The Secret Knowledge Of Grown-Ups (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

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Sssssshhhhh! You are about to open secret files, heretofore hidden from kids for thousandsof years. Steel your mind for the truth. Prepare yourself for knowledge never before held by Americas youth. Learn the real reasons grown-ups tell you to do things! Caldecott medalistDavid Wisniewskis surprising revelations will have you rolling in the aisles.

A humorous revelation of the real reasons why adults tell children to do things, such as "Eat your vegetables," "Comb ...

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Sssssshhhhh! You are about to open secret files, heretofore hidden from kids for thousandsof years. Steel your mind for the truth. Prepare yourself for knowledge never before held by Americas youth. Learn the real reasons grown-ups tell you to do things! Caldecott medalistDavid Wisniewskis surprising revelations will have you rolling in the aisles.

A humorous revelation of the real reasons why adults tell children to do things, such as "Eat your vegetables," "Comb your hair," and "Don't blow bubbles in your milk."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Caldecott winner Wisniewski (Golem) spoofs conspiracy theories in this "confidential" volume, with a jacket designed to resemble a sealed manila envelope and illustrated with intricate cut-paper collages. "As a parent, I went along with it all at first: going to secret meetings... preparing for the day when my kids would want to know why this and why that. But not anymore!" confesses the narrator, whose typewritten words fill a crumpled sheet of brown paper. On the pages that follow, bulletins labeled "TOP SECRET" offer classified information. For example, "Grown-up Rule #31: Eat your vegetables" is followed by "Official Reason: They're good for you." This leads to "The Truth: You don't eat vegetables because they're good for you. You eat vegetables to k...." Here the document is torn as if by an enemy, and a turn of the page reveals, in oversize type: "to keep them under control!" A tyrannosaurus-style broccoli stalk marauds across the accompanying illustration, joined in its depredations by equally sinister carrots, radishes, etc. The engagingly silly formula repeats throughout, the text and the art consistent in their over-the-top humor and sure execution. The mock-official presentation gleefully contrasts with the utter ridiculousness of the "facts," just as the painstaking cut-paper technique contrasts with the loony wit of the compositions themselves. Yet, strangely, the findings seem to prove that young readers should comb their hair and stop blowing bubbles in their milk—could this exposé be the work of a double agent?
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
The title is perched on a yellow cover that resembles a top-secret file. The back flap tells about the author with statements like, he's "old enough to know better, between 3'6" and 6'3". Inside, Wisniewski delivers on his promise when he reveals the secrets behind eight worn out adult sayings. For example, Grown-up Rule #31: Eat your vegetables. The Official Reason is that they are good for you. With a quick page turn, kids can learn the truth. You see, once meat-eating vegetables ruled the earth and now you've got to eat vegetables to "keep the little horrors fearful and demoralized and to protect modern civilization." Wisniewski trademark paper-cut collages are bright, colorful and as zany as the stories. This book will draw children like a magnet.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Ah, the Caldecott! When you win it, you can finally get away with writing and illustrating what you really want to. That's seems to be what Wisniewski has done, in this iconoclastic little tome that pushes both the publishing envelope and the parental button. Bet you didn't know the real reason for Grown-up Rule #37: Drink Plenty of Milk! Hint: it has to do with a top-secret government program and some cows you just gotta meet to believe. In the age of the 32-page picture book, here are a hefty 45 pages of text and illustration. Wisniewski's trademark cut-paper collages are turned to a refreshingly wicked purpose, and aimed squarely at the 8 to 10 crowd, who ought to lap it up like the proverbial milk.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5Emulating the tongue-in-cheek approach of revisionist folklorist Jon Scieszka, Wisniewski presents a handful of goofy reasons for the rules that parents relentlessly inflict on their gullible children. He turns the tables on other adults by sharing his secret files and exposing the truth behind edicts such as "Comb your hair" (official reason: "It keeps it neat." The truth : "to stop it from going back into those little holes in your head") and "Don't play with your food" (official reason: "It's messy and rude." The truth: "...the food will want to play with you"). Silliness is the norm here and puns are sorely abused. The illustrations are fantasticthe amazingly intricate cut-paper designs are layered and then photographed, shadows enhancing the three-dimensional effect. However, despite Wisniewski's enthusiasm, not all of the absurdity works. The "collages" range from the tacky ("Hell's Pinkies" are the diminutive gang members, grown from chewed fingernails, that are forced to pick earwax), to the gross (a graphic sneeze), to the macabre (a boy and a headless chicken race toward one another in a literal interpretation of this game of nerves), to, unfortunately, the tasteless (the detail from Picasso's Guernica is offensive, bizarrely linked to the "Don't blow bubbles in your milk" rule). Still, kids should have fun coming up with their own silly explanations to combat this adult conspiracy run under the guise of manners.John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Wisniewski (Golem) satirizes the myriad rules that grown-ups impose on children, from eating vegetables and combing hair to refraining from nose-picking. On behalf of kids everywhere, the author sets out to sabotage the world's adults in their conspiracy to pass on proper hygiene, common courtesy, and good manners to children. Sleuthing through top-secret files, procured by disguising himself variously as an eggplant, a bedbug, a nail, or a giant nose, the author exposes the "sinister, truly macabre reasons for these seemingly innocent requests." Meat-eating saber-toothed asparagus and woolly cucumbers terrorized early humans back in the Age of Vegetables; humans eat them so as not to be eaten. Similarly, children drink milk to stop atomic cows (developed because "in the 1950s, our government was afraid that the Russians would develop the first atomic cow and flood the market with Communist milk") from exploding. This misguided attempt at subversive humor seems aimed at other adults, rather than the picture-book set, who won't understand the Cold War references nor laugh at the notions of Scottish shepherds herding mattresses on farms by serenading them with bonny ballads. Even the children in the age group that finds all references to body parts and bodily functions funny may be dumbfounded, though they will appreciate the painstakingly detailed cut-paper creations that depict, for example, a boy's face being sucked into a glass of milk.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613442541
  • Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 48
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

