Ready for some laughs? My kids always are. Here’s a stack of funny picture books (and a couple comics) that my family has been enjoying–plus one just for the grown-ups.
The Old MacDonald you’re used to had cows and pigs and chickens that made animal noises–but the animals on this farm help run the excavator and front loader and steamroller. Meanwhile, Old Missus MacDonald is getting that truck souped up and ready to roll. It’s a fun twist on the old rhyme that goes in a surprising direction, and the illustrations are exuberant and silly.
Mr. Doodle really doesn’t want to go to town, but his horse insists. Why, he could go shopping there! He could put a feather in his cap and call it “macaroni”! But Mr. Doodle is having none of that. The town is crowded and shopping is a waste of time and why would he call his hat “macaroni”? This is a pretty silly book that nevertheless manages to explain the meaning of the song.
Princess Pinecone is a tiny warrior, and all she wants for her birthday is a real warrior’s horse, rather than the cozy sweaters she usually gets. Instead, she gets a pudgy, cross-eyed, farting pony. It’s all rather hopeless. But when she rides her pony into the great battle, she gets a big surprise … which you’ll have to read the book to find out. Beaton’s illustrations are terrific, and we love the way the story plays around with familiar storybook stereotypes.
Nina was a ninja baby from the day she was born, practicing hand-to-hand combat during diaper changes and vanishing at bedtime. But then her parents brought home a Kung Fu Master–a baby brother who could disarm the parents with a single look, and force them to do his bidding without lifting a finger. How will Nina compete? Ninja Baby takes some familiar challenges of toddlers and babies and recasts them as ninja and kung fu expertise, with delightful results.
Here’s another story of an atypical baby–Dylan Snivels is a supervillain, and his parents just think he’s the best (worst?) ever. But when Dylan goes to school and meets Addison Van Malice, he realizes that maybe his parents’ assessment of him isn’t totally unbiased. I loved this one for the depiction of Mr. and Mrs. Snivels, the doting (but somewhat clueless) parents of a supervillain. Plus the opening line: “Mr. and Mrs. Snivels were minding their own business, when they happened to have a baby.”
My kids and I have enjoyed the previous Toys books–Toys Go Out, Toy Dance Party, and Toys Come Home–so we were familiar with the characters already: Stingray, Lumphy, and Plastic. However, Toys Meet Snow is a picture book format rather than the chapter book format of the original trilogy. The story is shorter, but the book really showcases Zelinsky’s artwork. The family is away on a vacation, so these three toys venture out into the snow. StingRay thinks she knows everything but is “more poetic than factual.” Meanwhile, Plastic (the rubber ball) just keeps explaining that snow is just frozen water, because she read it in a book. In the end, though, they come to a nice compromise and they all enjoy the snow.
A boy and a girl have a playdate, but they can’t agree on what to play. Each one has vivid ideas–which the other imagines quite differently. Just when it seems an impasse has been reached, the two kids become interested in what the other is doing, and they discover the joy of combining their interests. I was a little disappointed in how stereotypical their interests were–the girl wants to play princess and ballerina and rock star, while the boy wants to play dragon and racecar and wolves–but I do like the idea that we can get along even when our geekiness doesn’t totally align.
So, you’re taking a hike in bear country? Here are some important tips about bears! The narrator of this book speaks directly to a little kid hiking along, giving not-so-helpful hints about the differences between black bears and brown bears and what to do if you run into them… which, of course, we do. The illustrations switch between the colorful pictures of the kid in the forest and some two-color diagrams on graph paper made to look like part of a guide. A fun story–just don’t expect it to get you safely through bear country yourself.
If you haven’t read any Phoebe and Her Unicorn yet, you’re missing out on one of the smartest, funniest comic strips I’ve read in recent years. Phoebe’s best friend is Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, a real unicorn (who uses a Shield of Boringness to prevent everyone from going gaga over her presence). In this volume, Phoebe goes to summer music camp, meets Marigold’s sister (Florence Unfortunate Nostrils), and rescue Phoebe’s frenemy Dakota from goblins. And, along the way, they make a couple of sly references to another popular franchise that features magical unicorns. And friendship.
Okay, a warning up front: this one is not for the kids. Despite the cute drawings and the punny title, the book is filled with actual foul language, plus things about parenting that you just may not want to share with your kids just yet. Gordon dives deep into all the parts of parenting that are painful and aggravating and WHYDON’TYOUMAKEANYSENSE!? But somehow because everyone looks like a cute duck, he makes you laugh instead of cry. Yeah, a lot of it is stereotypical parent-child stuff, but it’s still horrendously accurate.