31 Days, 31 Lists: 2023 Funny Books for Older Kids
To say that I’ve an eclectic collection of books for you here today is putting it mildly. Some lists lend themselves to a wide variety of different types of styles and genre. Nothing, though, even compares to the Funny list. Here you’re going to find graphic novel memoirs and nonfiction about sea creatures. You’ll find early chapter books, the occasional middle grade fiction title, and even poetry. Some of these you will know, but I guarantee that there will be at least one book on this list that is new to you. Humor me. You’re gonna love ’em.
If you’d like like to have a PDF of today’s list, you can find that here.
Need more older funny titles besides today’s books? Then be sure not to miss these previous titles:
2023 Older Funny Books
Above the Trenches (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales) by Nathan Hale
Nobody is doing anything even slightly close to what Nathan Hale is doing these days. Let’s say you’re a children’s librarian sitting at a reference desk. Kid comes up to you and asks for a book that shows battles in war. Now regardless of your own pacifism instincts, you want to give that kid what they want. Trouble is, if your library is anything like mine, the books you have for kids on the subject are going to be old. We just don’t have a lot of books on historical wars for children these days. And the best possible exception to this? Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. Now they’re not all about war, but the ones that are have no equal. I went into his latest installment thinking it would be about The Red Baron. I mean, it’s fighter pilots in WWI, right? But since our narrator, Nathan Hale, was eaten by a big book of American history in the first book of this series, the focus of this book is the Americans who volunteered to fly for France long before America entered the war. It is also playing with fire, this book. Right from the start Nathan Hale warns the reader that the pilots in this book will be drinking alcohol and smoking. We then get a glorious shot of the Hangman and Provost doing precisely that (much to the alarm and fury of Hale). But even better, EVEN BETTER, is the fact that the planes flown at a certain point of the war were, and this is true, called Fokkers. Oh. Oh. The jokes, my friends, the jokes. Absolutely one of his finest. If you’re searching for enormously well-researched deep dive into WWI planes that’s also the funniest stuff being written today in comics, you can find no better book than this.
The Bawk-Ness Monster (Cryptid Kids) by Sara Goetter and Natalie Riess
A slam bang start to a silly new series. First off, I want to give Goetter and Riess credit for coming up with the idea of creating new cryptids. Oh sure, they could have made this book about your standard mothman, Jersey devil, bigfoot, etc. Instead, they went weird and they went weird HARD. Right from the start, instead of Nessie you have Bessie, the Bawk-Ness monster. Storywise, Goetter and Riess aren’t afraid to just push young readers into the deep end of the plot. Penny is moving to a new town with her mom and before she goes she has just one wish. You see, when Penny was little she was saved from drowning by Bessie, the aforementioned half-chicken/half-sea monster. Now she wants to return to the lake where it all happened and say thank you alongside her two good friends Luc and K. K is a budding cryptozoologist and Luc is a former mean kid who is grappling a little with identity. No sooner do they arrive then they’re face to face with goons, an evil villain, and a whole host of amusing cryptids. Just gotta tell you right now that Bigtaur is my favorite and I want to have Bigtaur t-shirts that I can wear in the future. The only way that’s gonna happen, though, is if you folks discover this series. Aside from the fun plotting, it’s also seriously funny. We’re talking Looney Tunes-worthy sight gags, dramatic pauses, and a nice use of some mild manga elements as well. Hard to pick a funniest moment but if I had to I’d say that the moment the kids dress up as adult inspectors inside a trenchcoat was the moment I officially fell in love with the book. Hope we see more!
The Deep! Wild Life at the Ocean’s Darkest Depths by Lindsey Leigh
Sink deep deep below the waves to meet the creatures that dwell where nothing else can live. A fantastic voyage filled with humor and facts we can guarantee you never knew before! Ahhh. So this is what I’ve always wanted in a deep sea book for older kids. And no shade on the other whale fall book out this year, but I guess I had sort of hoped that that book would have the sheer levels of excitement and interest that this one has. Fashioning her style on old 1950s B-movie posters, Lindsey Leigh packs her book with hilarity and solid factual information. I learned a LOT from this title. Somehow, Leigh manages to sandwich the less interesting info between the fascinating and funny (as well as gross) stuff so beautifully that it’s irresistible. A must read!