David Wisniewski passed away in his sleep, from an unknown illness, on September 11, 2002. Born in 1953, he had all-too-brief a life and leaves behind his lovely wife, Donna, and their two children, Ariana and Alexander.  

Just this week David had seen the finished books for Halloweenies, and he was so happy with how it turned out.  

He will, of course, be remembered as the 1997 Caldecott Medalist for his 6th book, The Golem. But perhaps even more, he'll be known for his off-beat postmodern humor, seen in Tough Cookie, The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups, and Halloweenies. Everyone who knew him loved his wit and his vibrancy; he was also quite an inspirational speaker. We will miss him.  


In His Own Words:

My mom taught me to draw in first grade. Nothing fancy. Just how to put circles and ovals together for form "bubble men." It was a wonderful introduction to drawing and a terrific gateway to action and proportion. But third grade, I was one of the class artists.

That's when I started reading comic books, especialy the Marvel superheroes created by Stan Lee. My sketchpads became full of The Fantastic Four, Spider-man, The Mighty Thor, and X-Men. Comic books were also my first introduction to dynamic storytelling. Nothing's more dramatic than colossal struggles between good and evil with entire galaxies at stake!

This enthusiasm led directly to Classic Comics, simplified versions of fantasy masterpieces like Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. It wasn't long before I became an avid reader, willing to tacklethe work of Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and A.E. van Vogt.

During high school I became interested in the performing arts as well as the visual When I couldn't afford more than one semester of college, I signed up for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. After training for two months, I clowned with Ringling for two seasons (1973-74), then performed with the country's largest tent show, Circus Vargas, in 1975.

After the circus, I was hired by my future wife, Donna, to perform with a puppet theatre. We married in 1976 and started our own company, Clarion Shadow Theatre, in 1980. Shadow puppetry was our specialty, wherein flat, jointed figures move against a screen illuminated with rear-projected scenery. Although I didn't know it at the time, shadow puppetry trained me to do picture books. Cutting out shadow puppets and projected scenery taught me how to use an X-Acto knife. The shadow screen was the same shape as an open book. Adapting legends and folktales into scripts taught me how to write.

When our chidren - Ariana and Alexander - were born, touring became impossible, so I adapted my cutting skills to illustration. After four years of freelancing for newspapers and magazines, I created my first picture book. The Warrior and the Wise Man (1989) looks very much like a shadow puppet play.

My cut-paper style matured with ensuing books. I learned to construct more detailed people and scenery, plus how to layer the artwork, creating the shadows that give depth to the pages. Happily, my books have been well received, culminating in the 1997 Caldecott Medal for Golem.

After six epic adventures, I wanted to try something comedic that would draw on my circus and puppet theatre experience. The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups was the result, a silly conspiracy spoof about the real reasons why parents tell kids to do things.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2007


    this book was great with all the colorfulness but, I was sad when it was over so soon. The 'truths' were logical and I even believe that they may be real ok ok they definitely made me a little wary of my vegetables

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2006

    Its spicy!

    This book is funny because it has funny pictures. This story is about grown ups rules. This book has different stories about grown-ups. I like this book because it has funny sentences.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2005


    If I could I'd give The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups:The Second File 100 stars for children's books.It's got alot of funny jokes like don't swallow your gum.David Wisniewki is a great children's book writer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2005


    If I could I'd give The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups: The Second File 100 stars.I think that he's a great children's book writer.He does good jokes like 'don't swallow you'r gum.'

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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