31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Seven – 2017 Funny Picture Books
And now, what could arguably be considered our most subjective of lists. As I like to say when I’m on the road with Funny Girl, humor really changes from person to person. What makes me laugh isn’t necessarily going to be what makes you laugh and vice versa. Still, I have this thing about honoring funny books. It’s a dirty job but someone needs to do it. Today, I’m splitting “picture books” into board books, regular old run-of-the-mill picture books, and easy books. Naturally, there will be a fair amount of overlap with the Readaloud Books, though maybe not as much as you would think. And, as ever, call out what you think I missed.
Funny 2017 Board Books
Cheer Up, Ben Franklin by Misti Kenison
This may be just me but this book makes me crack up. And yes, it isn’t really for anyone who reads board books. But it has this weird interior logic that’s sort of self-aware and understands that everything at work here is inherently ridiculous. And I appreciate that. I do.
Circle, Triangle, Elephant: A Book of Shapes and Surprises by Kenji Oikawa & Mayuko Takeuchi
Honestly, have we run the gamut of categories this book can appear in? Oh. Wait. No. Translated picture books. There’s still time for this silly title to garner more honors.
What Do You Wear? by Taro Gomi
I’m just gonna put it this way. This is a book by the same guy who came to notoriety more than twenty (or was it thirty?) years ago with Everybody Poops. This man brings the funny. Trust me.
Funny 2017 Picture Books
Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi
Oddly, I think this might be the only funny book on this list that I actually reviewed this year. Hm. That’s a poor track record for me. I’ll need to revisit my standards in the new year. In the meantime this just appeared on the NPR Book Concierge in the recommended children’s book section. Gosh, the person who suggested that book for the list must have been BRILLIANT! *cough*
Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins
You know what my kids find funnier than anything else? Getting me to act like Rupert the mouse here. If I can explode in mock-frustration over something, that’s the highest form of comedy I can perform. So I get why this book works as well as it does. When people (or mice) in positions of authority lose it, hilarity ensues.
Claymates by Dev Petty, ill. Lauren Eldridge
Anyone can be funny on paper. It takes a particular kind of perverse mind to be funny in clay. And not just as a one-off or anything. Consistently funny throughout the whole book. Looking forward to more of this.
Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds, ill. Peter Brown
Look, Jasper wakes up one morning and the underwear he put in the bottom of his laundry hamper somehow crawled out in the night, and adhered to the bunny’s lower torso. You may find that horrific. I find it hilarious, and I find this whole book funny to boot.
Danny McGee Drinks the Sea by Andy Stanton, ill. Neal Layton
When this appeared on the readaloud list I mentioned that it reminded me of Shel Silverstein. Nuff said.
Dog On a Frog? by Kes & Claire Gray, ill. Jim Field
Look at that cover. Funny picture book covers are not easy. And trust me, it’s all good from there on in.
Firefighter Duckies! by Frank W. Dormer
See previous statements about perverse interior logic. All you really have to know is that there is an evil cupcake in this book. Evil. Cupcake. NOW do you want to read it?
Great, Now We’ve Got Barbarians! by Jason Carter Eaton, ill. Mark Fearing
I took this home one day and found that my kids requested it be read on a regular loop. Comparing ancient barbarians to modern day pests is a tricky line to walk. Eaton doesn’t just walk on that line, though. He cha-chas on it. Very very funny stuff.
Here We Are: Notes for Living On Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
Now Oliver Jeffers often caters to a specific kind of adult wit (with the possible exception of Stuck, which I am convinced remains his best work to date). Still, it’s not like it isn’t funny all round. This was a last minute inclusion on Evanston Public Library’s 101 Great Books for Kids, and I regret nothing.
HIC! by Anushka Ravishankar and Christiane Pieper
In very early January I’m going to write a post about books I most regret not reviewing in the 2017 calendar year and this little number is going to be at the top of the list. A book on various failed attempts at removing stubborn hiccups just sort of writes itself (or does it?), but you have GOT to check out the art as well.
A Horse Named Steve by Kelly Collier
Any horse that can bite its own bottom lip is a horse I want to get to know better.
Laundry Day by Jessixa Bagley
Bagley moves away from making people cry and tries her hand at making people laugh. This is a book that really appeals to the love of madcap chaos inside of me. I blame Mel Brooks for teaching me young.
The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt, ill. Adam Rex
I don’t care if it’s a bestseller. I don’t hold it against it. I still think it’s one of the funniest books of the year.
