31 Days, 31 Lists: 2022 Funny Books for Older Readers
I respect funny books so much that I dedicate not simply one list to them every year, but TWO! By now you may have already seen my Funny Picture Books list from earlier this month. Now we’re moving away from that to longer books for kids. Hilarious longer books for kids. Humor being as subjective as it is, if you don’t find one of these books funny then surely another one will do it for you. Something to please everyone, that’s the goal! So get ready for funny poetry, nonfiction, biographies, comics, the works!
Need more older funny titles besides today’s books? Then be sure not to miss these previous titles:
2022 Funny Books for Older Readers
Buzzkill: A Wild Wander Through the Weird and Threatened World of Bugs by Brenna Maloney, ill. Dave Mottram
I came this close to missing this book. It was only through the intervention of a friend (and well-respected author) that it even came to my attention. Without revealing this friend’s identity, this person is a much better writer than I will ever be and so I put to you a small portion of the recommendation that convinced me to pick this up:
“She’s [Maloney] not only a very funny writer, doing a kind of stand-up about insects (she’s a big researcher) but she’s an incredibly elegant one with metaphors. For example, she talks about the noise cicadas make and she describes the process as being very like the way you make noise expanding and contracting a bendy straw. What kid hasn’t made that bendy-straw noise? When she talks about molting, she explains that the new exoskeleton has to be bigger than the old one, so it’s like having a heavy winter coat underneath a thin, sweat-soaked tee shirt—you have to peel off that tee-shirt very carefully, and lots of times a leg gets torn off in the process. Everything is explained with the utmost clarity, as if she were standing by your elbow.”
The book itself is a whopper, clocking in at a whopping 378 pages. Your kids will read every word. So it is gross? And how! Whether Brenna Maloney is eating mealworms (not crickets, though), talking about eyelash mites, discussing the loudest animal in the world (the water boatman bug that makes the sound by hitting its penis against its abdomen), or what have you, disgusting details abound and are so funny and so smart. I freakin’ love this book. Bugs, man. Who knew?
It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds
Eddie’s a kid who’s got it all figured out. Then his summer plans go apocalypse-level awry. Prepare for hilarious hijinks from kids unafraid to have some fun. Okay, truth? I don’t think I’ve read a book for kids that made me laugh this hard in a long long time. I’m talking Diary of a Wimpy Kid level guffaws (from me that’s a really big compliment). Man, when Justin A. Reynolds writes a joke it LANDS! I was seriously reading aloud long portions of this book to my kids and THEY were cracking up too. The fact that the entire book hinges on the premise that the hero figured out how to do his own laundry only twice an entire summer is key. There’s just something about the degree to which Eddie is obsessed with his laundry conundrum when, quite possibly, the world has ended that worked for me. Reynolds works in some heart in there too, but then it picks right back up. For a while I thought it might be the first in a series, but now I’m not so sure. It’s actually a more amusing book if you never know if the apocalypse alluded to was real or not. In any case, if you’re looking for funny fare in the middle grade section, this is my top pick. I want more!
Killer Underwear Invasion! How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories by Elise Gravel
How do you know what to believe when you read something online? Using the fake report that underwear can kill you, this book breaks down all the different ways that you can figure out if news is real or not. You know, at a certain point a person begins to wonder why no one else is doing what Elise Gravel is doing. This isn’t to say that there aren’t other people making books about fake news and conspiracy theories. It’s just that they’re… well… not half as interesting as this book is. And who better to shine a light on the sheer idiocy of fake news than a children’s book creator? This should be required reading in every school and public library in the nation. Seriously! The information in here is invaluable and, let’s face it, the fact that we aren’t teaching this in schools is a crime in and of itself. This isn’t just good. This isn’t just funny. This is imperative.
Quest Kids and the Dragon Pants of Gold by Mark Leiknes
A ragtag group of kid adventurers, in the vein of a classic Dungeons and Dragons set-up, attempt to successfully complete a quest without dying or destroying any villages in the process. A tall order. What we have here is one of those books where the text and the comic-like images mix together on the page nicely ala that Nathan Peirce Max and the Midknights series. I like to read comics to my son but he was perfectly content to change things up a little and read this book as well. And I gotta say, it grew on me. The laughs increase exponentially as the storyline goes along. About the time we got to Crazy Larry’s Acid Swamps of Doom Adventure Cruises I was good to go. And yes, there are slightly more fart jokes on the page than strictly necessary, but it’s all in good fun, with plenty of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Good wackadoodle hilarity.
