31 Days, 31 Lists: 2018 Older Funny Books
I’m not telling you anything new when I say that 2018 was not a particularly hilarious year for a lot of us. All the more reason to give our kids something to laugh about. Today’s crop of books is for the 9-12 year old crowd, but that’s flexible. You might know an 8-year-old that finds P.G. Wodehouse sublime or a 16-year-old that sneaks Captain Underpants books at night. Whatever the case, no matter how badly things go, there is room for humor in our world. Sometimes, we need it more desperately than anyone would care to admit.
2018 Older Funny Books
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson, ill. Eugene Yelchin
Okay. “Funny” is a relative term, we all know that. And maybe you’ll be so weirded out by the grotesqueries in this title that you fail to pick up on the laughs. But laugh I did, and I daresay for the right reader they will too. True, a book where and elf and a goblin try to make each other feel stupid with a series of increasingly ridiculous boasts may not be for the masses, but by gum I liked it! A brilliant combination off gross-out humor and erudite larfs.
Dear Sister by Alison McGhee, ill. Joe Bluhm
A rather ambitious little notebook novel (that’s the term I give these books that combine images and text in Wimpy Kid-like ways) that manages to follow a boy from childhood to the day he goes away to college. An epistolary novel and a short one, it packs some honestly funny stuff on its pages. It’s all one-way too, from the brother to his sister (whom he refuses to name for quite a while). Very funny and ultimately heartfelt, but still in an amusing way. Sibling stuff.
Dodger Boy by Sarah Ellis
Worst cover. Best book. Set in 1970s Canada during the Vietnam War, it’s about two girls and the sweet Texan draft dodger they befriend. The humor in this book comes entirely from Charlotte, who’s too young to be jaded but has a definitely distinct and delightfully skewed take on the world. There are also lotsa swears, so consider this on the upper end. Middle school material even.
Hermes: Tales of the Trickster by George O’Connor
What? Okay, so this is the third time I’ve put this book on a list and it’s not even the first in its series! But a friggin’ baby makes cows walk backwards with palm fronds tied to their tales so he can steal them!!! What isn’t awesome about that? Tell me. Just tell me.
Impossible Inventions: Ideas That Shouldn’t Work by Matgorzata Mycielska, ill. Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizielińska
There is an invention for catching farts. I really don’t have to write anything more than that, do I?
The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
This is what kills me about Mr. Curtis. To my mind, this is his most wrenching novel to date. It may also be his funniest. Actually, that could be a really fun debate to have with colleagues. What is Christopher Paul Curtis’s funniest novel? Elijah of Buxton has its moments and who can’t forget the vain big brother’s lips stuck to his own reflection in The Watsons Go to Birmingham? But this book is a contender for the title too. It’s also gutting. That mix is probably why Curtis is so good (and why I hope that combination gets him a bit of Newbery attention soon).
Lafayette! by Nathan Hale
Because Nathan Hale is the funniest man in show business. Case closed.
Mac B. Kid Spy: Mac Undercover by Mac Barnett, ill. Mike Lowery
After I read this book to my kids I took it back to the library the next day. I returned home and my son immediately asked where it was. I confessed that while he’d enjoyed it I hadn’t anticipated him asking for it again so soon. His little lower lip started to wobble. Desperately I tried to assure him that a sequel was in the works and maybe I could get that. No dice. Funny books with lots of pictures (created by the genius Mike Lowery) are hard enough to find, but funny books with lots of pictures that both kids and adults enjoy? We’re talking blue moon territory here. Extra Bonus: Whenever the Queen says “hello” (and she says it a lot in this book) I like to imitate Jon Stewart from The Daily Show and make it more of a queenly “Helllooooooooo!” Try it. Works like a charm.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
It is very easy to equate “enjoyable” with “funny” but the two are not the same. I found Murdock’s The Book of Boy to be a delight, but was it a laugh riot? Not hardly. This is where I employ the snort factor. If a book causes me to make an ungainly snort, such as you might hear from an ill-tempered sow in a rut, then I can deem it a funny book. This book? Definitely snort-worthy. That’s high praise coming from me. I mean, math doesn’t usually equate hilarity.
