Children's Literature @ NYPL
Make 'Em Laugh: Gut-Busting Picture Books That'll Have 'Em Rolling in the Aisles
Funny is as funny does. What you find hilarious I might find only mildly mirthful. And what a four-year-old thinks is hilarious is incredibly different from what their parent might find droll. That said, there's nothing quite as great as reading a book to a kid and watching them get some real enjoyment out of the text. My two-year-old, for example, thinks that the height of humor is when Eloise (in the book of the same name) mentions off-handedly that you can wear a tissue box on your head as a hat.
With that in mind, here are some picture books that manage to be funny to both adults AND kids at the same time.
Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea - It's goat vs. unicorn, which isn't exactly the fairest competition of all time. Goat's capable of making Rice Krispie treats that almost turn out all right. Unicorn makes it rain friggin' cupcakes. But when you get to unicorn complaining about everything he has to deal with in life, the tables turn. Read this one aloud with someone playing the part of goat and someone playing the part of unicorn and you'll have a readers theater experience like no other.
Cute and Cuter by Michael Townsend - Townsend is insane. No, seriously, the man is mad. Only the guy behind the funniest Greek Gods and Goddesses book of all time (Michael Townsend's Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders) could have come up with a book where a kitten and a puppy try to outdo one another in terms of relative cuteness. It's fun as you read it, but it's the final double take ending that will have parents laughing out loud in surprise (and kids too, for that matter).
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri - Okay. Three words: Taco. Filled. Pants. Seriously, it doesn't get any better than that. Dragons love tacos. Dragons should not have tacos. And herein lies the problem. This is wacked out silliness, but you wouldn't want to have it any other way.
Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers - And speaking of wacked out silliness, why not go to the king himself. Having established himself years ago with The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs as the funniest man writing picture books today, Scieszka pairs with fellow quirky fellow Mac Barnett to present a really kooky kick in the pants of ootsy cutesy titles. The premise? A boy gets an adorable picture book called The Birthday Bunny from his grandma. So what does he do? He draws in it like mad and turns it into a tale of egomaniacal fervor called The Battle Bunny instead. For extra laughs, read the book simultaneously with someone else but have one person read the cutesy text and someone else read the supervillan amendments.
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat - Boy not hapy. Boy having bad day. Boy turning into... CRANKENSTEIN!!!! This is one of those funny see-yourself-in the story tales. For parents, it explains A LOT.
Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang - Okay. So putting a mustache on a baby is pretty funny right there. Honestly, you wouldn't even have to write much of a book with that premise. But Heos ups the ante and makes it even better by posing the eternal question: Is it a good mustache . . . or an eeeeeeevil mustache? Spoiler Alert: Evil mustached babies have more fun.
Moo! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka - It's rare that you find a picture book where the children's librarians reading the book for the first time start laughing out loud but that's what you get with Moo. The concept is simple: Cow plus car = ruh-roh. There's a reason we don't provide our Holsteins with driver's licenses. Practically wordless, entirely hilarious.
It's a Tiger by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard - Okay, I admit it. I did two David LaRochelle books in a row. But this one was one of my favorite readalouds to come out of 2013 and I'm loathe not to include it. It's one of those great books that really rely on the turn of a page. You're just wandering through the forest, minding your own business when all of a sudden . . . IT'S A TIGER! RUN! As the tiger's appearances grow more and more ridiculous, the audience grows more and more amused.
A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes - The title says it all. Think pigs on parade would be adorable and delightful? Think again. Professional comedian Black and illustrator Kevin Hawkes set the record straight on just how inclined pigs are to perform on cue.
What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson - It's not what you think. A conductor attempts to get his animals groups to duly sing what it is that they really like to do. The problem? These animals are bucking the usual stereotypes. Pretty much worth reading for the skiing shrimp alone.