Tag Archives: humor

Water cycle? Adventure? Both!

ice boyThere is something awesome about an ice cube boy wearing tube socks.  One who gets in trouble for licking his brother.  One who finds a way to escape his destiny in someone’s glass of frosty beverage.  He skips on the beach, glides through the waves, he floats into the sky, and when he decides he misses home, he clicks his tube socks together and ends up in a glass of water with Mom and Dad.  And they might also like an adventure.  Nice!

Also a neat way to talk about the water cycle.

Ice Boy by David Ezra Stein

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The grim reaper does not ruin this party

denton little 2Denton Little was supposed to die in the last book, but he didn’t.  He doesn’t die in this one, either.

Surviving is complicated when there are government agencies interested in keeping the status quo, however.  There may be false identities, strange viruses, car chases, lies, secrets, a romance or two…

There’s some behavior that might be deemed inappropriate for younger readers (drug and alcohol use, sex, etc.) but if you can get past that, you’ll love this sweet, wild ride.  The voices of the characters are among the best-written I’ve come across in books for teens and/or young adults, because they’re so honest, quirky, sarcastic and funny.

A note:  If you haven’t read the first book, get it first.  You won’t find a lot of explanation and back story in this one, which I found refreshing but might be confusing if you’re trying to read it as a stand-alone.

Denton Little’s Still Not Dead by Lance Rubin (sequel to Denton Little’s Deathdate)

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Mother Goose – wannabe fairy or name-dropping gossip?

mother goose diaries“Have you noticed every village idiot with a quirk becomes national news?  Jack and Jill fell down the hill – so what?  Little Bo Peep lost her sheep – how is that my problem?”  (The Mother Goose Diaries)

Oh, Mother Goose, the secrets you know about the fairy tale world!  And now you’re visiting our reality and hanging out with everyone from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Napoleon to Martin Luther King, Jr.

I must admit that I have read none of Chris Colfer’s other Land of Stories books.  I checked the first one out and didn’t get it read in time, and then the others piled up and I was just too lazy to face the whole thing.

This one looked like more of a companion piece, and it’s short, so it was perfect for the end of summer reading brain I’ve got.  This is not serious literature, people, but it’s a fun, silly ride through a somewhat embittered non-fairy’s life, and while time-traveling and speaking her mind, Mother Goose has a way of dropping a few words on social justice in, too.  I’m good with that.

The Mother Goose Diaries by Chris Colfer

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A B for you, an Ethel for me

Did you take the B from my –ook? is one of those books that speak directly to the reader, engaging them in the storytelling and creating some silly situations.  “Here’s a pair of –lue –oots” and so on.

It’s kind of like something we used to do when our son was little.  We’d make every word of a story start with B – maybe that’s where all those missing Bs went! – so that you’d have “Biddle Bed Biding Bood”.  Bandma had all kinds of boblems, you know.

Fun and silly, and the simple drawings add to the wackiness of it all.

Fortunately, Jennifer Black Reinhardt was not missing a B when she wrote Blue Ethel.  Ethel is an old, fat, black and white cat, who’s somewhat set in her ways and enjoys a good roll on the sidewalk before taking her afternoon nap.  One day, she rolls as she usually does and becomes blue.  What kind of horrible industrial accident or plague has hit?  (It’s a picture book, so rest assured, it’s probably just some especially powerful sidewalk chalk.)  The effects don’t seem lasting, however, and Ethel finds that being colorful is pretty cool.  The word play and illustrations are a joy, and Ethel is delightful.

Did you take the B from my –ook? by Beck and Matt Stanton

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt


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Some of these are just for me

carrot and peaCarrot & Pea: an unlikely friendship is one of those incredibly sweet (not saccharine) picture books we could use to talk about tolerance and acceptance, how all of us have something to add to the world, no matter how different we look or seem to be.  And that is exactly what I thought when I read it last night.

And then I woke up this morning, wondering.  Why is the carrot a rectangular carrot stick and not a carrot with greens on top?  Or is it a carrot that’s been processed?  And all the peas are out of their pods, right?  So maybe these peas and carrots are in a vegetable processing plant, which makes the absence of other carrots suspicious.  Why is this carrot the only one?  What has happened to all of the other carrots?  Has there been some kind of epic disappearance?  A plague on carrots alone?

Ok, so maybe I think ridiculous things when I first wake up.  When I told my son about it, he said, “Well, obviously they’re all in a bag of frozen peas and carrots, and some human has eaten all the carrots but just can’t stand peas.  The carrot that’s left was just missed in the massacre.”

Well, at least I’m not the only one in the house with an imagination.

Read this one, though.  It’s a treat, as long as you can handle the suspense and sinking feeling that something is not quite right in Pealand.  Kidding.  Really.

Carrot & Pea: an unlikely friendship by Morag Hood

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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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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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The Terrible Two, Smek for President, and other fun – a few book reviews


The story begins with a cow and ends with a cow. Or maybe a Boov named J.Lo and a girl named Tip. Or possibly a snarky teenager.

Sometimes the desperate, violent, and depressing darkness of dystopian novels is too much for me, and I find myself hoping for something funny or quirky to smooth out all the edginess. It’s a harsh world for the young – I get that – but I need a laugh now and again, and I’m thinking they do, too, maybe even more than I do.

The Terrible Two (Mac Barnett, Jory John, Kevin Cornell) begins with a cow in the middle of rolling hills near Yawnee Valley. (It ends with a cow, too, and there are cow facts sprinkled throughout. What could be better?) Yawnee Valley feels like the middle of nowhere to newcomer Miles Murphy, but it could be the perfect location for a series of pranks. And it just happens that he’s a prankster extraordinaire. There’s a rival prankster, a principal and a bully – just what you need for a great middle grade caper story. There are no spies or superheroes, but there is some danger and excitement, and it’s just goofy fun. Read and enjoy.

Smek for President (Adam Rex) continues the quirky adventures of Tip Tucci and her Boov (alien) buddy, J. Lo. If you somehow missed The True Meaning of Smekday, read it first, and then you’ll speed through this smek presidentsequel and be ready to compare it to the movie adaptation, Home, when it comes out at the end of March. Tip and J.Lo unwisely decide to visit the new Boov homeworld on a moon near Saturn. J. Lo is captured, and Tip has to try to break him out, while also getting involved in the election for HighBoov. (Candidates sidestep tough questions and spin absurd theories so convincingly that you can’t help but make mental comparisons to the people who show up regularly on the national news.) Sound confusing? Not a bit. There is also a wonderful appendix explaining the Boovian sport of Stickyfish, and really, everyone loves a nice appendix or two.

Still need more funny or quirky characters to break up the angst and drama of your TBR stack? Try these:

Timmy Failure (Stephan Pastis) – This series features a clueless young detective named Timmy Failure, his business partner, Total the polar bear, and many excellent supporting characters – Molly Moskins, Rollo Tookus, and Corrina Corrina, to name just a few.

Planet Tad and Return to Planet Tad (Tim Carvell, Doug Holgate) – Based on a column in MAD Magazine, this might remind some readers of Diary of a Wimpy Kid because of its daily entry format. It’s funny enough to read, read out loud to your mom, and read again. (That’s personal experience talking right there.)

Big Nate (Lincoln Peirce) – Whether you’re reading the comics or the chapter books, Big Nate has all kinds of laughs – big, little, gut-busting, chuckles. Like Calvin and Hobbes, adults can appreciate the comics as much or possibly more than kids.

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