You know, I could keep trying to think of new headlines for every Stack Overflow column that’s about humorous books, or I could just spend that mental energy writing the columns instead. There’s simply nothing quite like the sound of your kids’ laughter when you’re reading them a story. Here are a few of our recent favorites.
Cece Bell, author-illustrator of El Deafo (which won a Newbery Honor this year), has a new picture book about bad grammar arriving next month (June 16). The donkey has horrible grammar (and pronunciation), which really bothers the yam. Unfortunately for the yam, the donkey is not a good learner, and continues to get things wrong. Until, finally, at the end, somebody learns a valuable lesson… but maybe not the one hoped for? My daughters love this one, including the two-year-old, who may not get the grammar jokes but loves the silly pictures of the angry yam.
Rude Cakes (due June 2) is kind of a bizarre picture book, but it’s funny and it teaches some important lessons about manners. It starts off listing some of the behaviors of rude cakes–they don’t say “please” or “thank you,” they don’t wait their turn, they don’t listen to their parents. But then this little rude cake gets a lesson–from a giant Cyclops. And you learn all of the things that Giant Cyclopses do, like saying “please” and “thank you” and waiting patiently and listening carefully. The illustrations are delightful, and I particularly appreciated the note at the end, that it’s never too late to change. (Side note: careful when you Google “Rude Cakes.”)
I’ve mentioned Liz Climo’s cartoon book, The Little World of Liz Climo, in a previous Stack Overflow. It features adorable animals in human situations, is mostly but not totally kid-friendly, and is entirely amusing. Rory the dinosaur and his dad are recurring characters, and now they star in their own (kid-friendly!) picture book. One day, while Rory’s dad is having some quiet time, Rory decides to go exploring on his own so as not to bother his dad. Fortunately, he happens across some nice stepping stones to cross the river, a coconut falls from a tree just when he’s ready for a snack, and the rain stops right where he’s standing when he can’t find shelter. And then Rory returns home, ready to relate his adventure to his dad, who happens to be wet and muddy and a little scratched up. While the picture book doesn’t have some of the sarcasm of the cartoons, it’s very sweet and paints a funny picture of a father and son who love each other.
The tuxedoed narrator of The Skunk notices one day that a skunk is following him. At first he isn’t sure, but it becomes very obvious that the skunk is trailing him, so he works hard to get away, eventually starting a whole new life. The skunk’s expressionless face (as illustrated by Patrick McDonnell of Mutts fame) will have both you and your kids giggling. And the ending … well, let’s just say this isn’t your typical fable with a moral at the end. I’ve seen it called “Samuel Beckett for kids” and I must say I agree. If you like a touch of the absurd in your picture books, you should definitely keep an eye on The Skunk.
When two brothers see a deal for a FREE LION on a box of corn flakes (“just save 100 coupons!”), they can’t wait. They imagine all the things they’ll do with their lion. But, of course, first they have to eat a hundred boxes of corn flakes. And then, when the time finally comes, all their friends get their lions, and they get … a bear. It’s all rather silly, but your kids will learn a valuable lesson about free prizes from cereal boxes–or maybe they’ll just wish for a lion.
A sort of sequel to I Didn’t Do My Homework Because…, this book depicts a boy’s list of excuses for being late to school, from giant apes to mysterious mole people to some side trips into fairy tales and time travel. If you’ve got kids who give outlandish explanations for things, this book may give them an idea of how their stories appear to you. Or, you know, they might just try these excuses for themselves.
Destructosaurus storms out of the ocean and wreaks havoc on the city–all while getting scolded like a misbehaving toddler. Because … maybe he is. Here Comes Destructosaurus! imagines a godzilla-like monster acting out, and the juxtaposition of building-smashing titan with cranky three-year-old is pretty amusing. What really completes it, of course, are Jeremy Tankard’s wonderful illustrations. I’ve been a fan of his bold paintings since Grumpy Bird, so I like having this one in my collection too.
This last book isn’t a picture book exactly, but it’s good for some laughs, so I figured I’d include it here. It’s full of flyers with those tear-off tabs at the bottom, made so you can pull it out of the book and post it on your office bulletin board or on the telephone pole on the street corner. Some just refer to various stories, like the Lost Slipper poster that asks you to phone “P. Charming” if you find it. Most of them, though, are full of tearable puns–many of them visual gags like the one on the cover. I should note that not all of them will make sense to your kids (do they know who Steve Urkel is?) so it’s more for adults than kids.
Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.