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suggested by Dianne Monson, children's literature professor and library volunteer, and Adele Greenlee, children's literature professor

We love humor in literature and are always looking for books that are funny and also well written. We began by making our own lists of favorite humorous books. We recognize that response to humor varies from person to person, so we asked a group of our teacher friends to help us decide which titles to include on the final list. We offer these books as some of our collective favorites. We've given you a dozen in each category, because we couldn't seem to limit ourselves to 10!

NOVELS

Anastasia Krupnik

Anastasia Krupnik — Lois Lowry

Anastasia has strong opinions and records things she likes and things she hates in her green notebook. "Babies" and "parents" go on the hate list when she discovers her mother is pregnant. Humorous insights about her life with friends and family are revealed in the constantly changing like/hate lists.

Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever — Barbara Robinson

The horrible Herdmans lied and stole and smoked cigars. They talked dirty, took the name of the Lord in vain, and burned down a toolhouse. What are the church ladies supposed to do when the Herdmans show up wanting to be in the annual church pageant? The outcome is a fresh look at the Christmas story seen through the eyes of children hearing it for the first time.

Burning Questions of BingoBrown

The Burning Questions of Bingo Brown — Betsy Byars

Bingo Brown had never been in love before and he's not sure how to handle it. He thought he wouldn't fall in love until he got zits, but now he finds himself with a lot of questions. Is he ready for "mixed-sex" conversations?

HobokenChickenEmergency

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency – Daniel Pinkwater
illus. by Jill Pinkwater

Arthur, who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, is sent to the store for a last minute purchasea Thanksgiving turkey. Unfortunately, by the time he gets there, all the turkeys are gone. On his return trip, Arthur has a little adventure, and arrives home instead with a 266 pound chicken on a leash. Henrietta, as she is called, has a wacky personality so when she gets loose in town, she creates havoc and lots of laughs.

How to Eat Fried Worms

How to Eat Fried Worms – Thomas Rockwell
illus. by Emily A. McCully

The thought of actually eating worms is pretty disgusting but there are many possible ways to prepare them. That is probably why this story rolls along with a laugh a page right up to the gory details of the final feast.

Long Way from Chicago

A Long Way from Chicago – Richard Peck

Joey and Mary Alice visit Grandma Dowdel every summer. Grandma is one of a kind and as sharp as a tack, so every summer there is a wonderful story to remember. For instance, when some local pranksters blow up her mailbox with firecrackers, Grandma lays a trap and scares the daylights out of them with a cherry bomb. The language and descriptions are great fun.

Matilda

Matilda – Roald Dahl

Matilda is a sweet five-year old genius whose reading includes Charles Dickens and Jane Austin. Her father tells her she should be watching the "telly" instead of reading, and one day, in his anger rips the pages from a favorite book. There is melodramatic humor as Matilda discovers special abilities to fight evil and help her find happiness with Miss Honey, her beloved teacher.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren

Pippi, the strongest girl in the world, scrubs the floor by tying brushes on her feet and skating over it. She also dispenses with a burglar by simply lifting him up onto the top of the wardrobe. Many young readers envy her jolly life and secretly wish they could behave as she does.

Ramona the Pest

Ramona the Pest – Beverly Cleary

Ramona is naughty but lovable. She really wants to be good in school, but there are too many temptations to resist. children can relate to the trouble she gets into, as when she insists on staying in her seat, hoping to get something really good, because her teacher told her to "stay here for the present." Children often misinterpret confusing language and there are many examples in this book. When Ramona uses the term "dawnzer" (from "the dawns early light") to describe a lamp, they can laugh and feel just a bit superior to her.

Sideways Stories fromWayside School

Sideways Stories from Wayside School – Louis Sachar

Each chapter describes one of the wacky people or bizarre situations in Wayside School where the classrooms were accidently built on top of each other instead of side by side. There's Mrs. Gorf who changes her students into apples. There's Todd who gets his name on the board for disciplinary warnings and has never seen a school afternoon because he keeps getting sent home early on the kindergarten bus. There's Kathy who had good reasons for not liking anyone, and Sharie who falls asleep in class and rolls out the window, falling thirty floors into the arms of the yard teacher.

Tales of a FourthGrade Nothing

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Judy Blume

Two-year old Fudge has the whole family reeling as Fudge's antics lead from one disaster to another. Peter, the big brother, tries to cope but feels unnoticed until a not-to-be-forgotten final encounter with the pet turtle.

