National Children's Book Week is November 12-18 so I'm posting more on children's literature. If I can read a book that makes me laugh I'm going to enjoy the experience even more so here are the funniest children's books I've found (though humor is a rather transient, mutable thing and what's funny today may not be funny in 30 years).
1. The Ricky Ricotta series. Written by Dav Pilkey of "Captain Underpants" fame (not one of my favorite series as I get enough underwear jokes in my life as it is thankyouverymuch) but Ricky is fun because it's reminiscent of a comic book which is great for early readers yet good for a chuckle or two from the adults. Ricky Ricotta battles Mutant Mosquitoes from Mercury, Voodoo Vultures from Venus, Mecha-Monkies from Mars, Jurassic Jackrabbits from Jupiter, Stupid Stinkbugs from Saturn and Uranium Unicorns from Uranus. With villains like that, you know you're going to enjoy them.
2. A Series of Unfortunate Events. Written by Lemony Snickett (if that IS his real name) it's a rather amusing series that's made downright funny when it's an audio book narrated by Tim Curry. You have to be careful because there are some of the series in the audio book collection that are narrated by the author who has such a bland, American (what's up with that? I was sure he was British) sleepy voice that it's painful to endure. But when Tim Curry reads it has laugh-out-loud parts.
3. The BFG. Roald Dahl has plenty of classics to his credit but this one is his funniest. BFG stands for "Big Friendly Giant" who is the protagonist in this fantasy tale. If you like Dahl's work this one is a must-read.
4. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. Jon Scieszka's fractured fairytale is a funny twist on the storybook favorite--make the villain the hero and you're guaranteed an audience (worked for Milton, right?)
5. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. Written by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury this story is another twist on the story of the three pigs but even funnier than the last. The Big Bad Pig terrorizes the poor little wolves and they up their security system in an effort to protect themselves. The part that has me on the floor is when the pig brings out the pneumatic drill in an attempt to bust through the wolves' concrete edifice. Very funny.
6. The Time-Warp Trio series. Another Jon Scieszka endeavor, this series follows three friends through time as they work to save the world before dinner. Again, the titles are terrific: See You Later, Gladiator, Viking It and Liking It, Your Mother Was a Neanderthal, It's Greek to Me and (my favorite) The Not-So-Jolly Roger. A good early chapter book series.
7. Superfudge. Judy Blume wasn't one of my favorite authors but her Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Fudge and Superfudge books are downright chucklesome. When Peter Hatcher's pet turtle disappears and Fudge is suspect it cracks me up every time. There are five books in this series and these three are the best but they're comedy for the whole family and a good "read aloud" choice.
8. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Beverly Robinson's classic Christmas tale has made the Herdmans legendary. Unequivocally considered the worst children in the history of the world this touching story tells how Ralph, Imogene and the rest of the seven kids take over the local Christmas pageant with their "post modern" interpretation. There's a sequel too but I can't remember its title.
9. The Ramona series. I have loved Beverly Cleary's books since I was in third grade when my teacher Mrs. Tecca introduced me to them and when I was in fifth grade Beverly Cleary came to Anchorage. The local paper had a contest to write a letter explaining which of her books you liked the most and I wrote a letter to Ramona and I won. They published the letter in the paper and I got to meet Mrs. Cleary. Woo hoo! Ramona names her doll Chevrolet, causes problems for the neighborhood children and is generally hysterical. In many ways my own little Lillian reminds me of her. Otis Spofford is also another funny story of Cleary's.
10. Sitting Ducks. This terrifically funny picture book by Michael Beddard is a family favorite. It chronicles the friendship of a duck and an alligator and reminds me a bit of The Wrong Trousers if you ever saw that Wallace and Gromit film. Pay close attention to the artwork that graces the alligator's apartment walls.
11. Owen by Kevin Henkes. Owen is the story of a boy--or a mouse--with a strong attachment to his blanket and when the family's interfering neighbor expresses her concern over the matter Owen's parents decide that some tough love is in order. When the separation anxiety becomes too great Owen's mother solves the problem with a creative solution that even Mrs. Tweezers can't condemn. Both illustrations and narrative are just wonderful.
12. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. I should just put all of Henkes' books on the list because they're all funny, but these two are the best. Chrysanthemum has an extraordinarily long name that causes her some concern when she begins school but after meeting her teacher Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle things begin to look better. Love this book.
13. The Junie B. Jones series. Barbara Parks is as good as a stand-up comic when it comes to these books, and every one of the books makes me laugh, though if I had to pick a favorite it would probably be Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in Her Pocket. Her chicken phobia kills me. Each of my kids have loved the series and I've read many many MANY of these and they never get old.
Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series is an honorable mention, they've always been one of my favorite series. Additionally, I heard an interview on NPR last month with Steve Martin who has recently written an alphabet book called The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z and thought it sounded rather entertaining. What else would you expect from Steve Martin?
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