The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider, ill. Chi Birmingham
If you ever found yourself mildly freaked out about barbershop quartets . . . uh . . . yeah, this book isn’t going to help you out with that. It’s just your average story of a girl fighting her destiny. And her destiny clearly appears to be a kind of Igor to her parents. It doesn’t help that the body parts in the freezer have been talking to her. Blackmailing her, really. Heider removes the gore but keeps the gross and there are some truly hilarious moments to this book. The grandmother alone, with her love of her own incipient demise, makes the book a keeper. Don’t let it pass you by.
A Problematic Paradox by Eliot Sappingfield
The publisher kept trying to sell this book as a new kind of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which is too high a bar for any poor book to attempt (with the possible exception of this year’s very YA Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith). I think publishers whip out the Hitchhiker designation whenever they encounter a book that has science fiction elements and jokes. But 2018 was woefully inadequate in terms of science fiction that could make you laugh. Thank goodness for this book. The ludicrous situations didn’t hurt either, but the jokes are key. This book has jokes. I liked ‘em. Good times.
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
Can you see me right now? I’m doing a little dance in place over how much I love and adore this book. Some of the best funny books mix and meld their serious and their funny. Get the combination wrong and it’s awful. Like pulling unwilling teeth. Get it right and the gut punches of emotions are all the stronger for the humor. In this book two boys successfully trade their baby sister to a baby-loving bully for a bag of fireworks. I mean, as book beginnings go, that’s pretty killer. Just a joy.
Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt
This little book almost got lost in the overwhelming wash of 2018 titles. Its November publication, and the fact that it’s a debut author, did it no favors, but for those of us that read it, it was deeply rewarding. The story is set during a wake and a funeral as the main character tries to figure out how to write a eulogy for his dead cousin. Whom he hated. Plus his pants are too tight. There are funny moments throughout the book (funerals begat insane humor, ripe for sardonic 12-year-old observations) and it all culminates in the very last scene. A last scene that is so funny, and yet you end up crying. THAT is how you do it, people!
Tell you what. Rather than just tell you about the book, I’ll show you my interview with the author. Meet Adam P. Schmitt. He’s a writer to keep your eye on in the future:
Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla, ill. Steve Wolfhard
I mean, we should probably just give this book all the things based on the title alone. This was actually renamed somewhere late in the game. When I got my copy in the mail the original title was something along the lines of John Lockwood Has Left the Building. So right there Ms. Pla gets all the points for that killer title switcheroo. Then, of course, there’s the book itself, where Stanley has to use his comic book knowledge to win a contest. And, maybe, befriend the girl next door. Hijinks ensue.
They Didn’t Teach THIS In Worm School! One Worm’s Tale of Survival by Simone Lia
I was trying to remember the part in this book that made me the happiest, and I have to say it all comes down to the worms. Worms have done fairly well in children’s books. They’re nature’s perpetual victims, after all. Who wouldn’t love to get to know one? But with the exception of the main character of this story, most of the worms in this book are weirdos. I say this with love. They are incredibly peculiar. Hilariously odd. This is on the early chapter book part of the spectrum, but I don’t think there’s anyone out there that wouldn’t enjoy it on its own level.
The Truth About Bears by Maxwell Eaton III
The Truth About Dolphins by Maxwell Eaton III
The Truth About Elephants by Maxwell Eaton III
The Truth About Hippos by Maxwell Eaton III
I guess the designation of “Older Funny Books” is a bit on the vague side. What constitutes “Older”? My definition is that if it amuses a 9-12 year old it counts. And sure, this series is technically nonfiction picture book material, but older kids would completely love the humor here. It’s funny for every single age, but the factual information is certainly going to appeal as well. Eaton knows from humorous.
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
Filed under: 31 Days 31 Lists
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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