It's hard to pick funny picture books, because the age of the reader makes such a big difference. Even a year in development can completely change the nature of the book. For instance, my go-to book for reading in classrooms was Sweet Tooth, by Margie Palatini because doing a cranky voice for the named tooth is well, so sweeeeet. When I tried this book with kindergartners though, they didn't really get it or laugh. However, first and second graders loved it. So, what I've shared today is a progression of funny books, from a lightly amusing book for a preschooler and moving up in age. Enjoy.
Mouse Was Mad
by Linda Urban, illustrated by Henry Cole
Mouse was definitely mad, but as he expresses himself by hopping, stomping, screaming and more, other animals take the starch out of his tantrum by showing him how expertly hopping, stomping, screaming and more can be done. Finally mouse finds something he does better than anyone, and it calms him down. While there is certainly a lesson to be learned here about taming a tantrum, it is amusing to see the other animals take his actions at face value and challenge his technique. Great story, with Henry Cole's always friendly illustrations.
Dinosaur Woods: Can Seven Clever Critters Save Their Forest Home?
by George McClements
Coming construction is going to chase a bunch of animals out of their wooded home, and though they try to talk to the people, no one will listen. They come up with a plan to build a dinosaur, knowing that people won't tear down the woods with a dinosaur. They all try to work together but Something Goes Wrong. However when the animals are exposed they turn out to be endangered and the woods are preserved after all - along with their friendship. Lots of amusing asides and touches throughout the book keep it funny. Look for the specially named "Crabby-Faced Punching Rabbits" or the great facial expressions on the collage illustrations. Environmentally safe and seriously fun.
The Hermit Crab
by Carter Goodrich
A shy hermit crab, stumbles into being a hero when he dons an unusual "shell" - the discarded, broken top half of an action figure. When a crab trap lands in an unfortunate place - "Hey, where's the flounder? Has anyone seen the flounder?" - everyone see the hero near the trap and assumes that he's responsible for moving it and saving the day. But the best part is in the unexpected result. The hermit crab draws into the shell, doesn't take credit, doesn't change, and leaves the "hero" shell as soon as he can. I love the idea that it's okay to stay out of the limelight. It's okay to be shy. Funny pictures add to the joy of this quirky book.
Hearing about Ripple - this wonderful project to help the birds and animals of the Gulf Coast - I have become addicted to the pages and pages of artwork. Many were created by children's illustrators and some of published children's books. At this point the children's literature "rock star" illustrators haven't made an appearance, but I'm hopeful that some of them will be willing to lend a hand to publicize this fantastic idea. (Hello, Mo?)
Here's the deal. Artists send an electronic file of their sketchcard to the organizer, often with some notes about the work or their feelings on the Gulf disaster. You make a donation of $10.00 to The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies or The International Bird Rescue Research Center. You email the donation confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with your address, and which card you want. The artist will mail you the signed card.
The nonprofits get money to help with the Gulf oil spill and more exposure for their important work. The artists get exposure for their talents and a chance to help the charity. You get an opportunity to help the charity and a bonus piece of art. Win-Win-Win!
Here are three children's illustrators who at this moment have sketches still available:
1. Katie Davis is the author/illustrator of picture books, including Who Hops?, and Kindergarten Rocks! and the upcoming Little Chicken's Big Day.
2. Michele Henninger is an illustrator from New Hampshire who has work featured in the SCBWI Bulletin and children's magazines.
3. Ginger Nielson is children's picture book illustrator living in New Hampshire whose books include My African Bedtime Story and Song for a Giraffe.
The website has raised 3,000 dollars so far and new sketches are added every day. But if you're ready to contribute now, consider some of these sketches lost in the surge of newer items. (The titles are the post headlines, which are sometimes the title of piece and sometimes not. You'll see the whole list of titles at the bottom of Ripple.)
11. Charlotte's Card (Someone has to buy this sad otter. Please.)
14. New News and Cards
19. I'm a Cartoonist After All
34. She Can Bring out the Best (A little hermit crab picture.)
44. Across the Pond
83. The Way things should be
85. Situation is Graphic
94. Family Ripples (A child's artwork. Think how happy she'll be when it's sold.)
Of course, you can also do what I've been doing - visiting the page constantly, skimming through all the artwork, bemoaning what I missed, and celebrating what I bought.
by Karma Wilson, illustrated by John Segal
In this simple story, a grown-up cat tries to get the little bear to go to sleep,but the little bear wants to delay bedtime just a little bit longer. Surprise, surprise. The sing-song feel of the text isn't a straight rhyme scheme, but uses rhyming words and a gentle rhythm. The beautiful watercolors are dreamy. One thing I particularly like about the book is the characters: a cat and bear, both of indeterminate gender. It could be a mother and son, father and daughter, aunt and niece, etc. The two characters from different species also leaves it open as an adoption story, perhaps of a child of a different race. In any case, it's a lovely bedtime book to be shared with a special little bear of one's own.
