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Thursday, May 08, 2014

Seven Clever and Funny Picture Books

7 funny clever picture books


Of course, what's side-splittingly funny for one may not elicit even a chuckle in another. And adults are notoriously harder to please when it comes to rib-ticklers, while the kids find humor in everything silly.

There's the clever-witty humor; the wry-sophisticated humor; the slapstick-goofy humor; and then there's the cause-convulsive-giggles-each-time humor that is popular with the kids.

Every once in a while, a few books come along that are so clever and witty that it makes the adults sit up and take notice; at the same time are so starkly comic that makes the kids giggle uncontrollably and request immediate repeat reads.

Here are a few offbeat books, in no particular order, that managed to impress the kids just as much as they managed to inspire Mama, who is constantly in awe of picture book writers and illustrators who keep pushing the envelope.


Press Here
by Hervé Tullet

Interactive books provide an immediate gratification for the very young - touch, push, pop-up, lift-the-flap. And then, there are interactive books that ask the reader to actively engage to move the story forward.

And some of these latter kind of books can fail to hold the interest of the kids.

However, Press Here is not one of those. Press Here engages the kids in a respectfully funny way that makes them think as they laugh and play along. Each page has a simple instruction urging the child to follow and then turn the page. And, if they follow sincerely and turn the page, there is the reward. Of course, the trouble is, even if they don't follow sincerely, there is the same result on the next page.

For such books to be a success, children must want to play along. And this book opens up such a whimsical and imaginary world that the children certainly want to enter and play along.

[image source: amazon.com]


How to Babysit a Grandma

by Jean Reagan
illustrated by Lee Wildish

Much like How to Babysit a Grandpa, this book turns the tables to put the child in the center and in-charge. From the child's point of view. Which is what matters.
When you babysit a grandma,
    if you're lucky...
         it's a sleepover at her house.
So starts this endearing book that is not just cute and funny but warm and witty. The cleverness may not be obvious for the very young, but as a parent, I could not stop smiling.

Like the page listing "How to keep grandma busy" - with Go to the park, Bake snicker doodle, Have a costume parade, Go to the park to feed the ducks, Look at family pictures, Go to the park to swing...

I am sure every (grand)parent can identify with the numerous requests to go to the park, not to mention the cookie-baking. Now, the brilliant touch is:
As the babysitter, you need to let her choose.
As both kids visit their Nana once in a while for holidays, they identified with this book more than the Grandpa book. The nine-year old guffawed at every page, pointing out the funny bits to her little brother.

[image source: Jean Reagan website]


Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite
by Nick Bromley
illustrated by  Nicola O'Byrne

There is no discounting the power of interactivity, of including the child reader into the adventure of the book, involving them in the story and yet keeping them in suspense. Along the way, if children use their powerful imagination to come up with creative solutions, the book has done its job.
What would you do if you were settling down for a quiet bedtime story and you realized that a crocodile had fallen out of one story and into yours and was - not to put too fine a point on it - furious? A wonderful 'picture book about books'.
So what can the reader do about a disruptive crocodile in the tale about the Ugly Duckling? Shake the book to see if the croc falls out;  rock the book to see if the croc will fall asleep; finding a way to get rid of the crocodile is only part of the fun. Of course, there's the die-cut holes left by the crocodile chomp. The duckling is soft and fluffy while the croc is brash and possibly confused.

[view sample images inside the book at Nicola O'Byrne's website]

[image source: Nosy Crow]


17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

by Jenny Offill
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

There are some books that irk some parents because of what a child is allowed to get away with. This is potentially one of them.

While stapling her brother's hair to the pillow will not occur to my daughter and she will not learn to do it or even attempt it by reading this book, there are some highly curious children who would like to give it a try if they have not done so already.

