in Thumbelina (it's a short tale, haha) and then becomes the evil queen in "Nose White". And even when this story finishes, however, she's bound for other tales like "Paul Bunion" and "The Adventures of Tom Thumb" to wreck havoc everywhere.
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Format: Hardcover
Oh, this book is funny. I love a good pun, and the word play in this crackerjack kids book is chock full of silliness and fun. And the jokes are not just in the text! The illustrations tell jokes too, and the diligent peruser of this book will find visually-based giggles on each page that he/she might have missed before.

Knuckleheads is a collection of fractured fairy tales that features hands(and fingers and noses and toes-es) as the stars of four fables that are linked by a evil green hand-Witch, who makes her way though the book as part of her escape from justice(she was caught red-handed, trying to roast Handsel and Gretel). The Witch, who makes her debut with a brass knuckle and a house made of finger foods, then shows up in a footed disguise in Handerella. After her plans are tripped up for matching one of the step sisters with the Prince(Finger Prints-ha!), she then makes a short appearance in Thumbelina, and then gets her diva on as the Queen in Nose White.

A bit of knowledge about the original fairy tales is helpful(my three year old was a bit lost with many of the jokes), so I would suggest this book for anyone over 5 years old. That said, my son DID think that the pictures were funny, and he liked the book overall, perhaps because I was reading it with my "funny book voice" and laughing at it myself. I am sure that comparisons to the The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and Squids Will Be Squids will be made with Knuckleheads, and deservedly so in the best possible way: these books(and their authors/illustrators) do not write down to children. They create unique and challenging books that are witty and silly and wonderfully fun to read. Knuckleheads stands alone in how thoroughly the joke is maintained throughout the read: I don't think that there is a hand pun that is left unheralded in this book. Part of the fun is wondering how another pun can be squeezed in to the story. And it can, dear reader, handily.
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Format: Hardcover
For those of you who love fairy tales and the ways people take them and twist them around have I found the book for you!

Knuckleheads is a book of fairy tales in which the characters are hands, feet, thumbs and noses. It is by far one of the most amusing picture-book retellings of fairy tales that I have seen in a long time! We are treated to the tales of: "Handsel & Gretel," "Handerella," "Thumbilina," and "Nose White." The tales are quite condensed, and some of them are missing some major aspects of the story, like the parents in "Handsel & Gretel, but all-in-all the book is a lot of fun. The text itself is humorous and a bit slap-stick in nature, but when you combine that with the illustrations you have a hit on your hands! Parents will probably get a little bit more of the humor than the really young kids, but it's not at a level that is unattainable. I think this is one of those books, that, if a child loves it and reads it again and again, they will get more out of it with each reading.

Also, make sure to read ALL of the text on the pages. A good example is in the "Handerella" story, where there's a sign that reads: How to be a wicked stepsister in three easy steps: 1. Step on others' feelings. 2. Step on others' toes. 3. Step on anyone who gets in your way." You may not get the humor by just reading that, but when you add in the fact that her stepsisters are feet (plus the word stepsister) you have comedic gold on your hands. I think kids will totally love the humor of this book!

Notes on the Cover:
Honestly, if I hadn't heard about this one I probably wouldn't have picked it up. The title is in red and in the very center of the cover.
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