Gnome and Rat by Lauren Stohler
Join best friends Gnome and Rat as they engage in small adventures all involving hats in some way. Easy reading comics with a chapeau theme! Doggone charming books with their doggone charming characters. Early, easier-to-read graphic novels are sort of their own little world, and boy has Lauren Stohler just planted her flag there. Cozy without being twee, if you know what I mean, but also legitimately funny. A lot of that has to do with Stohler’s ability to create great faces. I had a co-worker ask me, quite seriously, whether or not I just liked this book simply because it was for younger readers. NO, sez I! This is a younger comic for kids, sure, but the jokes are definitely funny to all ages, no matter what. These are great. Three little stories about two friends written with a rather ridiculous conceit.
Henry, Like Always by Jenn Bailey, ill. Mika Song
In Classroom Ten, Henry relies on routines. Then, one day, his teacher announces that there will be a parade when there’s usually Share Time. A smart and reassuring book about a kid on the autism spectrum working around the unexpected. Writing a book about a kid on the spectrum is done often but rarely so well. The key here is to make Henry’s frustrations understandable. Even if you don’t agree with him, you have to see his point of view or it all falls apart. Jenn Bailey is just knocking this out of the park with the problem, the build, and a resolution that makes everyone happy (which, in cases like this, can be exceedingly difficult). I suspect that the fellow character of Samuel may have some impulse issues of his own, and now I’m hoping he gets his own spin-off series someday. Extra points for the use of humor. That Thinking Chair makes for a subtle but very effective page turn more than once and it never gets old. This is masterful. Previously Seen On: The Early Chapter Books list
LOL 101: A Kid’s Guide to Writing Jokes by David Roth and Rinee Shah
While I’m always on the lookout for funny books for kids, I’d say that interest extends into the realm of funny nonfiction as well. Particularly when the nonfiction in question aims to teach kids the rudimentary basics behind coming up with their own original jokes. This isn’t a “joke book” in the sense that it’s just filled with pre-made jokes for children’ to regurgitate for others (if you’ll excuse a gross metaphor). Rather, Roth and Shah break down the work that goes into thinking up new material. To do so they actually come up with a pretty neat system that covers Wordplay, The Rule of 3, Exaggeration, and Advanced Wordplay. It also covers how to deliver these jokes, what to do when they go awry, visual humor, and how to make a living with jokes. I was a bit sad that it didn’t feel a need to talk about inappropriate jokes, and what to do when you come to the realization that what you just said was considered offensive to someone else (and trust me, kids need some help in this area, just like the rest of us). But all told, this book is definitely filling a gap. Plus, the Rule of 3 section actually made me laugh out loud with the line, “My favorite winter hobbies are skiing, snowboarding, and crying in the bathtub.” Marvelous.
Maggie Lou, Firefox by Arnolda Dufour Bowes, ill. Karlene Harvey
Meet Maggie Lou, Firefox! Whether she’s boxing at the gym in a tutu, working on her dad’s construction crew, or going on her first deer hunt, this Métis kid will always keep you laughing. How could I possibly resist this? Maggie feels like a hardscrabble younger kid title with a titular heroine capable of punching you in the jaw or building you a house. And hunting in a children’s book? I haven’t seen that in years and years. I loved the tone, the humor, and the sheer messiness of this book. As Indigenous peoples’ stories go, this is precisely what we need to see more of on our shelves. Someone compared it to JoJo Makoons, which is also great, but which reads much younger than old Maggie here. Plus any kids book where the adults in the family give each other some solid burns to anyone they think is no good at hunting has my instant love. Two big thumbs up!
The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams by Daniel Nayeri
Saved from a stoning by angry monks, a kid called Monkey is indebted to the fast-talking Samir, a merchant on the Silk Road. The problem? Seven hired assassins have Samir in their sights, and Monkey has a debt to pay. A plus but with some caveats! The last time Daniel Nayeri wrote a book it was of an ungodly length. This time it’s a slick 224 pages, which is much better. And the man’s a born storyteller, so there’s a lot to enjoy here. So what’s the problem? Well, some of the more complex ideas that go on in this book had me, a grown adult, rereading them several times to get the gist. I suppose that this is the book you could hand to one of those kids that claim they have read “every book in the library” and demand something more challenging. Obviously the man can string two sentences together with particular skill, and I liked the twists and the ending a lot (it really picks up when the assassins start showing up). Monkey is sardonic and hilarious, and you just fall in love to Samir’s sweet con man ways. Why did it also show up on the “Gross” list? I’ve got two words for you: severed ear. You figure out the rest. Previously Seen On: The Gross list.
Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir by Pedro Martín
Meet Pedro, the seventh of nine kids, as he and his family take an epic trip to Mexico to fetch his Mexican Revolution-era Abuelito back to America. A hilarious graphic memoir full of raw milk, snotty Pop Rocks, family and heart. I’ve got four words for you: “Snot meets Pop Rocks”. You know, I see a lot of memoirs in a given year, and some of them stick while others fade. This book? I think it just branded a book-sized hole in my brain and I’ll never quite be the same again. I’ve been reading this to my 9-year-old and it literally has everything. Pathos. Humor. Heart. Family. Raw milk!! Where the heck has this cartoonist been all this time? He’s just come out of the gate swinging with a book so excellent that I may have to consider the possibility for the first time of TWO GN memoirs having Newbery potential in the same year. You folks have GOTTA read this!!!
My Head Has a Bellyache by Chris Harris, ill. Andrea Tsurumi
Step aside, Shel Silverstein! There’s a new funny poetry book in town and it’s going to knock you out. Get ready for elderly cavemen, nail-clipping fairies, and AWOL buffaloes in this laugh-out-loud triumph of a book. Why why why why why does no one do poetry collections as well as Chris Harris? First, getting Andrea Tsurumi to do the art was a genius move on some editor’s part. But Chris has upped his game and though I did read as much of it as I could, I honestly think that the different Index entries may take you an additional hour if you do them properly. The jokes in this land and they land hard, but to my amazement, the man is also capable of some real pathos and emotional tugs of the heart when he’s talking about parenthood. That also lands. All told, strongest funny poetry book of the year, bar none. It’s seriously not even close. Previously Seen On: The Poetry List
Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow
Simon is the only kid in his class who survived a school shooting. Not a premise you usually find in a funny book. Two years later, he’s starting over in a new town at a new school (7th grade), and he only wants to forget everything and fly under the radar. He makes new friends but also can’t put the past behind so easily, in spite of his intentions. I made the critical mistake of reading this when I was supposed to be working on my own funny novel, and boy was it a blow to my faith in my own writing. On the plus side, I now feel like I need to up my game by 500% because Bow has got to be one of the funniest writers for kids working today. How does she manage to be hilarious one moment and then manage to talk very seriously and very honestly about trauma the next? I didn’t have the objections to the ending that some folks did, though I would agree that I’d have liked more there. Of course that might just be because I liked the voice and the writing so much. Two very high thumbs up from the jealous writer over here.
Survival Scout: Lost in the Mountains by Maxwell Eaton III
Scout’s ended up abandoned in the wilderness all alone except for a snarky skunk. What to do? Find out how to find shelter, make a fire, signal for help, and more with this fun and funny guide to survival. I’m here to state right now that turning his focus to nonfiction comics and picture books was the #1 best move Maxwell Eaton III ever made. Granted, he makes life hard for catalogers that don’t know how to deal with his fine melding of fact and fiction, but who cares? You end up liking his books so much that you can overlook such complications. This book is like an updated version of Hatchet, only packed with even more fantastic information than you might expect. The humor will get the kids that wouldn’t naturally gravitate to discussions of how to use a topographic map invested, and the facts about finding your position with a compass? *chef’s kiss* And yes, don’t worry. There is a funny bear as well.
The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels by Beth Lincoln, ill. Claire Powell
Every year I wish that I had read enough mysteries to make a Mystery List and every year I read only a few. But by gum if I HAD done a Mystery List in 2023, this would have been at the tippy tippy top. Lincoln kicks off the book with an epic funeral rehearsal fail and just goes from there. The basic premise is that in the Swift family, every member has been named by a random selection of a word from the dictionary. That’s why you end up with a heroine named Shenanigan who wants nothing more than to discover the lost Swift fortune. She and her siblings and various relatives live in a crumbling estate (crumbling estates were also very hot in 2023 middle grade children’s books, by the way) and it’s time for a massive family reunion. However, when an attempt is made on the life of the matriarch of the family (Great-Aunt Schadenfreude) it’s up to Shenanigan and her siblings to find the culprit. That this book has been as well-received as it has this year is a testament to its writing as well as its marketing team. I found the Swifts delightful, funny, and wackadoodle in all the right ways. Extra points to the excellent audiobook, which gets all the voices just right (with the possible exception of Daisy’s American twang).
Hope you enjoyed these! Here are the lists you can expect for the rest of this month:
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Picture Book Readaloud
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 – Older Funny Books
December 20 – Science Fiction Books
December 21 – Fantasy Books
December 22 – Comics & Graphic Novels
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 – 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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