Illustration by Julie Kim from Where's Halmoni?
Recently, I was working in the children’s room of a public library when a young patron approached the desk. They were planning to read a book to their siblings’ third grade class and wanted some recommendations. Great, I thought, here’s my chance to suggest some diverse books.
Then they said they wanted a funny book. Okay, I thought, I know a great funny book. “Here’s a really funny and fun book, Where’s Halmoni? My kids laughed out loud at this book.”
Searching for their missing grandmother, two Korean children follow tracks into a fantastic world filled with beings from folklore who speak in Korean. Includes translations and information about the folkloric characters.
The patron looked at the book and thought it would be too long for a read aloud. (But kept it for themselves).
After this, I drew a blank. All the funny books that I could think of in the moment had animal characters: We Found A Hat or Giraffe Problems or Chu’s Day at the Beach. So they picked up these books, sat down to read them and choose one, and I went back to my desk a bit disappointed in myself.
All kids want to read funny books, so it’s important that funny books feature all kids. I decided to make myself a list for future use. Searching online for funny picture books, I found that most of the titles on these lists had animal characters, not people, but I did find some books that met DBF criteria for our collection. I took them home for the test: Would my kids find them funny?
Here are the ones they liked the most, with the parts they thought were most comical:
NIÑO WRESTLES THE WORLD - The sisters' antics are so funny because they are so commonplace and terrible. The fight cards on the pastedown were also especially funny.
Lucha Libre champion Niño has no trouble fending off monstrous opponents, but when his little sisters awaken from their naps, he is in for a no-holds-barred wrestling match that will truly test his skills.
CHICKEN-CHASING QUEEN OF LAMAR COUNTY - My kids loved the part when the main character and the chicken are giving each other the side eye and measuring each other up, and then the main character jumps out to try and grab her.
A young farm girl tries to catch her favorite chicken, until she learns something about the hen that makes her change her ways.
WALRUS IN THE BATHTUB - My kids thought it was so funny that the little sister in this book was consistently depicted as having a ball even when the walrus was causing all kinds of trouble for the family.
"When a family finds a walrus in the bathtub of their new house, it's the worst thing ever--or is it?"--|cProvided by publisher
BOB NOT BOB! - This book was difficult for me to read with the right pronunciation, but it’s hilarious when the main character is trying to explain to his sister how he feels and she asks, “Who is Hodden and Smetty?”
"When a young boy gets a cold, he just wants his mommy. But his stuffy nose makes it difficult for him to call out to his mom--not 'Bob,' who happens to be the family dog"-- |cProvided by publisher
HOW TO GIVE YOUR CAT A BATH IN FIVE EASY STEPS - My kids would laugh every time a new step was added to the ever growing list.
"In this hilarious and clever “how-to,” a little girl and a know-it-all narrator are thwarted by a cat who refuses to take a bath. The perfect read-aloud for fans of Snappsy the Alligator and Interrupting Chicken. Step one: fill the bath; Step two: put the cat in the bath; Step three: put shampoo on the cat; Step four: rinse the cat; Step five: dry the cat. Seems simple, right? One problem: the cat has no intention of doing ANY of these things! Watch as the steps keep changing, the cat keeps escaping, the girl keeps eating cookies and the mess keeps escalating. Soon it’s not just the cat who needs a bath—it’s the whole house! This spoof on an instruction manual features an increasingly bewildered human, a nonchalant cat and a know-it-all narrator…who really doesn’t know it all. How DO you give a cat a bath? Read on to find out!" -- publisher
THE BIG BED - This negotiating kid’s logic about her rightful place on the big bed was funny for both me and the kids.
A young girl tries to persuade her father that he is the one who should sleep in a special, little bed while she shares the big bed with Mommy
SWASHBY AND THE SEA - The way the sea fiddled with Swashby's words always made my kids laugh. They even attempted to play with the sea in this way when we went to the beach.
"From New York Times best-selling author Beth Ferry and Caldecott Honor winner Juana Martinez-Neal comes a sweet-and-salty friendship story perfect for pirate-lovers learning new ways to communicate while at a distance. This hilarious picture book will keep emerging readers laughing, and the message-related mishaps in the story create an opportunity for spelling and sounding out new words while learning from home! Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene. One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them. When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?" -- publisher
HARRIET GETS CARRIED AWAY - The absurdity of the story had my kids’ laughter crescendoing with each page.
While shopping with her two dads for supplies for her birthday party, Harriet, who is wearing a penguin costume, is carried away by a waddle of penguins and must hatch a plan in order to get herself back to the store in the city.--Provided by Publisher
LITTLE RED AND THE VERY HUNGRY LION - Not only is Little Red in this story smart, but the way she outsmarts the lion is uproariously funny. Especially the braids.
In this version of Little Red Riding Hood, set on the African plains, Little Red realizes what the Very Hungry Lion is up to, and teaches him a lesson before generously sharing her donuts with him
MONSTER TROUBLE - Who doesn’t want to imagine that a kiss is all it takes to scare monsters away?
Although Winifred thinks the monsters who creep into her bedroom each night are cute, she cannot get any sleep and tries to scare them away