Parents might squirm a bit at "I had an idea to show Joey Whipple my underpants." Rather inappropriate would be the pronouncement. I used to be one of those uptight parents (still am in some respects), but, over the years have learnt to laugh things off and use a more appropriate teaching moment to get my point across to the kids. But the blurry cartwheeling picture of the little girl on a handstand with underpants revealed is rather silly, especially in combination with the background made up of layers of elastic-waist underpants  in colors of sky and grass.

Of course, most schools require girls to wear play-shorts over their underpants, especially under a dress or skirt these days; and revealing the play-shorts is not considered inappropriate.

Now, having gotten that out of the way, this is a clever take on the insanely wild things some kids do and how the typical adult deals with them.

One idea after another meets the disapproval of one adult or another, leading our protagonist to list the things she has been forbidden to do anymore. The text is dry and stark, but is paired with hysterically detailed illustrations. This polar pairing makes it terribly funny rather than upsetting and obnoxious.

[image source: jennyoffill.com ]


Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum

by Lisa Wheeler
illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

Ms. Wheeler has a way with words. She can make them dance and create music with their rhythm and rhyme.

What happens to a carelessly spat out piece of gum that lands on a hot road and is forgotten by the spitter?
Bubble gum, bubble gum,
Chewy-gooey bubble gum,
Icky-sticky bubble gum
Melting in the road. 
Along comes a toad…
A fine, fat toad,
A fine, fat, wild
- SPLAT -
wart-backed toad.
Ew! Yuck!
The toad got stuck~

And along comes a parade of unlikely animals who all get stuck on this piece of melting gum. Of course, that alone is not funny enough. Where's the crisis, the problem?
Along comes a truck…
A big, blue truck,
A big, blue
- COMIN’ THROUGH -
Honk-honk truck!
What can these stuck animals do to not get squished by the truck? There is always a clever solution for every sticky situation, right?

Many stories try to circle back and end in a never-ending style. Only few manage to do it well. This is one of them, thanks to the master-writer.

[image source: Lisa Wheeler Books ]


That Is Not a Good Idea!

by Mo Willems  (Author Illustrator)

Being a huge fan of Elephant and Piggie books, the kids brought this home from the library. It didn't look anything like Elephant & Piggie books, but it had Mo Willems as the author, so it must be clever and funny, was probably their reasoning.

Some stories move along in a predictable way and you read along thinking, yeah, this is nice, the pictures are lovely, I think I know what happens next... and then wham! you are hit with a 180° twist that leaves you smiling for long. This is one of those books. Enough said.

[Browse Inside at Harper Collins]

[image source: Harper Collins]

More Bears! 
by Kenn Nesbitt
illustrated by Troy Cummings

A curmudgeonly writer refuses to allow any bears in his book. But what can he do when there is repeated requests for increasingly numerous bears in the story?

Kenn Nesbitt's style of humor resonates so well with the kids that despite its rather predictable (possibly annoying for the adults) progression, it manages to impress the kids. And parents sit up and notice the sophisticated presentation. Some of the clever bear monickers will be lost on the young ones but the adults will get a laugh out of it.

Almost always, the twist in the ending makes such books irresistible to the kids. Sure enough, the author, overwhelmed by bears, decides to get rid of them entirely and start over with a new story, when out of the corner, we hear the request for "More Chickens!"

[image source: Poetry4Kids ]


Speaking of funny, for those unbridled laughs anytime, every time, the staples at home are Shel Silverstein and Kenn Nesbitt poetry collections.


What's not to love about poetry, especially the rhyming kind that is also quirky and riotously silly and playful? Turn to any random poem in these books and one is guaranteed to be amused. Every few months, the kids go through this phase of reading the three Shel Silverstein books cover-to-cover over a few days of bedtime reads. Pure wholesome fun.


A Light in the Attic Special Edition
by Shel Silverstein  (Author Illustrator)


Runny Babbit 
by Shel Silverstein  (Author Illustrator)


Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein  (Author Illustrator)

My Hippo Has the Hiccups: And Other Poems I Totally Made Up
by Kenn Nesbitt
illustrated by Ethan Long

[image source: Poetry4Kids, Wikipedia]

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