Many lists of funny picture books are filled with books that are zany or wacky but not especially funny. Although those books might be enjoyable for lots of other reasons, they haven’t made me or my children laugh very much. Here are the books that have truly made me laugh.
This post is old. See my improved and expanded list here!
The Book with No Pictures, B.J. Novak [Amazon | Bookshop] — Perhaps the most consistent inclusion on any list of funny books for kids, this book really deserves to be recognized. The clever premise is that the adult reading to the child will read whatever is printed on the page. Chaos ensues and the giddy children listening feel that their world is turned upside down and power is temporarily subverted. The more baffled the reader appears to be by this book, the funnier it is.
Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy, Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake [Amazon] — This collection has an assortment of very funny poems that use wordplay and nonsense to get big laughs: “Don’t” and “Say Please” and “Bathroom Fiddler” are wonderful. Some of the poems in here are not funny at all but instead quite serious, dealing with fears and sadnesses that children have. These are lovely, too, in their own way, as Rosen has a gift for vulnerability and honesty and for understanding the world from a child’s perspective.
Bananas in My Ears, Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake [Amazon | Bookshop] — Michael Rosen is, I think, the funniest children’s poet, or perhaps the funniest poet, period. On his brilliant YouTube channel, you can listen to him reel off one poem after another, and he’s so funny that you might wonder if he could have had an acting career, too. This particular collection includes wonderful “What If?” poems (each starting with a ridiculous, childlike “what if” premise and carrying it as far as he can go).
Fortunately, Remy Charlip [Amazon | Bookshop] — Fortunately toys with the repetition of good luck and bad luck, crises and resolutions that build upon each other and seem, perhaps, infinite: fortunately this happened, but then unfortunately that happened. The zig-zagging between relief and disappointment can get big laughs (and it all turns out fine in the end, too).
Oi Frog!, Kes Gray and Jim Field [Amazon | Bookshop] — Oi Frog! is a wonderful book about rhyming, with a bossy cat who insists that all animals must sit on objects that their names rhyme with. That’s absurd enough as it is, but the reader’s breathless verbal gymnastics as she catalogs these pairings will get lots of laughs, and there’s a great gag at the end, too.
Still Stuck, Shinsuke Yoshitake [Amazon | Bookshop] — Still Stuck must be one of the funniest children’s books ever written. It begins with the already funny idea of a child getting stuck while taking off his shirt and asks, “Well, what if he never gets unstuck?” The book gets increasingly absurd, in Yoshitake’s characteristically quirky and delightful way, and culminates in a side-splitting crisis, a masterful pairing of words and image.
Chicken Cheeks, Michael Ian Black and Kevin Hawkes [Amazon | Bookshop] — The text in this book is simple: just rhyming or alliterative names for animal butts. The pictures are hysterical, and it’s brilliantly structured, with a dynamite animal butt name at the end. Clever and delightful and goofy all the way through.
Harold’s Hungry Eyes, Kevin Waldron [Amazon | Bookshop] — Harold’s Hungry Eyes uses clever illustrations, with pictures of food to complete house scenes and cityscapes (a cheese bus, a pie clock, an ice cream cone traffic light, a flan lamp), to delight and surprise. The plot itself is sweet though not especially funny — Harold’s favorite chair goes missing, and he tries to track it down (though he’s almost too hungry to go on!) — but the final few pages have a beautiful punchline, heartwarming and happy and clever enough to make you bark with joy, too.
It Might Be an Apple, Shinsuke Yoshitake [Amazon] — So… suppose that apple you wanted for snack isn’t really an apple… Yoshitake’s wild imagination and intricate drawings are funny as always, but a wonderful table of invented apple names and shapes is a silly stand-out in this one.
A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea, Michael Ian Black and Kevin Hawkes [Amazon | Bookshop] — This book is especially funny for grown-ups and slightly older children (kindergarten or first grade and up), as the humor here is more complex: the tension between typical children’s book ideas (a cute pig parade!) and reality (pigs tearing apart the floats and busting their noses through the drums). The concept is very funny, but the illustrations truly nail it and make the book so funny that even many adults, reading this on their own, will laugh out loud.
Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Mo Willems [Amazon | Bookshop] — If you’ve read the Elephant and Piggie books 100 times or more, as many of us have, it might be hard to remember just how funny they are. And they are almost certainly funnier for children than they are for adults. But they are tremendously well done and, if readers really get into the spirit and act them out, they bring down the house. Should I Share My Ice Cream? is a favorite, a brilliant and funny look at children’s indecision and the difficulty that many of us, even adults, have deciding whether we should share something special and ephemeral or keep it to ourselves.
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One thought on “Some of the Best Truly Funny Picture Books for Kids, Part 1”
Kids will laugh out loud reading the stories from this book.
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