Mine! by Jeff Mack
See, it’s that moment when the blue mouse comes roaring in with construction equipment that turned this from a merely amusing book to a laugh out loud one.
Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty, ill. Edward Hemingway
Smug little kitties in dire need of a reality check make for sublime picture book heroes and heroines. And this little self-satisfied fellow knows he’s got the goods.
Mrs. White Rabbit by Gilles Bachelet
Another one I had every intention of reviewing. Gosh, I love this book. Filled to brimming with hilarious details, you really feel for this bunny wife as her husband goes tearing off without a second thought for her. Also may be the only picture book this year (in America anyway) to portray someone thoroughly sloshed.
My Pictures After the Storm by Éric Veillé
Stop. Okay, if you’re going to appreciate this book then I need you to read the article A Quick Way to Die: Humor in Translation, which originally appeared in the Horn Book Magazine in the spring of this year. It will lay on the line for you precisely what it took for translator Daniel Hahn to translate this title and still keep it hilarious.
Noodleheads See the Future by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss, ill. Ted Arnold
Since my son is now three years of age, the Fly Guy book series has taken up permanent residence in my house. That means a lot of Tedd Arnold. In a way, it’s a bit of a relief to see this, the second installment in his Noodleheads series. Technically I should have slotted it in the “Funny Fairy Tales and Folk Tales” section of this list, but as far as I can tell, this was the only one this year.
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex
Rex again. I regret nothing.
Pigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren
So convenient of Meg McLaren to keep her two American picture book releases next to one another in the alphabet. I would have a hard time picking a favorite between Pigeon P.I. and . . .
Rabbit Magic by Meg McLaren
. . . this lovely little entry. One has bunnies. One has birds. Why choose? Take them both home.
The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea
I’ve just been so impressed with the career of Bob Shea. Over the years he’s swiftly established himself as the king of the funny picture book for preschoolers. This one is no exception to the rule, but don’t relegate it strictly to the Halloween book section. I dare say you could read this book with aplomb any day of the year.
Short Stories for Little Monsters by Marie-Louise Gay
I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention this book! Marie-Louise Gay is at the top of her form with this ridiculous, over-the-top, compilation of magic and madness. Your own little monsters are bound to eat it up.
Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake
Oh man. One of the greatest picture books of 2017. It would actually pair really well with the Oliver Jeffers book I mentioned earlier (Stuck), don’t you think?
This Book Will Not Be Fun by Cirocco Dunlap, ill. Olivier Tallec
Um. There’s a blue giraffe in sunglasses playing the maracas on the roof. Methinks the mouse doth protest too much. Also not a bad companion to Be Quiet.
This Is Not a Normal Animal Book by Julie Segal-Walters by Brian Biggs
We get a couple fourth-wall busting picture book in a given year. Most are worth forgetting but this one’s pretty keen. It’s the old author and illustrator arguing with one another schtick. But funny!
Triangle by Mac Barnett, ill. Jon Klassen
Definitely a distinct sense of humor is required to fully appreciate what Barnett and Klassen are doing here. On par with other sophisticated picture books. And, I’ll admit, I really enjoyed it too.
Funny 2017 Easy Books
The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper
Yes, it’s funny. But I’d like to point out to you that it’s also incredibly philosophical. I mean, the whole story is about the concept of “nothing” and what that really means. Deep, man.
Meet Woof & Quack by Jamie A. Swenson, ill. Ryan Sias
Okay, I did NOT see that ending coming. Love it when an easy book can upset my expectations.
Snail & Worm Again by Tina Kugler
*chants* Funnier than the first one, funnier than the first one, funnier than the first one . . .
*chants* Geisel Award, Geisel Award, Geisel Award . . .
There’s a Pest in the Garden by Jan Thomas
You’ll be seeing a lot of new Jan Thomas easy books in the coming year. Why not start out on the right foot with this puppy? Almost every Jan Thomas book out there has made me laugh at one time or another. This book? The best of the year.
What’s Your Favorite Favorite? by Bob Shea
Okay yes YES, I admit that there are two Bob Shea books on this list today. But when you consider that they’re in two different categories . . . well that’s perfectly all right as far as I’m concerned. Plus the goat is moonlighting from Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great (one of my favorite picture books of all time) so right there, that’s kind of instant gold.
Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:
December 1 – Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Wordless Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – CaldeNotts
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Poetry Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Comics for Kids
December 21 – Older Funny Books
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Fiction Reprints
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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