Zany Miscellany

Cleveland Park LibraryRead Feed

Zany Miscellany

Chapter books with unconventional humor

One of the trickier reference questions I get as a children's librarian is "I'm looking for a funny book". Although laughter is universal, what makes us laugh is entirely subjective and I find it very difficult to recommend "funny" books unless I know the person's personality really well. This list illustrates my point - it is filled with children's books that I find hilarious while recognizing that the humor contained within is far from mainstream. From children who think they are animals (wolves and squirrels specifically) to talking crime-fighting skeletons, these books are all more than a little absurd. They are also all very self-aware and often paradoxical two things that, when done well, I find marvelously funny. I hope you do too! 


The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
In the vein of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Roald Dahl much more than Lowry's other books, this book is a little gem. It takes classic children's books tropes (nannies, horrible parents, lonely rich recluses, you name it!) and twists them into something incredibly refreshing. Even more refreshing, the story is wrapped up nicely in one short book that leaves you feeling satisfied. 

The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld
I knew I was going to like this book as soon as I read the title. Perilous plots, you say? I'm in! The real beauty of this book though is how simple the story actually is. Older sister has her head in the clouds, gets kidnapped by villain, and subsequently rescued by grounded younger sister. It is absolutely perfect as a read aloud for kids transitioning into chapter books. It has all the kid appeal of princesses, sisters, adventure, dragons and goats with enough Monty Python-esque humor to make it really enjoyable for the parents.

The Ministry of S.U.I.T.S by Paul Gamble
This book was part standard fantasy adventure and part parody of the absurd inner workings of large governmental organizations. Jack joins a secret agency working to keep fantastical creatures both under control and hidden from the general public and ends up saving the day. But what makes this particular book stand out is the off the wall explanations of common beliefs. For instance, the tooth fairy is contractually due any teeth found under pillows whether or not they are still connected to people's mouths and dolphins are the smartest aquatic mammal because they can jump higher, and thus have more time to read books without them getting wet. Silly and fun.

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
This book is the first in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series and like The Willoughbys, plays with the governess trope found so often in children's books. Except there is one big difference in this instance - the children have literally been raised by wolves before Miss Penelope is hired by their adoptive father. 

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
This book also made my Read Feed list entitled "Chilling Chapters" because it does have some dark and creepy elements, especially in the very beginning. But it also has great dry dialogue especially between the two main characters: Stephanie, a twelve year old girl, and Skulduggery, a centuries old skeleton. It is also the first of a series promising more fantastical adventures with a side of witty banter.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North
I had to include this graphic novel series because it's a great funny option for comic-loving kids: smart and funny with a strong heroine. It chronicles the tale of Doreen, college freshman by day, super powered squirrel girl by night (and sometimes by day too). Don't miss the footnotes on the bottom of each page. They're great.