Every year, children’s literature enthusiasts get excited about the Newbery Award, the Caldecott Award, and dozens of other awards to highlight prestigious books for young people. But none have the distinction associated with the Coveted (the term coveted was added last year) Robbie Awards, in which a distinguished panel of experts (me) selects the funniest picture book and funniest children’s chapter book of the year (sometimes we inform the winners). A complete list of the Coveted Robbie Awards and Robbie Honors can be found on www.rapnrob.com and in the book What’s Black and White and Reid All Over? Something Hilarious Happened at the Library (ALA Editions, 2012). The distinguished panel of experts (me) continues to look at humor books for children right up until the next award is announced (either the day before or the day after the Newbery et al are announced). In the meantime, here are a few contenders for the chapter book award. The 10 Minute Selection (which may be 5-15 minutes) is to share a stand-alone passage with a youngster if time doesn’t permit reading the whole book.
Lenny Flem, Jr. tells us how his best friend Casper bought an expensive fake mustache and became a criminal mastermind named Fako Mustacho. The mustache has hypnotic powers and causes everyone to fall under its spell; everyone but Lenny, television child star Jodie O’Rodeo, and a mysterious man who has a “not exactly French but sort of French” accent. Author Angleberger also wrote the popular Origima Yoda books.
10 Minute Selection: Read chapter 5, “Fake Mustache.” Casper purchases the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven at Sven’s Fair Price Store. Continue reading chapters 6 through 11 (the chapters are short; one is less than a page in length). Lenny learns that the first-ever billion-dollar bank robbery took place nearby and that the security cameras spotted “a short, well-dressed man-about-town sporting a spectacular handlebar mustache.” Casper denies robbing the bank the next day at school, but accidentally hands Lenny a ten-thousand-dollar bill. Chapter 11, “The Crime Wave Waves Again” reports a two billion dollar bank robbery. The report stated that it would take fourteen big tractor trailers to haul the gold away. “Later in the morning, Move-U-Right Movers called the police to say that they were missing fourteen big tractor-trailers.”
Last year, Scary School won the Coveted Robbie Award for funniest chapter book of the year. Regular human and monster kids both attend Scary School. The faculty and staff are the scariest things at Scary School. I described the book as being similar to Louis Sachar’s Wayside School books, only with monsters. The second book picks up where the first left off. A whole class is missing at the beginning of the new school year. Turns out they were trapped all summer in a haunted house. They are rescued and all is well until King Zog, the leader of Monster Kingdom, is insulted by a Scary School student. Zog sends an army of “five thousand karate monsters, well-trained in the deadliest forms of martial arts, and five thousand monster-pirates, not well-trained in anything, but bloodthirsty nonetheless.” The students and faculty unite to face the invaders. As teacher Dr. Dragonbreath says, “Nobody eats students at Scary School but us.”
10 Minute Selection: One good stand-alone episode to read aloud is chapter 16, “Thanksgiving with the Dark Lord.” Principal Headcrusher is visiting an orphanage to investigate the unique powers of a potential student. Young Tim Puzzle turns people, including his parents, into frogs when he’s upset. He also plays loud music at 2:00 a.m. so no one can get a good night’s sleep. Headcrusher realizes Tim is a powerful evil wizard and tells him that she changed her mind, he can’t attend Scary School. When Tim attempts to turn the principal into a frog, she turns him into a frog, and all of his victims turn back into their former selves. The chapter ends with the lines, “He still tried to be the most evil frog he could possibly be. Every night at 2:00 a.m., he croaked as loud as he could.”
For more funny books to share with children, check out the lists in my three resource books related to humor: Something Funny Happened at the Library (ALA Editions, 2003), What’s Black and White and Reid All Over? (ALA Editions, 2012), and Silly Books to Read Aloud (Huron Street Press, 2013).