Hilarious Toddler-tested Picture Books
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
There are so many milestones to celebrate in a child’s journey to reading. Surely one of the best is that moment of dawning wonder when kids realise they are actually deciphering the squiggles on a page to make sense of them - "I CAN READ!" But high up there on my list is also when children recognise the humour in a picture book. It might be the text, the illustrations, or more likely the combination - and they express it in a grin and twinkling eyes, or a belly laugh and some floor-pounding. I have tried and tested the picture books below with a group of kids from 1 - 4 years old. The result was often children begging me with tears of laughter in their eyes to re-read the book, and they have laughed even more the second time.
Warning, Do Not Open this Book
From my review: I am here to say that author, narrator Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrator, Matthew Forsythe, and publisher Simon and Schuster (2013) have pulled out all stops to make Warning, Do Not Open This Book as funny as it can be. Kids will laugh out loud from end-paper to end-paper, chortling over all the exhortations to them NOT to turn the pages. The lovely quality of the book's paper further enhances the muted palette illustrations, illustrations that truly spring to life, urged on by the story's drama. Warning, Do Not Open this Book is a fantastic book to read aloud to kids, and one they will beg for at bedtime. (However I'm tipping "just one more" won't be enough!)
Please Open This Book
From my review: Please Open This Book was written by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe and published by Simon and Schuster (2015).
Just as my Storytime children rolled on the floor laughing over Warning, Do Not Open this Book! and The Book with No Pictures, I know they will adore Please Open This Book. Preschool kids seem naturally drawn to subversive humour, and they also love books that invite interaction. This one opens with a pair of eyes and a tentative Hello? Soon we meet the crew who’ve been trapped inside the book - a jungly and slightly squashed assortment including monkeys, apes, a toucan and a squashed banana. We are exhorted not to close the book again because of all the damage it can do, but the ending is getting closer…
Forsythe’s illustrations are striking, appealing, quirky. Matte black pages set off warm furry tones and contrasting highlights to perfection. There are interesting font changes, wanted posters, a diagram of a book-closer, and so many other giggle-worthy elements. I have fallen in love all over again with yet another new picture book and defy any of you not to do the same! (Check out the trailer on YouTube.)
This is a Ball
The book’s cover comes with advice (warning?): Books That Drive Kids Crazy. I can absolutely corroborate that. But it’s crazy in a good way: my kids couldn’t believe I was silly enough to be reading aloud “This is a ball.” when the simple illustration was so obviously a box, instead. By the time we came to the page “This is a scary monster.” depicting a princess, even the littlest ones were emphatically shouting “No!” Despite all this denial, and screams of laughter, by the time the end of the book came we had “Read it again, PLEASE!” It's by Beck and Matt Stanton and is an ABC book, published by HarperCollins (2015).
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
All the Mo Willems books I’ve read have been wonderful. In Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, the Pigeon quite understandably wants to drive the bus and keeps asking the listening kids to allow him to do so. His excellent bribes and complaints sound awfully like the same ones kids would use! It’s this kind of interactivity that my kids adore - the same sort of involvement you see in a great pantomime. Children just love to be the ones bossing the Pigeon around.
Another Willems book my kids loved was:
The Pigeon Needs a Bath
From my review: “… written and illustrated by Mo Willems and published by Walker Books, 2014.
From the publisher: Smell? What smell? I don t smell. YOU smell. The Pigeon needs a bath! Except, well, the Pigeon's really not so sure about that... Besides, he took a bath last month! Maybe. It looks like it's going to take some serious convincing to get the Pigeon to take the plunge!
The Pigeon Needs a Bath truly will make children and adults laugh aloud! Avoiding bath time is something kids can relate to. Mums and dads will love that here is yet another wonderful picture book to convince kids reading is ultra cool.”
Take a look at your local book store or library and ask for the Mo Willems section - satisfaction will be around the corner!
The Book with No Pictures
From my review: “What the book does so cleverly is that it invites kids to play, and to join in a delightful joke on those who are reading aloud to them. You see, books with no pictures are made up of words, and words must be read by a read-alouder no matter what. No matter what! In this way Novak compels one-who-reads-to-kids to utter strange words like BLORK and BLuuRF, to sing silly songs and make preposterous statements featuring robot monkeys and hippos named Boo Boo Butt.”
Read more of my review here.
The invitation to play mentioned above is what helps make many picture books great. Kids respond to it instinctively and learn to associate something they love - play - with something we hope they will love - books and reading.
When kids laugh aloud at a picture book, when they “get” the humour and beg for more, you can bet they’re equating reading with something full of pleasure. And that’s what we, as their parents and teachers, want. Understand I’m not saying hilarious picture books for children are the only ones to look out for. But I can guarantee if you do, something magical will happen both for you and the children you share them with.
What hilarious toddler-tested picture books are in your repertoire?