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear – Lensey Namioka

The Yang family are immigrants from China. Father plays in a symphony orchestra and the whole family is musical except for the youngest child, Yingtao. A recital for all father's pupils is coming soon. Yintao must play in the family string quarter, but he worries that he will let his father down. Luckily, Yintao loves baseball and has made friends at school. He and his friend Matthew concoct a terrific scheme that saves the day and lets Matthew's parents see what a good violinist he is. The story is also humorous because the language is filled with bothersome English idioms that are tricky for Yantao to translate.

PICTUREBOOKS

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, NoGood,VeryBad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Viorst, illus. by Ray Cruz

Alexander is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. His mother forgets to put dessert in his school lunch. At the dentist, he's the only one in the family with a cavity. There were lima beans for supper, kissing on TV, and he had to wear his hated railroad-train pajamas to bed. Maybe he should move to Australia! Everyone can relate to his humorous account of a day where nothing seems to go right.

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type

Click, Clack, Moo – Doreen Cronin
illus. by Betsy Lewin

When Farmer Brown's cows find a typewriter in the barn, they proceed to write notes to tell him how they want things to change on the farm. When he fails to live up to their demands, they go on strike. The situation gets worse and worse, until one of the ducks helps them reach a compromise. The illustrations add greatly to the humor of this story.

Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash – Trinka Hakes Noble
illus. by Steven Kellogg

A mother asks her daughter, "How was your class trip to the farm?" and gets an account of one wild adventure leading to the next. Jimmy's pet boa, brought to meet the farm animals, has a pivotal role in the chain of events where pigs take over the school bus, a haystack falls down, and children have a wild battle throwing eggs in the chicken house.

Doctor De Soto

Doctor De Soto – William Steig

Doctor De Soto, a competent mouse dentist, treated all animals except those dangerous to mice. A desperate fox with a toothache begs to be treated and promises not to harm the dentist. Doctor De Soto reluctantly agrees, but when the fox, groggy from anesthesia, murmurs his desire to eat the tasty morsel of mouse when the work is finished, Doctor De Soto has to quickly make a plan

Ira Sleeps Over

Ira Sleeps Over – Bernard Waber

Ira has been invited to sleep over at his friend Reggie's house but he has a problem. Ira is embarrassed to have anyone know that he still sleeps with his teddy bear! The humor in this story stems from Ira's attempts to keep his bear a secret, and also from the surprise ending.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat – Simms Taback

Joseph had a little overcoat. It was old and worn. So he made a jacket out of it and went to the fair. But the jacket got old and worn so he made a vest out of it. This adapted Yiddish song, told with die-cut illustrations, shows Joseph using the decreasing size of the garment for a useful purpose until he has nothing left. But the cheerful Joseph finds that he can use even nothing to make something.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse – Kevin Henkes

Lilly can't resist bringing her new plastic purse to school, the purse that plays a tune when opened, and holds a new pair of diamond studded sunglasses and three new quarters. The constant jingling as Lilly tries to entertain the whole class is just too much for her teacher, Mr. Slinger. After he confiscates the purse, Lilly has to find a way to get back into his good graces.

Martha Speaks

Martha Speaks – Susan Meddaugh

Martha is a wonderful dog — funny to look at and funny to hear when her lunch of alphabet soup allows her to do human speech. Her encounter with a burglar is great comedy. Dog owners will enjoy Martha's comments about human behavior, since most of us do wonder what our pets are thinking.

Officer Buckle and Gloria

Officer Buckle and Gloria – Peggy Rathmann

Officer Buckle's school safety visits were never very popular until he bought a police dog named Gloria. As soon as she begins to help with the programs, everyone wants to hear his speeches. Poor Officer Buckle is quite depressed to find out that Gloria is really the star of the show. He feels so bad about it that he sends Gloria out alone to make the next presentation but she falls asleep and so does the audience. Now it is up to Gloria to convince Office Buckle that he really is needed. The ending isn't as funny as the rest of the story but it is very satisfying.

Olivia - Ian Falconer

Olivia, the pig, is good at wearing people out. She even wears herself out. Small black and white illustrations with splashes of red show the energetic Olivia building a gigantic sand building, leaping instead of napping, and trying to duplicate a painting she saw at the art museum on her bedroom wall.

StinkyCheese Man and Other FairlyStupid Tales

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales
Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

The humor in this story collection comes from the pictures, wacky word use, and really weird versions of familiar stories. It's great fun to read because you feel as though the creators had fun making up these twisted tales.

Copyright 2002- Children's Literature Network.