Category Archives: humor

When you are young and you have an imagination….

petewithnopantsHere’s what I love about Pete With No Pants:

·         Pete is an elephant.  Pete does not want to wear pants.

·         Pete uses his imagination to become a boulder and a squirrel, because they’re gray and they don’t wear pants.

·         Pete’s mom is cool, although she wears hats and dresses and–I’m sorry to say this–old lady pajamas.

This is a sweet book, with a lot to look at.  I don’t think I could pull off a read-aloud with it – the details are too small to really share well with a group.  But it’s funny and cute and ends with a rainbow, even if I secretly wish Pete’s mom was wearing yoga pants and a ball cap.

Pete With No Pants by Rowboat Watkins

 

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Why Timmy Failure always makes me think about philosophy

timmy cat

I understand (I think) the beauty of Timmy Failure books.  I have written before about the joy I find in reading the chapter titles, stunners like Unforgivable, That’s What You Are and Wasting Away Again in Marge and Rita-Ville. 

And there is always Timmy, so fabulously clueless about absolutely everything that you begin to wonder if he is really an absurdist genius.  Or maybe he’s an existentialist.  (Merriam-Webster defines existentialism as “a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad.”)  I looked it up, just to be sure.  It’s been a while since I studied philosophy.

Yes, yes, I know.  The author of Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants is not writing for middle-aged white women who go off on philosophical tangents.  And yet.  There’s a certain genius about a character and a series of books which both make you laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all – something most definitely NOT to be sneered at in this troubled world – and then very quickly bring you back to the reality of a character’s life.  How does any kid deal with an absent father, an imaginary and difficult polar bear sidekick, AND a confusing world which demands both doing what everyone else does and being an individual?

And those frog underwear are to die for, too.

Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants by Stephan Pastis

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The LEGEND of Rock, Paper, Scissors

rps“Drop that underwear and battle me, you ridiculous wooden clip-man!”

Really, this entire book is one ridiculous name-calling incident after another.  Is Rock kind of a bully?  Is Paper a master of printer jams and angry outbursts?  Is Scissors a little too snippy?  Maybe.  Do I care?  I do not.

Perhaps I would use this book as a teachable moment.  You could winkle a message out of the book about how bullying behavior doesn’t make anyone (Rock, Paper & Scissors included) very happy.  You could talk about balances of power or appropriate behavior.

Or you could just read it over and over on your own, also with your spouse and your adult friends, and then laugh some more with the kids. Honor the legend, my friends.  Honor the legend.

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex

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When your vice principal is a little too much like HAL…

fuzzyMiddle school is no fun in a world where standardized testing determines everything.   (This is supposed to be the future, a time when tweens and teens reference slang from fifty years ago like “awesome, bro.”)  Vice Principal Barbara is an automated administrator, charged with monitoring everyone and everything:  students, teachers, hallway behavior, the all-important test scores.  Then Fuzzy arrives.

Fuzzy is a robot designed to learn from others, part of an experiment to see if robots can have independent thoughts, “fuzzy” thoughts which might be outside of their programming.  Things get a little crazy.  Detentions are flying left and right.  Robots are breaking the rules.  Vice Principal Barbara is rewriting her code to get rid of the kids (and adults) who lower her averages.

It’s a funny dystopian take on the usual middle school story, and there are laughs in it for adults, too.  If you’ve ever felt like standardized testing is the opposite of education, you’ll smile.  If you’ve ever had an awful boss or dictatorial teacher or suspected your computer is working against you, you’ll also love the depiction of Vice Principal Barbara.  So, really, there’s something for all of us.   Awesome, bros.

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger

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A little light reading with hedgehogs and puppies

buddy-earl-baby_1How did I miss the Buddy and Earl books?  Ok, maybe there are only 3 of them.  Maybe they happened to be released when I just wasn’t paying attention.  Maybe they’re a little wordier than my usual picture book reads.  Who knows?

But Buddy and Earl and the Great Big Baby?  I’m this close to using OMG in a post, people.  This baby is a disaster!  It eats Earl’s food, licks Buddy’s toy, escapes from its cage (playpen) and washes Dad’s new shoes in the toilet.  Earl’s response?  “Go find something else for the baby to wash.  We need to keep him busy until help arrives.”  Ha!  Earl may be a bit of a drama queen for a hedgehog, but he’s hilarious.  Buddy provides just the right amount of common sense to make things even funnier.  Maureen Fergus, Carey Sookocheff – get to work on the next one.    I’m thinking it can only make the world a better place.

Buddy and Earl and the Great Big Baby by Maureen Fergus and Carey Sookocheff

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Picture books for a lazy, silly day

 

Sometimes the to-be-read pile of chapter books is just too big and daunting, and a stack of new picture books is exactly what I need.  Today’s batch was especially fun – packed with interesting art, quirky characters and fun stories – so settle in for some oohs, some ahs, a few sighs and many giggles.

The Not So Quiet Library by Zachariah Ohora – You might not know this about libraries, but donuts with sprinkles go especially well with them on Saturday mornings, as long as you keep the icing off the pages and can keep the monsters out.

Splashdance by Liz Starin – Ursula the Bear has dreams of winning a water ballet competition until the sign goes up –NO BEARS ALLOWED.  What?  No way!  And an unwanted bear might just do something dangerous like crashing the competition.  Look out, animal separatists.  She is Ursula.  Hear her roar.

