31 Days, 31 Lists: 2018 Funny Picture Books
Oh, humor, you subjective little cuss. How do we even begin to judge you in picture books? Are we to go by what kids would find the funniest or the adult gatekeepers? Just the other night, for example, I was reading my 4-year-old I Want To Be In a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and he was howling over that book. A year ago? He found it scary. So there’s age to take into account as well. And do all kids have the same sense of humor? Not even! So this is sort of a hit-and-miss list. I’d be grateful if you mention here what I missed.
All that aside, this might be my favorite picture book list of the 31 Days, 31 Books countdown. How could it not be? These books are so smart at what they do!
2018 Funny Picture Books
Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex
This year my 101 Great Kids Books committee thought very very long and very very hard about whether or not to include this book on our list. And, like most great works of humor, it ultimately didn’t make the cut. But to our credit we seriously considered it and we mourned, OH HOW WE MOURNED, when it had to go. You don’t have to mourn, though. Rex takes the old Monster at the End of This Book premise and combines it with Darth Vadar. It contains the funniest two page spread in any book this year too. If you’ve read it you know the one I mean. Come on. “I am already cursed.” Insert little emoji hearts and starry eyes here.
The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, ill. Tom Knight
Not every blogger/Twitter star/ Facebook-Youtubing-Instagramming social media personage is capable of making the transition to print. All too often they get it wrong somewhere along the way and the results can be very painful. Not so Laditan. Known best for her Honest Toddler Twitter feed, her new role as children’s author is seamless. This book brings the funny in big time. I don’t know many books this year that manage to make the image of a urine-soaked little girl classy, but this one manages it.
I Hate Everyone by Naomi Danis, ill. Cinta Arribas
Come here you sweet little weirdo book! You unapologetic charmer. Yeah, it’s not going to go down well with parents that have a strict policy on the “h-word”, that’s true. But Danis is funny and the book shows that. Kids love it because of the contradictions. You can’t top a kid who says not to look at her and then dumps a full bowl of Cheetos on her head in an effort to get attention.
I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon
I’m not going to lie to you. The title kind of gives away the game. Now first and foremost, I respect this book for falling in with the well-documented and storied history of picture books where the protagonist gets eaten. These books make up a rousing collection of marvelous insights into the human condition. So there’s that. Then there’s the fact that it’s about someone regretting their appetites. Kirkus, in their review, compared this to Tadpole’s Promise which is precisely right. The two go together like peas in a pod. You have been warned.
It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel! by Sebastian Meschenmoser
Yeah yeah, okay. Fine. You got me. I’ll pretty much put almost any Meschenmoser on a funny list. But I’m sorry. The man has single-handedly disproven the urban myth that Germans aren’t funny. Over time, Mr. Squirrel has become the man’s envoy, appearing in multiple stories. In this latest one he dons the mantle of Don Quixote and attempts to hook up his friend the hedgehog with a ladyfriend. You can imagine how that goes. And the Award for Best Use of a Hairbrush As a Romantic Lead in a Picture Book goes to . . .
Neck & Neck by Elise Parsley
I had to circle this one from a multitude of different angles for a while. I like Parsley’s art style, but I never quite know what to expect from her. This book reminds me of an old Eddie Izzard routine involving evil giraffes. In fact, I’d say that the lead is probably the most duplicitous, deceitful, arrogant giraffe in all of children’s literature. And, like a lot of characters that need to go through some kind of growth, he has the fragilest ego you ever did see. Seriously. He’s threatened by the presence of a balloon. My co-worker Brian likened this to the work of Chuck Jones and honestly? Not far off.
Potato Pants! by Laurie Keller
I love the books of Laurie Keller. I even love the first Arnie the Donut, even though it takes approximately 50 hours to read in a single setting (darned details in the margins). Her safe space in terms of writing is with animate inanimate objects. Hence the potato hero here. And the book isn’t just funny because of the premise (though tubers in trousers is inherently brilliant). No, it’s because of two other things. 1: Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store (say it ten times fast – go on!). 2: The potato designer Tubérto. I love him.
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Now I love all my funny book on this list, don’t you doubt it. But for true, true hilarity there can be only one. For me, this is the funniest book of the year. Why? Well, the page turns are miraculous (which is why this book also made it onto my Readaloud list the other day). The deadpan humor is spot on. The visual gags, the pacing . . . the goldfish. Okay. It’s because I’m freakin’ in love with the goldfish. The goldfish is everything. ALL HAIL OUR NEW GOLDFISH LEADER! He will destroy us all.
Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!
December 1 – Board Books & Pop-Ups
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 Books for Kids
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
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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