Funny books aren’t just all about the laughs. They are that, and more, and our mental health thanks them kindly every time we bump into a hilarious comic, a LOL picturebook or a put a smile-on-your-face novel. Funny books have other superpowers, though.
Humour is a very personal thing. Not everyone will laugh at Dog Man’s antics. Even hard-core Dog Man fans won’t always find their hero funny, and some days they will be more in the mood for him than others. Humour is a question of disposition: it has to be the right type, at the right moment. But it’s also something that can be learned, developed; it is, like Marmite, an acquired taste.
But, like Marmite, you can’t know you love a particular brand of humour or hate it until you’ve had a taste of it. So it’s important to expose your young one to lots of different kinds of funny books, to let them build and refine their personal sense of humour. Try and see what’s making them giggle as it changes over the months and years, especially if it doesn’t tickle your funny bone. Sometimes, seeing a loved one laugh can be enough; sometimes it might change how you see things; and sometimes, you’ll just have to agree to disagree and that’s fine. There is learning in realising that we each have our own tastes and sensibilities, and that is at the root of empathy.
Another superpower of books in general, but funny books in particular, is what they can do for your critical thinking. Funny books often play with our sense of expectation, of logic, of plausibility, pushing back the boundaries between what is likely, possible and complete nonsense. When they play with words, rely on tongue-twisters, silly rhymes or gobbledegook, they remind us language is a code that needs decoding and that can be twisted. When the pictures tell one story and the words another, the effects can be hilarious, but it’s also a reminder that we shouldn’t take everything at face value. In other words, funny books can be a first step in the fight against fake news!
What books have had your kids in a heap of giggles? Which ones have put smiles on their faces? We’d love to know!
Written by Juliette Saumande (@juliettesaumande), a children’s book writer whose latest title, My Little Album of Dublin, is illustrated by Tarsila Krüse and published by The O’Brien Press.
Where’s Baby? by Anne Hunter, Walker Books.
Papa Fox is looking for Baby Fox everywhere: up in the tree, inside the log, over the hill … He finds lots of animals along the way, but Baby is nowhere to be seen … or is s/he? Little ones will love spotting Baby, who usually stands right behind Papa, and outfoxing the grown-up every time. Be ready to be asked to play hide-and-seek after reading, unless your young one, like Baby Fox, suggests: ‘Can we do that again?’ Age 0-4
My Best Friend, by Rob Hodgson, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.
Mouse wants us to meet their best friend, Giant Owl. They have, according to Mouse, a great relationship: they play chase and hide-and-seek, and Giant Owl is always there for Mouse with snacks or presents. So far so fluffy … until you look at the pictures and figure out that friendship isn’t on Giant Owl’s menu: Mouse is. Deep colours and pictures that speak volumes complement this tongue-in-cheek story of an unrelentingly naïve and optimistic little mouse. Expect a lot of ‘Watch out, Mouse!’ and ‘He’s behind you!’ as you read. A panto in book-form! Age 3-5
The 13-Storey Treehouse, by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, Macmillan Children’s Books
Andy and Terry live in an amazing treehouse: not only is it 13-storeys high (and that’s only in book 1!), but it’s full of random things like a pool with human-eating sharks, a marshmallow machine and a swimmable lemonade fountain. You don’t really need to know anything about the plot (it involves monkeys of various kinds and a giant catapult, among other things). You don’t need to know that it’s full of busy, messy line illustration. You don’t even need to know that it’s a great way into longer books, especially for struggling readers. The only thing you really need to know is this: don’t try and sneakily read this book under your blanket past bedtime – you’ll be found out. You’ll be laughing too hard. Age 5-8
Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairytale Cover-Up, by Angela Woolfe, Walker Books.
Roxy has just moved to Rexopolis to live with her sister Gretel who is a loo cleaner in the Ministry of Soup. She knows for a fact that magic is just something out of fairytales. Meanwhile, Jones has run away from her nasty step-family to search for lost treasure and freedom. She knows first-hand that fairytales and everything about them (including magic) are not only real, but recent history. When Roxy and Jones’s paths cross, secrets are uncovered, plots unravel and aubergines become motorbikes. This is a fast-paced romp with very likeable protagonists, hilarious happenings, fun dialogue and glorious flights of fancy. Age 9 – 12
These are just some of many enticing tales available to ignite young imaginations and keep readers entertained. For more, please visit our website: https://childrensbooksireland.ie/