At some point this spring, I filled in for our children’s librarian by reading books I think are funny. (No stories about ducks, no paired crafts related to growing milkweed for butterflies, just some funny books and some rockin’ tunes. Awesome, dude.) That could have been a dangerous move. Not everything that’s funny to an adult will work for kids, and some parents really, truly believe their children need happy stories with appropriate characters that don’t do things like burp, fart or wear underwear. That’s the beauty of being the substitute for the “real” librarian, though. I could read books about all three, and the worst thing that would happen is that the kids would laugh a lot and maybe somebody would walk off in a huff or complain about me. I can’t lose that job, since it’s not my job. Really, it’s ideal for subversive behavior of a certain kind.
So now I’ve got another family story time coming up, and I’ve just come across a few new slightly dark and seriously funny picture books. I might not use them all, but it’s nice to know they’re there, waiting for the perfect moment.
My favorite? Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins. His name is Rowboat? Ok, I’m there. There’s also a pink little cake that’s obnoxious and does not play well with others. And cyclopses. Yes, really. Cyclopses who are polite and share. Wow. Just wow.
Wolves by Emily Gravett and I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty are kind of like Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back or This is Not My Hat, but it doesn’t make them any less funny or wonderful. They approach the material in different ways – one from a research-based storyline about wolves, and the other as a parent-child discussion about who you are – and both do end happily, although kids will see the darker possibilities, too.
Kids actually understand and appreciate dark humor much more than some adults realize. We can protect them from that, or celebrate it as a great coping skill for living in a troubled world. I choose to laugh.