No More Yawning!
by Paeony Lewis, illlustrated by Brita Granström
Generally I'm not a big fan of bedtime books where the child keeps getting out of bed or otherwise disrupting bedtime. They tend to make me feel more like the child needs more limits and parental authority. But this book includes yawning, and having yawning in a bedtime book is pure genius, because as the parent reads the book with the yawns, the child starts yawning and is soon ready for bed. In fact, it makes it a little confusing that the mother keeps telling the little girl, "No more yawning," even though it is paired with all the other instructions like "No more kissing" or "No more singing" or "No more stories." Yawn away, I say. Cute book and nice, soft watercolor illlustrations. Oh and good tips on falling asleep are included in the back.
Once Upon a Time, The End (asleep in 60 seconds)
by Geoffrey Kloske, illustrated by Barry Blitt
In this tale, the father is putting his kid to bed, but just wants to get through the bedtime stories as quickly as possible. The stories are all the classics, just shorter. Much, much shorter. And generally with a theme of going to sleep at the end of each one. A great book for parents. Oh, and for kids too, but particularly ones that are old enough to get the references to the classic stories and the overarching tongue-in-cheek theme that "enough already, bedtime is NOW."
I generally make it a point to profile books that are not only published, but ones that are likely to have made it to the public library system. But today, I'm going to take you into my world of books where I hear about books long before they are published and have the chance to get excited about their release. When I'm really lucky, I get a chance to look at them in a gallery form. There are times that this little perk is all that keeps me book blogging.
So it is with that introduction, that I share three books that I picked up at Book Expo America last week. Three books that made my book blogger heart go pitter-patter.
Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion
by Mo Willems
You know if I went to the Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical than I must have a fond spot for the books. (Okay, and Mo.) The plot of the picture books is simple: girl has bunny, girl loses bunny, girl finds bunny again. But it's not about the plot. In the first book, the subtext is the frustration of a toddler in not being understood (Aggle Flaggle!) and the helplessness of the parent in not understanding. The reward at the end is Trixie's first word - and by extension the families move to the next level of communication. In the second book, the loss of the bunny is surrounded by a conflict with a peer and ends with a discovery of real friendship. The parent conflict contained within is that of mothers and fathers struggling with encouraging strength and independence, yet wanting to save our dear children from any hardship. The third book sees Trixie on a trip to Holland to see her grandparents, and losing Knuffle Bunny this time exposes the whole family to the idea of When Hope May Be Lost. I won't give away the ending, especially in terms of what is learned, but I don't believe that you'll be disappointed. This title is available September 2010.
Clementine, Friend of the Week
by Sara Pennypacker; illustrated by Marla Frazee
If you haven't met Clementine yet, than you really must get to your local library and pick up the first three books in the series. Clementine is another spunky girl, following the trend of Ramona, Junie B.,and Judy Moody. I like all of these characters, but would highlight the differences in Clementine. She's not as bratty as Ramona, she doesn't mix up words like Junie B., and she's not a self-centered as Judy Moody. Instead, Clementine is a artistic, clever, attention-challenged third grader who tries to do the right thing, and it too often goes wrong. Amusingly and charmingly wrong. In this new book, she is shares her excitement about being friend of the week with her slightly older best friend Margaret, who then gives her advice on how to act during the week. Clementine gives it a go, but it doesn't work out as planned. In the end, she realizes that she has been a good friend all along - and maybe even inspired others to greater empathy. It's another wonderful book with a good message and winning illustrations. This title will be available July 2010.
Guys Read: Funny Business
edited by Jon Scieszka
The First Children's Literature Ambassador Jon Scieszka has been spending his time asking, "What about the boys?" With a book release two years ago of Guys Write for Guys Read (right now bargain-priced at $4.80!) and a Guys Read website devoted to good books for boys, Scieszka has again taken on the role of advocate. This new book of short stories features some amazing authors, namely Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, David Yoo, Paul Feig, Kate Dicamillo, Christopher Paul Curtis, Eoin Colfer, Jack Gantos, and Jeff Kinny in a book intended to bring about the funny. After seeing the authors present the concept in a talk at Book Expo America, I have no doubt that they will meet their goal. Any presentation where Groucho glasses are handed out - well, that has to be a good sign. This title will be available September 2010.