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SkippyJon Jones Hardcover – September 15, 2003
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From School Library Journal
Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Buoyant and colorful cartoon illustrations match the exuberant text perfectly."—School Library Journal
"The illustrations are as humorous as the story and kids will enjoy them."—Children's Literature
More About the Author
"Kids love to review my rotten report cards and laugh out loud at a slide show involving 4 cats and a funeral. Teachers love the 'Seed Box' filled to the brim with a magical collection of 'Junk' to inspire the writer in all of us. Everyone loves to watch 'Don Juan Skippito Bumblito the Great Sword Fighter' come to life with pencil and paper. By the end of the day we all believe that the stories in our own lives are worth writing about."
Judith Byron Schachner grew up outside of Boston in the 1950's. Her early years were not easy: "Growing up we didn't have much money. My mother was very ill, and to make matters worse, I was extremely shy. All my teachers complained that 'Judith needs to speak up in class, Judith needs to improve in arithmetic, and Judith needs to finish her work on time.' But no one complained about my artwork. On paper I drew myself a world where mothers were healthy and teachers were kind. My life was perfection in pencil."
Judith graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1973 with a BFA in illustration and went straight into the "greeting card factories, which included a stint at Hallmark. For five years I designed cute cards, sad cards, funny cards, and wedding cards. I was not having fun; in fact I never wanted to pick up a paintbrush again."
Married life changed many things for Judith. One clear advantage for her was that "for the first time in many years I could step off the 9 to 5 treadmill and devote all my energy to creating a portfolio of children's book art. That was until two little baby girls were born. Then motherhood became my favorite new job. Over the years I read hundreds of books to my daughters. Inspired by the art and words I was moved once again to finish my portfolio and take it on the road to New York. Around the same time I met Donna Jo Napoli who convinced Dutton Children's Books to let me illustrate her novel, The Prince of the Pond," published in 1992.
In 1995 Judith wrote and illustrated her first picture book, Willy and May, and has turned out a number of projects since then. "The wonderful thing about my job is that one day I can be writing about history, as I did in Mr. Emerson's Cook. The next day I'm drawing a wacky old woman for I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie. Or I can bring to life a beloved pet cat in my book The Grannyman. I live in a constant state of 3rd grade bliss - making up stories and drawing pictures. Isn't that what we all did as children?"
Several years ago the great author Lloyd Alexander stood in Judith's back yard admiring her daughters' Viking ship (as Judith puts it, that's another story). Working with Lloyd Alexander has been a dream come true for Judith: "Never in my wildest fantasies did I ever think that my art would inhabit his world of words."
Top Customer Reviews
First, the plot is hilarious. Skippyjon is a Siamese cat with a fantastic imagination. His mother scolds him for being so un-catlike and sends him to his room "to think about what it means to be a Siamese cat." But of course Skippyjon doesn't think for long. His imagination takes over and poof! He's a famous sword-fighting chihuahua off on an adventure in old Mexico. He defeats Alfredo Buzzito, "el blimpo bumblebeeto bandito" and wins back all the beans Buzzito has stolen from Los Chimichangos, a band of desert-dwelling chihuahuas. And of course the noise of this adventure eventually brings him back to reality, with his mother and sisters scolding him again, but in such a fond and loving way that we're left feeling only their affection for the little kitty-boy scamp.
Next, there are the pictures. Young readers and experienced readers both will enjoy the very funny illustrations, which include clues about just how Skippyjon GETS those wild ideas.
Finally, there is the diction. The language in this book is inspired. It rollicks. It rolls. It plays with the audience, teases and tickles and delights little ears. And "holy guacamole," it sure is fun to read aloud!
Thank you, Judith Schachner!
To me, the books relate to how young ones work into their imaginary play new languages and ideas on culture. Chihuahuas are thought to be spanish, so SkippyJon, a child-cat, will 'interpret' the language and customs in his own way, with what little knowledge he has, while pretending to be a chihuahua.
Also, to reference a particular point someone made on why the book is so stereotypical, the true reason behind adding the -O after words that aren't spanish is NOT done to suggest that it automatically makes a word spanish. Its done to fit into the song rhythm its meant to go with, and to rhyme with other words.
In the end, if you are concerned about it, teach your child the true customs and explain that the book is about word play between english and spanish, and is make believe and silly. Or, of course, don't read the book at all. But don't be so self-righteous as to denounce the book as racist, because racist is an ugly term that these playful books do not deserve.
Second, let me say that this book--like its sequels--annoys me to no end. I hate this series. The cutesy rhyming drives me nuts, and the book just seems to go on and on and on--it is truly a relief to reach the end of this one. Other people have purchased a few of these for my kids, and I will read them when my children pick them. (They don't pick them often, and I'm grateful for that!) But I am tempted to hide the Skippyjon Jones books behind all the other books. Reading one of these is a nails-on-the-blackboard experience for me.
I am really disappointed, because the concept seems like it might be funny and cute: a cat who thinks he's a swordfighting dog. But this concept is poorly executed, and the author resorts to unnecessary rhymes, cutesy names, and an overemphasis on ethnic stereotypes. The actual plot of the story is completely lost in a tangled mess of annoyance.
I don't have a strong opinion about whether the series is ethnically insensitive or racist, as opposed to just being overly cute. That seems to be the primary complaint lodged by other 1-star reviewers. The mixture of fake and real Spanish is very annoying. As I am not of Hispanic descent, I cannot comment on whether it is offensive, but it sure is nauseating to read.
There are so many wonderful children's books out there. Don't waste your time on this one.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Daughter loved it and skippy is the same breed of kitten my daughter received for her birthdayPublished 1 day ago by clark2298
One of the best read-out-loud books around. Great for kids and fun for adults!Published 5 days ago by Aqueous
Must read skippyjon's books with cd or youll never get the accent!! My students love this book.Published 5 days ago by megan
My kids love these books, especially when listening to the cd. Do you know if this has the cd included?Published 6 days ago by Dorothea A Fanning
bought for my grandsons (ages 3 & 5 now) they enjoyed the storyPublished 1 month ago by Sandra R. Babcock