Tag Archives: funny books

A Few Weird Books

We recently had the extreme pleasure of listening to Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger on audiobook.  We’re relatively new to audiobooks.  Mushroom and BalletBoy didn’t love them when they were little and we have eased slowly into listening to them more regularly over the last couple of years.

Fake Mustache was by far one of the biggest hits we’ve done so far.  The book was well narrated, with two readers who had just the right accents and inflections.  The story is hilarious and preposterous.  From start to finish, the book had us in stitches with the bizarre occurrences and characters like the novelty shop run by a very masculine woman, the grabby hand that grabs anything, the disguises that work too easily, and the TV show where the stunts are real but the singing is fake.

The oddities of Fake Mustache reminded me of other weird children’s books and I thought it was worth sharing a few more, on audio or not.

Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind by Tom Angleberger
Odd Plot: Lenny Flem realizes that his best friend Casper may be using his new fake mustache to rob banks and then steal a presidential election.  With a little help from a pre-teen rodeo star, Jodie O’Rodeo, he has to try to stop him.
Weirdness Example: The mustache allows the wearer to hypnotize a group of wandering accordion players into robbing a bank.
Funny Name: If Jodie O’Rodeo, Lenny Flem and Fako Mustacho aren’t enough for you, the mustache has a name too: The Heidelberg Handlebar #7.

Five Novels by Daniel Pinkwater
Odd Plots: Five short novels are included in this collection, including Alan Mendelson: Boy from Mars and my favorite, Young Adult Novel.
Weirdness: The counselor that the main character sees in one novel advises him to take a week off school and smoke cigars.  Also, ice cream is prepared with pizza in the microwave in another book.  And an obsession with dada art and Grape Nuts touches off an epic food fight in another.
Funny Names: Samuel Klugarsh, Harold Blatz, Hades Terwilliger, Winston Bongo…  I could go on.  Pinkwater is genius with names.

A Whole Nother Story by Cuthbert Soup
Odd Plot: When an inventor creates a time machine, he must grab his kids and run for their lives from an assortment of unexpected villains, including spies with a super smart chimpanzee.
Weirdness: The family evades the bad guys with the help from a dog who sees the future.  Also, did I mention that a sock puppet is a pretty big character?
Funny Name: Even common names like Jough Psmythe get a silly twist.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Odd Plot: This classic story is about a school that was built the wrong way, with all the classrooms on top of each other, instead of next to them.  Each story follows a different character in one class.
Weirdness: A much hated teacher is turned into an apple and give to the recess monitor for lunch.
Funny Name: Mr. Pepperadder is the name of the assistant cook.

Graphic Novels Again

They really need to do their math there, but I don’t want to interrupt the nearly half hour stretch of quiet they’ve had together!

We were inundated by graphic novels for Christmas gifts and the boys have been making their way through them, along with the other books they got.

 The Flying Beaver Brothers And The Evil Penguin Plan Salt Water Taffy: Caldera's Revenge! Bone: V. 1: Out Of Boneville

Both the boys quickly read Squish: Brave New Pond by Jennifer Holm, which they enjoyed.  I don’t quite “get” these books, but the boys find the story of Squish, a small amoeba, and his school friends, to be funny.  They’re a little bit on the gross out side of humor, so just a parental warning for you there.

I got Mushroom the very easy to read book The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan by Maxwell Eaton.  There’s a sequel as well.  It was really funny, with a lot of what passes as dry humor for the elementary school set, which is exactly Mushroom’s kind of jokes.

BalletBoy got the next entries in the Salt Water Taffy series by Matthew Loux, Caldera’s Revenge.  This is a set of graphic novels about two boys on summer vacation in Maine.  I admit that I didn’t like these much at first, but I guess there’s something funny about grizzled old seamen?  The dialogue is a bit amusing, I suppose.

Finally, both Mushroom and BalletBoy have embarked on reading the great graphic novel series Bone by Jeff Smith and have already gone through the first two volumes and are asking for the third.  This series is silly at times, with slapsticky gags and jokey dialogue.  It follows some bones who leave their home for the wide world.  The rest of the characters are human.  However, it also quickly begins to tell an epic tale full of dragons and quests.  This is an older series (I read the first bit of it years before I had kids) but Scholastic got hold of it several years ago making it clearly a series for children.  It is, by far, the title on this list that I recommend the highest.  The rest are just for fun, but this one is graphic novel art.

Five Picture Books That Always Make Me Laugh

Humor is important.  And it’s difficult to craft a picture book that is amusing to adults and kids alike.  Here, in no particular order, are five that crack me up every time and amuse the kids too:

Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Sczieska and Lane Smith

Everything by Jon Sczieska is pretty funny. His most famous collaboration with Lane Smith, The Stinky Cheese Man, is probably more clever, but this one is much better for absurd, laugh out loud fun.  Each fable in the book is extremely short.  There are enough that by the time I reread the book, I’ve usually forgotten one and can be surprised by the silly moral.

Big Plans by Bob Shea and Lane Smith

I’ve got big plans, big plans, I say!  I’m laughing already.  I won’t bother to summarize the plot.  Just suffice it to say that the narrator is a little boy with big, silly plans.  This is probably my most favorite book to read aloud in the whole world.  I have actually begged my children for the opportunity to read it again.

The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble, illustrated by Steven Kellogg

This is the story of a pet boa constrictor who gets loose on a farm, causing a chain reaction of events that would astound anyone.  It’s funny to begin with, but the humor is all in the telling.  Meggie only tells the story in little pieces, saving the most absurd bits.  When I read it aloud, it’s hard to keep ramping up the shock in the mother’s voice as she hears how things come out.

I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems

All of Mo Willems’s work is pretty funny.  For a long time, I thought he could never top There is a Bird on Your Head. Then came the day that the kids and I spotted a new Elephant and Piggie book in the library.  I pulled it out and we curled up in a corner to read it.  By the end, I was literally crying with laughter and the kids cried, “Again!”  Just so you know, I never, ever read books twice in a row.  My kids rarely ask for immediate rereads anyway.  But this time they asked and I said yes and laughed nearly as hard the second time around.

The Wuggie Norple Story by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Tomie DePaola

This is one of the strangest children’s books ever written.  Actually, you could probably start any review of a Daniel Pinkwater book with that sentence.  It’s the story of a cat that grows to an enormous size that no one except the father seems to recognize.  Most of the humor is in the bizarre names that Daniel Pinkwater has given every character.  That, and the fact that all they eat is onions.  You have to have a certain sense of humor to appreciate this one, but I apparently have that sense of humor and I appreciate it very much.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure it’s out of print so maybe I’m one of the few.