Part satire, part expose of the publishing world, the prose fizzes off the page. Mal Peet has won just about every literary prize there is, but The Murdstone Trilogy is his first ‘funny’ book, and what a success it is!
Funny books are brilliant, but funny books with HEART are even better.
Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos definitely fits into the latter category. Joey is always in trouble both at school and at home, as he simply can’t concentrate on anything. It’s like bees are constantly buzzing in his brain.
I’ve never met a more flawed but loveable character than Joey, or a reader that hasn’t adored him. Seriously recommended (plus there’s more in the series).
The Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton are outright hilarious. What more is there to say?
With scratchy, energetic illustrations by David Tazzyman, and a truly comedic drive, I think there’s very little that beats these for laugh-out-loud silliness.
I excitedly read a passage from the first book to a load of adults at a Christmas party once, as I thought it was so funny. Sure, I got a few funny looks for it, but at least I practise what I preach!
The Monster and Chips books by David O’Connell are a terrific mix of humour and wonderful illustrations. It’s a lovely concept – a chip shop run by monsters for monsters which takes on a human member of staff – and as such, it’s full of squirmy, goopy, and deliciously monstery meals, not to mention the menagerie of memorable monsters.
The books are rammed full of details, which will reward repeated readings, and I know children will love them as much as I do.
Oh No George! by Chris Haughton is a wonderfully simple and funny picture book. It’s humour lies fully in the character of George the dog, and the reader’s expectations of what he’s going to get up to next. Will he eat the cake? Will he?!
Wonderful to read aloud, and great in front of a class, not to mention the engagingly bright art, this one’s a winner!
OK, so Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain may not strictly sell themselves as funny books – they’re effectively Lord of the Rings for kids – but there is so much humour within their pages that they deserve to be talked about here.
Starting with The Book of Three and ending with the High King, the journey of Taran and his wonderful friends is so warm and funny – not to mention exciting. The books are short and punchy (from the days long before Potter), never dull, and still make me want to pick them up and read them all these years after I first read them.
Give them to a reader who likes funny books, and they’ll be sent off on an adventure for life.
A book that sells itself on the fact it has no pictures shouldn’t please me, but this does. The Book With No Pictures by B J Novak is a clever little title, that takes immense pleasure in the conversation between author and reader – and the child who’ll be sat listening in the middle. It’s not so much a story, more a mischievous discussion between a book and a reader.
As such, it’s funny, it contains mildly naughty words, and children will really enjoy it for making the adult jump through hoops of the author’s – or maybe the words’ – making.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is a much-loved classic, and still funny. It’s very British, and warm and cosy, but it contains a very grown up sense of the natural order of things. It’s this edge of darkness and reality that sets it apart from the whimsy of Winnie the Pooh (possibly its closest relation in the pantheon of classic literature).
Mr Toad remains one of the greatest creations in children’s books, and the bleak wintry settings and stirring rout of Toad Hall are set-pieces matched by none – as are the original’s E H Shepard illustrations. There are some lovely new (-ish) illustrated editions available, especially this by David Roberts.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, was a children’s book phenomenon that everyone talked about and broke free of the age shackles of its intended audience. Not outwardly hilarious or particularly silly, its humour lies in its wonderful language of a darkened hue and the grizzly way the author toys with his characters.
With a host of great characters and sinister (in a nice way) situations, the books cross adventure and humour perfectly – and this is something I find children want in spades from their books.
I’d say the books are possibly best suited to the higher end of primary school (ages 8+), but there’s loads to be enjoyed within their pages.
It would be hard to beat the Captain Underpants series for ‘funny’. Written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey, its beauty lies in its mixture of comic and novel – much of which is ‘created’ by its two main characters. I love it for that. I’m certain there are many kids who have been inspired to make their own comics because of these books.
Captain Underpants is desperately silly, for sure, but the books pique the interest of many children who may not immediately jump at the chance of picking up a book. It should be celebrated as being one of the most novel and unique children’s books on the market.