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Favorite Funny Chapter Books: Pam

Posted by Pam on May 7, 2009 at 12:12 AM in Chapter BooksRecommendations
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My favorite joke:

Me: Ask me what makes me so funny.
You: Okay, what makes you so f--

I love this joke. It's pure in its simplicity, it conveys an important truth about humor, and it's my father's favorite joke. Whenever I tell it, I think about my father telling it to me and laughing so hard he could barely speak (we were a little punchy that day). But it's a joke that doesn't work well when written.

A funny book takes on the challenge of conveying humor through written word, thus ridding itself of many of the ways to make something funny -- inflection, timeliness, personal connection, and... timing. And if that isn't enough, it has to find the right audience.

What makes something funny is different for every person, depending on taste, gender, experiences, and age. A baby finds peek-a-boo to be the funniest thing in the world, but is uninspired by knock-knock jokes. A kindergartener will insist on telling knock-knock jokes until you run screaming from the room, but doesn't follow the humor of Seinfeld. Mom loves Seinfeld, but can't understand why her son laughs so much at farting. The son laughs at fart sounds, and his father laughs along with him. Some things don't change.

Humorous books for preschoolers focus on funny situations and wordplay. The gender difference in humor isn't as noticeable, and many of the life experiences are the same. But as the kids get older, all of the factors of humor become relevant. There is more separation of girl books and boy books. Gross-out humor and situational humor. Funny real-life situations and funny things happening in completely crazy ways.

Since I'm all about the punchline, here are some of my favorite funny chapter books. I haven't listed ages, but the list starts with books that are better for younger elementary school set and continues on from there.

51crbl-ht5L._SL160_AA115_.jpgJunie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, by Barbara Park
Kids get the joke of the mixed-up language and bad situations Junie B. gets herself into, and parents can too. This series is a comedy gem. Try the audiotape too.

Judy Moody, by Megan McDonald
A moody, mouthy eight-year-old girl gets into funny situations in this series of early chapter books. Her little brother Stink has his own series as well.

Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci, by Jon Scieszka
One of the later books in the Time Warp Trio series, where a group of three boys travel though time and into wacky situations.

Clementine.jpegClementine, by Sara Pennypacker
A curly-headed girl who tries to do the right thing, but it often ends up wrong - in a hilarious way.

Birdbrain Amos, by Michael Delaney
Every hippo needs a bird to pick the bugs off his skin. But Amos got more than he bargained for with his bird, who builds a nest on Amos's head.

Amelia's Notebook, by Marissa Moss
Amelia uses her notebook to record thoughts and drawings of growing up with a snotty older sister and a world full of real-life girl problems.

Little Wolf.jpegLittle Wolf's Book of Badness, by Ian Whybrow
Little Wolf is trying to learn to be a Big Bad Wolf in this funny series.

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean, by Lauren Child
Like Judy Moody a few years later and British.

How to Train Your Dragon (Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III), by Cressida Crowell
Taking funny and mixing it with a little Viking and magic.

Toad Rage, by Morris Gleitzman
From down under comes this story of a ugly toad who wants to make a difference, if he doesn't get himself killed first. Some gross-out humor.

Bad Beginning.jpgThe Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
While truly a Series of Unfortunate Events, there is lots of humor throughout.

Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer, by JT Petty
Clemency Pogue mistakenly kills fairies all around the world and sets off to make things right again. Dark humor and some very witty lines.

I'll leave you with my second-favorite joke. A string walks into a café. He walks up to the counter to order a coffee. The barista says, "We don't serve strings here." The string leaves. Outside the café he ties himself up and untwists his top, then walks back in.
"Hey," the café owner says, "you're not a string, are you?"
"Nope," he says, "I'm a frayed knot."

You know, I guess that joke is also funnier spoken too. Well, I've made my point.


Nancy writes...

My son just finished reading the Hiccup books now and he thinks they are a riot! But, the FUNNIEST chapter book of all is Jon Scieszka's Summer Reading is Killing Me. We have had a tradition (3 years so far, anyways!)--that is our first book of the summer! We'll be reading it again come this June!

jama writes...

Don't forget Lois Lowry's Gooney Bird Greene series :)!
Great post, Pam.

Cari writes...

Loved this post! I have one for you from my Kindergartner, whose struggle with the timing of this joke is just as funny as the joke itself:

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
Interrupting Cow

Thanks for the book recommendations. My 8-year-old daughter used to love the Charlie and Lola books from Lauren Child, but her tastes now run older. I didn't know about her Clarence Bean series. We'll have to check those out!

I also have a son, who is a reluctant reader, but he can't get enough of Dav Pilkey's "Dogzilla" book. So goofy and hilarious! My son does this really high-pitched voice when he reads what the Big Cheese mouse says. THAT makes me laugh!

Abby writes...

Q: Why does a chicken coop have two doors?

A: Because if it had four, it would be a chicken sedan. ;)

And one of my favorite funny chapter books (since fifth grade!) is SKINNYBONES by Barbara Park.

Vivian writes...

We are HUGE fans of the Junie B. Jones and Clementine. Great post!

Pam writes...

Nancy: Scieszka certainly knows his funny, and I picked one title from the series almost at random. I'll vouch for Summer Reading is Killing Me too!

Jama: I liked the first Gooney Bird book, but not so much the second. I suspect that there will be lots more for me to judge.

Carl: My daughter is 10 and I bring home all the Charlie and Lola books that come into the library. I can't resist doing the British accent. Pilkey is wonderfully funny.

Abby: Now I'm going to have to read Skinnybones again. It's been a while. (Good joke, hadn't heard it before.)

Vivian: You couldn't find a better pair for your fandom.

EM writes...

Who's there?
Control freak. Now you say "Control freak who?"


Mo's Elephant and Piggie books are also HI-larious. I think I WILL SURPRISE MY FRIEND is my favorite.

Tanya writes...

I LOVE the Clemency Pogue Trilogy!I wish more people knew about them. JT Petty is the wittiest writers for kids I've read. For absurd humor, MT Andserson's "Whales on Stilts" is hilarious and parodies a few beloved kid's book genres at the same time.

I also want to mention Dav Pilkey's "Dragon" books. Technically, they are chapter books - just for the 1 -2 grade reading level. They are so funny and great as read out louds to littler kids.

Here is a link to my review of them on my blog:

Great topic! I always thought there was very little in the way of funny chapter books, but I see I am (happily) wrong!


Baby Clothes writes...

The above thought is smart and doesn’t require any further addition. It’s
perfect thought from my side.
Joanna Eden

Lara Ivey writes...

You have had me thinking about humor in children's books since Saturday. I think that it's something that is often missing and I'm glad that I am now more aware due to the KidlitCon this past weekend. I'm going to have to go back and read some more Junie B. as well as the other titles mentioned.

Thanks again for an such an amazing weekend filled with so much information!


Terri writes...

Thank you for keeping this blog post up and for the comments we will be checking many of these great ideas out. Funny books has been the savior of my middle son's lack of reading desire. Some of his favorites include Frindle and any book about Peter and his little brother FUDGE. :) Great post.

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