The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs: Creators Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

Before it was made into a play, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! was (and is!) a popular children’s book. Here’s the story of the book’s creators and how the book got into print!

Author Jon Scieszka (rhymes with “Fresca”) was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1954. He attended high school at the Culver Military Academy in northern Indiana, graduated from Albion College in Michigan, and moved to New York City to become a writer. He studied at Columbia University, where he earned an M.F.A. in creative writing, and to support himself and his family, he taught elementary school and painted apartments. Teaching school reminded him how smart kids really are, so he took off work for a year to write a bunch of stories for children. He sent them around to book publishers, but no one liked them. Jon kept teaching and painting and writing and submitting his stories to publishers.

One day his wife, who worked at a magazine, introduced Jon to an illustrator she thought he might like. His name was Lane Smith, and he and Jon became friends. Lane was trying to get a job illustrating books, but publishers were reluctant to use his drawings. “Everyone thought his artwork was too weird,” Jon says. “I showed Lane the story of The Three Little Pigs, and he read it, and he goes, ‘Wow! This is great!’ He did the first painting of the wolf, and I just thought, ‘Oh! That’s what he would look like. This will be perfect.’ So, we took that out and tried to sell it to people and got rejected all over the place again. Some people would say, ‘I like the paintings, but I don’t like the story so much.’ Other people would look at the story and go, ‘I kinda like the story. The paintings are too dark.’ And ‘sophisticated’ was a word they used a lot, in a bad way, to say ‘This is too sophisticated for kids. They won’t understand.’”

Lane Smith's book cover

Jon and Lane kept showing their book around. Finally Regina Hayes, an editor at Viking Books, said that she the book was funny and agreed to publish it. And in 1989 that’s what she did, changing the title from A. Wolf’s Tale to The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, which has now sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into 14 languages.

Jon and Lane have since worked on eight other books, including another best-seller, The Stinky Cheese Man (1992).

Jon Scieszka’s web site

Lane Smith’s web site

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