Our Top 5 Funny Bits from Children's Books
Charlie Chaplin once said that, 'A day without laughter is a day wasted,' and the evidence shows that when it comes to reading, children definitely agree. A recent report found that the hilarious Diary of a Wimpy Kid books occupied the top 5 slots in the most popular books amongst Year 7 pupils. We're spoiled for choice when it comes to funny authors and books, but we've picked out some of our favourite scenes below. Of course there are many, many others we could have mentioned, so once you've read about these scenes, be sure to check out some of the further reading we've suggested at the bottom of the blog!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney
It's fair to say that main protagonist, Greg, is irked by many things in life, but one of his more obscure annoyances turns out to be dodgy author photos on book jackets. In one quietly hilarious scene, Greg hones in on a terrifying headshot of poet Shel Silverstein, protesting that Silverstein 'looks more like a burglar or a pirate than a guy who should be writing books for kids'. Greg's dad has picked up on his fear and used it against him, telling him that if he gets out of bed during the night he'll 'probably run into Shel Silverstein in the hallway'. This scene is perfectly complemented by the illustrations: upon seeing Greg's recreation of Silverstein's headshot on The Giving Tree, you'll immediately want to search for the real thing - check it out here to see if you think Greg's terror is justified.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis
Stephan Pastis' comic creation is an absolute gem. Budding detective Timmy is utterly convinced of his own greatness but is continually hampered by the inadequacies of those around him. One of the highlights of this first book in the series is Chapter 24: The Furry Burrito, in which a cat comes between Timmy and his cup of tea. The cat/cup issue takes place as Timmy tries to enlist the help of gormless Molly Moskins, who is too preoccupied with biscuits to accommodate or really understand Timmy's request. The chapter ends with the cat in full control of the situation. If you haven't read this book yet, grab a copy now and be prepared to stifle your chuckles on the bus.
The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts by Jonathan Meres
In the opening scene of Jonathan Meres' book, hapless protagonist Norm is apprehended by his parents as he is about to relieve himself in their wardrobe. It's all quite accidental: Norm's family have recently moved house and in his sleepy state, muscle memory has guided Norm back to where his old bathroom used to be. There follows a fork handles-esque exchange where Norm's father attempts to remind him of the house move and indeed the family's entire recent history, only to find himself butting up against Norm's monosyllabic force field. You can hear Jonathan read the scene out here.
Baby Aliens Got My Teacher! by Pamela Butchart
There are many scenes we could have picked from this cracking book, but we've gone for one of main character Izzy's best little tangents. When the grotesque Gary Petrie suddenly develops an alarming fondness for dancing, Izzy is SPEECHLESS. In her characteristic style, she helps the reader understand her position by further explanation, saying that there are GOOD and BAD kinds of speechless. She illustrates these with a particularly unfortunate incident from her past. We won't tell you what it is, but we will say that if you were Izzy's headteacher, you'd probably cry too. If you fancy introducing the book into the classroom, we have some great teaching activity suggestions!
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
A little fish steals a big fish's hat, and is resolutely confident that he'll never be caught. Hat-wearing fish are already funny before anyone has uttered a word, but the book becomes a masterclass in subtle humour as it goes on, using pictures and words to tell two very different versions of the same story. There are many amusing bits, but for standalone comedy value (and to avoid any spoilers) we'll simply go for the back cover of the book, which features a synopsis that becomes funnier after you've read the story. Sorry, but we can't tell you more - you'll need to read the book! Check out this recording of Jon Klassen's Authors Live event, where he reads This is Not My Hat and talks about his beautiful illustrations to an audience of children.
Funny books aren't easy to write, but when they're done well they're just as pleasurable for adults as they are for kids, and they're extremely important as a genre, as author Jeremy Strong points out in this interview. That being said, it's probably a bit remiss that we've only included one picture book in this list: Jeremy Strong would probably want kids to be reading and laughing from an early age, and we wholeheartedly agree. Maybe a dedicated funny picture book list is called for - give us your suggestions in the comments below! In the meantime, for more hilarious reads check out our list of funny books for 8-11-year-olds.