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes by Tim Wynne-Jones & Brian Won – “Shoe Store Man looks shifty. ‘Frisk him,’ says S.A.M.”  Hilarious.  You will definitely find something to chuckle at if you have ever created your own Plans for World Domination.

It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton – If you have ever dreamed of more interesting mail arriving at your house, this book is for you.  Dragons?  Pigs?  Pickles?  Excellent.

City Shapes by Diana Murray and Bryan Collier – In this beautifully illustrated book, we follow a young girl’s journey through a city full of color and shapes.  This book is the perfect prompt for your own shape scavenger hunt.

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Dark humor for the young ones…picture books with a kick

It’s probably a good thing they don’t let me do storytimes all the time.  When I come across books like Barnacle is Bored and Little Red, I really can’t wait to see how the younger crowd will react.  Many of them, I know, will laugh uproariously when the final joke is revealed, even though it’s a little dark.  Some parents are right there with you on it, but others, (sadly, think) believe books for young children should not be dark or even a little snarky.  They are looking for more gentle and warm/fuzzy books.   They somehow think that kids should be protected from everything outside their cozy little boxes.  I, on the other hand, am that person who gives I Want My Hat Back for a baby gift.

Anyway, Barnacle is Bored and Little Red popped up on my holds list this weekBarnacle really is bored.  His whole life is predictable.  He wonders how much more fun it would be if he were that polka-dotted fish.  It would be really fun, he thinks, except for that bigger fish with the big teeth and all. Ha!  The way the illustrations play with the text (in a boring font)  is delightful.  Barnacle’s expressions are sooo bored and then later so surprised.  Perfect!

The illustrations also make Little Red.  I started laughing when Wolf imagines Little Red and Grandma on a dinner plate, and didn’t really stop until the end.  Although it’s mostly gray, black and white, the splashes of red and bold, wacky drawings add to the humor of the text, which is just a little unpredictable even with such a predictable story.

If your dark, bitter, snarky side needs a few more laughs after you’ve read Barnacle is Bored and Little Red, take a look at these earlier posts.

Need a good laugh?

Storytime for the seriously snarky?

Perhaps a little alligator fun?

And a Pinterest page which has a few more favorites…

Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske, Little Red by Bethan Woolvin

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Fun with bears – a few picture books for bear lovers

motherbruce

If you’re looking for scientifically accurate picture books about bears, you’ll have to keep looking.  If, however, you’ve been silently waiting and hoping for books with silly bears, bears in inner tubes and floatie things, bears wearing baby carriers for their adopted geese – well, my friend, this post is for you.

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is the book you’ve been waiting for.  Bruce the Bear has a history of eating eggs, but all of his fancy recipes will not help him when the goose eggs Mrs. Goose has “given” him unexpectedly hatch.  No matter what he does—dumping the goslings at their old nest, being extra grumpy—Bruce the Bear seems to have become Mother Bruce.

After reading this one, you might just need a few more silly and fun bear books.  Sometimes that happens, you know.  Some favorites of mine:

Horrible Bear by Amy Dyckman

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Bear Alert by David Biedrzycki

Any of the Bear books by Karma Wilson

Any of the Frank Asch Moon Bear books

You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

And not silly, really,  but wonderful — The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

 

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Trying not to be the center of attention? Don’t be The Last Boy at St. Edith’s

the-last-boy-at-st-ediths-9781481444354_lg

What if?  What if you were one of the only boys at an all-girls school?  What if you didn’t like it?  At all?  What if you sort of had to stay there, since your dad wasn’t involved in your life and your mom worked at the school, meaning you got free tuition?  And then the last of the other guys left?  Where would that leave you?

Jeremy tries to find a way out, hoping to finally be some kind of normal, which is never going to happen at St. Edith’s.  His friend Claudia helps by organizing some pranks.  He’s sure he’ll get expelled and then be free to go to some other school where he won’t stick out.

And here’s where the book gets interesting to me.  Instead of going down the road to wacky, slip-on=the-banana-peel, silly humor, Jeremy wavers.  He wonders if he’s doing the right thing.  Will his pranks hurt other people?  Does he really want to lose his friends or embarrass his mom?  Would  he really want to go to a school where the boys might not even like him, ending up even more alone?

For kids who can’t even imagine an all-girls or all-boys school, or a private school with uniforms, this is an interesting peek into a different world.  Jeremy’s not perfect, and neither are his friends (mostly girls, obviously), but they’re more nuanced and well-drawn than you might predict based on the book flap.  Worth a look.  Definitely worth a look.

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Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!)

snappsy

“Snappsy the Alligator looked hungrily at the other shoppers…”

This might not be what you’d expect in a picture book, but if you’re a fan of the snarky dark humor of I Want My Hat Back or That is NOT a Good Idea!, you should get moving to the nearest bookstore or library right now, because Snappsy will be speaking to you.

It’s not just that Snappsy is an alligator with a preference for foods beginning with the letter P.  It’s all about the obnoxious narrator’s take on Snappsy’s life.  Once Snappsy realizes the story is out of his control and the narrator thinks his life is boring, he decides to have a party to liven things up.  The narrator’s thoughts on this?  “Some kind of danceable music was playing.”

Whether you’re a teacher trying to explain points of view or unreliable narrators, or just a parent with a kid who’s got a dark sense of humor, you should find this book.  Use it as an educational tool or just laugh your heads off, but enjoy.

For more funny and/or snarky picture books, see here.

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!) – words by Julie Falatko, pictures by Tim Miller

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