Best Books for a Knee-Slapping, Side-Splitting, Spirit-Lifting Belly Laugh by Kate Hannigan
There’s nothing like the joy of snuggling in with a small friend and sharing a picture book. And it’s even better when the book is funny. Not just funny ha-ha, but funny HA-HA! A real knee-slapper. A side-splitter. An I-can’t-talk-right-now-because-I’m-laughing-too-hard kind of book.
They’re tricky to find. But when you do, O, the Hilarity! I had one of these moments a few months back when I was visiting a favorite indie bookstore Up North in Michigan — McLean and Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey. I’d picked up a copy of We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins, and right away I began to chuckle.
And then the story sort of worked its magic, with a direct smack to my funny bone. I found myself snorting. Alone. In the children’s section. I might have frightened off a few kindergartners, but I couldn’t help myself! Adorable little Penelope the T. Rex completely stole my heart. And her inability to control her urge to devour classmates had me laughing until tears streamed down my cheeks.
Who can explain these moments? When the stars align and something that a day before might have garnered just a grin or two, today inspires unstoppable fits of laughter? I have no idea why this book on this particular day made me bust a gut, but I treasured the experience. And I’ve since shared the title with anyone who will listen.
So it got me thinking about other really, really funny books. Over the years there have been a select few that stirred such an intense response on the Hilarity Richter Scale, especially in my kids. Author Karen Beaumont and illustrator David Catrow’s I Aint Gonna Paint No More ranks among the tippy top. It’s become such a favorite in our extended family, I recently had cousins calling dibs on who got to gift it at an upcoming baby shower. Karen has written an uproarious, rollicking classic.
An Undone Fairy Tale by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Whitney Martin launched many a laugh-fest in my house and at classroom read-alouds, complete with shouting and hooting. With a narrator who urges readers not to turn the page, the humor is irresistible. I recall one of my boys falling off the sofa from laughing so hard.
And anything by Julie Falatko promises a good, long stretch of glee, starting with Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!), illustrated by Tim Miller, and on to longer stories like Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School.
But humor is in the eye of the beholder. So rather than rattle off my own list of what I deem hilarious, I tapped the vast knowledge of some friendly librarians and teachers. So if you’re in need of a soul-cleansing, spirit-lifting, side-splitting belly laugh, check out some of their suggested titles:
Tina Carter, children’s librarian at Chicago Public Library’s Blackstone Branch, recommends Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka, Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea, Chicken Butt by Erica S. Perl and illustrated by Henry Cole, and Pluto Visits Earth by Steve Metzger and illustrated by Jared D. Lee.
Jen Dieleman, an elementary school teacher and picture-book blogger in Yucca Valley, California, said her students laugh hard with This Is a Taco by Andrew Cangelose and illustrated by Josh Shipley. They also love Truck Full of Ducks by Ross Burach and the Underpants series by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort.
Ro Melendez, elementary school librarian in Mesquite, Texas, listed quite a few laugh-out-loud books that made her students happy:
Bob, Not Bob! by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Misunderstood Shark and many other titles by Ame Dyckman
The Itchy Book, written and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Whose Butt by Stan Tekiela
Do Not Lick This Book by by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost
The Cat, the Dog, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma by Diane Fox
Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio
Rot, the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton
Do Unto Otters, a Book About Manners by Laurie Keller
Teacher’s Pet by Anka Mrose Rissi
Whoops! by Suzi Moore
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang
I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Hickory Dickory Dog by Alison Murray
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
And some of her favorite longer books and graphic novels:
Brixton Brothers series by Mac Barnett
Harriet the Invincible series by Ursula Vernon
Mysterious Howling and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood
And anything from picture books to chapter books by Tom Angleberger
Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds topped the list for Alice Dean, library media assistant in Homer School District in Homer Glen, Illinois. And she also offered titles for older readers as well:
When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad
The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) by Geoff Rodkey
The Best Man by Richard Peck
Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities by Mike Jung
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier (Series)
What laugh-out-loud picture books and early readers do you recommend? Share them in the comments below and help spread a little hilarity in a world that could use more joy.
Chicago children’s author Kate Hannigan is still trying to figure out how to write a hilarious picture book. Her nonfiction picture-book biography A Lady Has the Floor earned four starred reviews, and her historical fiction The Detective’s Assistant, based on America’s first woman detective, won the Golden Kite Award for best middle-grade novel. Kate is a proud recipient of a Nerdy Book Award. Visit her online at KateHannigan.com.