The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense by Jon Scieszka, ill. Julia Rothman
Master funnyman Jon Scieszka reworks classic nursery rhymes in ways that use everything from pig latin to secret codes. A rollicking reworking that’ll have you rolling in the aisles. The man who redefined fractured fairytales with his Stinky Cheese Man is now tearing up the nursery rhymes of the world in what has got to be the most brilliant deconstruction I have ever seen. I mean, first and foremost, it’s apparently a tribute to the Oulipo school’s Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau. And if that reference isn’t ringing any bells, don’t worry. Me neither. Fortunately there is a ton of backmatter explaining stuff, like how the N+7 code was created by an organization that liked to invent different writing rules. Exercises in Style itself tells a simple story of a man on a bus, retold ninety-nine different ways. This book? It takes the very-much-in-the-public-domain The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright and then reworks six of her nursery rhymes, art and all, six different ways. We’re talking morse code, Esperanto, the military alphabet, anagrams, rebuses, spoonerisms, and way way more. I didn’t really know Julia Rothmann before but she does a great and lovely job of cutting up those old 1916 pictures. A hit, I say! A veritable hit!
Santiago! Santiago Ramón y Cajal – Artist, Scientist, Troublemaker by Jay Hosler
Santiago just can’t seem to keep out of trouble and his father wants him to stop drawing and study. A fiery look at the life of a mischievous kid who went on to become the father of modern neuroscience. Oop! Here we go. This is one of those books that mixes and melds its fact and fiction together in interesting new ways. That sort of drives me crazy when the book in question is a picture book but I feel an awfully lenient when comics are involved. Particularly comics as fun as this one. Essentially, this is what you’d get if you combined Calvin & Hobbes with Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. I mean, in terms of looks it really resembles the style of Christopher Eliopoulos. But if this is the future of biographies then I am HERE for it! Hosler (remember last year’s The Way of the Hive?) really encapsulates Santiago’s life beautifully while making it clear why he was so essential to the study of cells and the brain. History has been getting great comics for years. Such a thrill to see a bit of biology in there too.
Save the People: Halting Human Extinction by Stacy McAnulty, ill. Nicole Miles
Mass extinction! For kids! And it’s funny! What are all the different ways extinctions have happened in the past and what are the possible ways humans could disappear in the future? A remarkably hilarious look at mass destruction. This is an ideal book for the kind of kid obsessed with all the different ways the human race could go belly up. Failing that, it’s a book for the kid who comes to your desk asking for Titanic/Donner Dinner Party/etc. titles. The catastrophe kid. And believe me, there are a lot of kids out there like that. While I wouldn’t necessarily hand it to an anxious kid, McAnulty’s latest magnum opus really handles its dire material in as enjoyable a way as possible. I had no idea that volcanoes were much more dire than asteroids when it comes to the possible destruction of humanity. Let’s hope that Stacy McAnulty does a lot more nonfiction in the future. Sole downside? I cannot read this title without getting the Godspell song “God Save the People” caught in my head. Every. Single. Time.
Scout Is Not a Band Kid by Jade Armstrong
Scout’s mission is clear. To get to see her favorite author she must join . . . band! But can this trombone faker convince her new uptight seat leader that she’s worthy enough to stay? I honestly cannot believe that this is Jade Armstrong’s first published graphic novel. This is so funny, so true, and so beautifully put together that I swooned. My daughter liked this book so much that she didn’t even notice that it’s 100% romance free! Loved the translations of all things Canadian in the sidelines. There’s also a really nice manga influence at work here, particularly with some of the character’s small asides. And did I mention it’s funny? Laugh out loud funny, no less. Fantastic from start to finish, I am a HUGE fan of this title. Hoping to see more of Armstrong’s work in the future too.
Simon and Chester: Super Family! by Cale Atkinson
I’ve an unspoken rule against putting sequels onto any of these lists. It’s not hard and fast, but just for my own reading I don’t have much time to dedicate to titles I’ve seen before. But rules, even unspoken ones, are meant to be broken. Particularly when they involve a fellow by the name of Cale Atkinson. Now I don’t know if you had the pleasure of seeing his first “Simon and Chester” story but it was a marvelously funny book. This one also doesn’t disappoint, but it also contains a couple melancholy undertones that deepen the characters and lift this above the pack of normally silly/funny gns. In this story Chester has learned through popular culture that his family situation (living with just his grandma) is not a “normal” family. Simon isn’t very sympathetic to this p.o.v. because he’s gearing up for a ghost conference and he’s hoping to rub his new haunting situation (a.k.a. Chester’s home) in the faces of some of the snobbier ghosts. There’s a single moment in this book that solidified its placement on this “Funny” list, when Simon is talking at the ghost convention to a fellow ghost that haunts a bucket that had me snorting way too loud in my staff break room one lunchtime. And with its increasing emotional maturity, this is definitely a series to grab close and hold onto.
Two-Headed Chicken by Tom Angleberger
Kind of what you’d get if the film Everything Everywhere All at Once switched out its leads for a two-headed chicken and a green Colonel Sanders-suited moose. Clear as mud? Great. I should mention that Tom Angleberger’s book is one of the few comics that I read to my 8-year-old this year that had him literally guffawing out loud as I did so. The concept of a multiverse has started, slowly, to spur on a range of different books for kids. I would argue, however, that few have taken the ball and run with it the way that Tom has here. The entire concept is, quite simply, that you, the reader, are one of the heads of a two-headed chicken. The other head has a hat that allows you to leap from multi-verse to multi-verse. And this would be all well and good were it not for the fact that in every multi-verse you are being chased by the aforementioned moose and his battle cry of “I’m gonna fry you!” It’s an exploration in originality, since Tom literally could do ANYTHING with this book… and he takes things to ludicrous heights and lows. And here’s the thing: Don’t find one sequence funny? No worries! You’re bound to find another one exactly up your alley. It’s a marvelous exercise in different types of humor and how to incorporate them all into one book for kids. And THAT is worth celebrating!
Wild Ride by Keith Calabrese
Charley knew it was a bad idea when her big brother Greg took her out with her friends in their mom’s boyfriend’s very rare Mustang. But she didn’t know how bad until they found a kidnapped man in their trunk. I really and truly enjoyed this book. First off, look at Evanston getting a major shout out in a book this year! Extra points for getting all the directions right (though they do seem to make it out to Fox Lake in record breaking time, but that’s neither here nor there). Is some of this pushed a little too far into silly, unbelievable territory? Sure. But as someone who has watched many a rich man get away with stuff, I found this book oddly cathartic for our kooky times. Plus, the jokes really land, which I appreciated. This may be the silly book we need in the midst of all the depressing news of the world.
The World’s Most Ridiculous Animals by Philip Bunting
It’s as if Philip Bunting said to himself, “To please Betsy this year, I shall include an entry into my World’s Most series that contains not one but TWO Simpsons references on the same page!” I’m not even kidding. Check out the entry on tardigrades if you don’t believe. Now I included a Philip Bunting book on a previous year’s list as well (in that case it was The World’s Most Pointless Animals) and I was gratified to see that that book must have sold pretty well since Happy Yak tapped the man to write another in the same vein. Here the only impetus is for these creatures to be interesting. As such you’ll get gross critters like the zombie snail and strangely pretty ones like the ribbon eel. Guaranteed you’ll learn something from this, plus the joke density is fairly high. Even if you don’t know The Simpsons (in which case, how are we even friends?) you’ll find a lot to laugh at here.
Your Pal Fred by Michael Rex
Post-apocalyptic adorableness! Meet Fred. He wants to be your friend, even if you happen to be a killer robot, a warlord, or entirely covered in spikes. Resist his charm if you dare! Kind of what you’d get if you drop a lovable schmuck in the middle of Mad Max: Fury Road. Fred’s just sweet and there isn’t a drop of real violence in this whole book. Put another way, Fred’s like a little android Ted Lasso, merrily skipping through a hellscape, trying to stop war and violence, and handing out cheery stickers along the way. Niceness is seeing a real uptick in adult programming (how else to explain Our Flag Means Death?) so it makes sense that we’d see a little of that on the children’s side as well. Color me a Fred fan.
Want to see other lists? Stay tuned for the rest this month!
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 3 – Simple Picture Book Texts
December 4 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Funny Picture Books
December 7 – CaldeNotts
December 8 – Picture Book Reprints
December 9 – Math Books for Kids
December 10 – Gross Books
December 11 – Books with a Message
December 12 – Fabulous Photography
December 13 – Translated Picture Books
December 14 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
December 15 – Wordless Picture Books
December 16 – Poetry Books
December 17 – Unconventional Children’s Books
December 18 – Easy Books & Early Chapter Books
December 19 – Comics & Graphic Novels
December 20 – Older Funny Books
December 21 – Science Fiction Books
December 22 – Fantasy Books
December 23 – Informational Fiction
December 24 – American History
December 25 – Science & Nature Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers
December 29 – Best Audiobooks for Kids
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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