My son is five, and his goal in life is to be funny. He told me the other day, “I want to be a funny daddy when I grow up.” So whenever I find books that make him laugh, it’s a big hit. Of course, the flip side of that is that when we discover a book that makes him laugh, he wants me to read it on repeat for the next week. So I try to find books that make me laugh as well. Here are some of our favorites:
The Three Pigs – by David Wiesner
This is not your average Three Little Pigs. It opens in a pretty traditional way, but before long the pigs are wandering out of their own story, and into other stories that they find along the way. It becomes a rather raucous adventure, with the pigs flying on paper airplanes made out of the pages of their story, meeting characters from other famous tales, and generally making it a day to remember.
I’d read this book to my son a few years ago, and realized pretty soon that he wasn’t old enough to really “get” the humor. We tried it again a few weeks ago (he’s five now), and it was perfect for him. He was bent over with giggles by the time we finished, and requested that I re-read it immediately.
As a literature nerd myself, I loved the fact that this book played with the idea of a story being more than just a physical book, and that it had interplay between different well-known kids’ stories. It made me happy to see how the pigs changed physical forms depending on the style of illustrations in each of the books they “visited.” But most of all, I just loved seeing my son be thoroughly engrossed by a very creative kind of humor.
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons – by Eric Litwin
We love all the Pete the Cat books, but this is hands down my favorite. There’s a great twist at the end that provokes laughter every time we read it. It’s definitely good fun.
Now that my son is getting into simple math, this book is particularly appropriate for him. Each time Pete loses a button off of his shirt, there’s a simple subtraction problem, so it’s a good way to bring some zing into the concept of subtraction. And, like all of the Pete the Cat books, it’s written in a way that encourages kids to memorize the pattern of the book and interact with it as its being read aloud. My son and I have fun making it a sort of call-and-response: “Did Pete cry?” I ask. “Goodness, no!” he responds.
Sheep in a Jeep – by Nancy E. Shaw
This book describes the series of misadventures that occur when a group of sheep cram themselves in a jeep and set off down the road. The illustrations are fabulous, almost all the words rhyme, and it’s a rollicking ride. The words are very simple, and most of the humor is conveyed through the illustrations, so it’s a good one for early readers too. There’s a whole series of these books, and we’ve enjoyed them all, but this is our favorite.
Dragons Love Tacos – by Adam Rubin
This book took me totally by surprise, and it became an instant favorite. Taco-eating dragons who start breathing fire if the salsa they eat is too spicy — what’s not to love? The illustrations are fabulous and my son had this book practically memorized by the second day we had it. Plus, it’s fun to read aloud. For some reason I feel like this would be the perfect picture book to give as a gag gift to a college student. It’s that sort of humor.
I’ve heard some parents complain about this book. The two main complaints are that it uses the word “hate” and encourages picky eating habits. I think I might have had a hard time with the use of the word “hate” if my son had been 2 or 3 when we discovered this book. But now he’s 5, and we’ve already discussed that word and when are the appropriate and inappropriate times to use it. So I don’t feel like it’s a big deal to say read a story in which dragons love tacos and pool parties but hate spicy salsa. In terms of the complaint that encourages picky eating, I guess it depends on the child. For my son, it just made him request to eat tacos a little more often.
Earth Space Moon Base – by Ben Joel Price
My son loves anything related to outer space (and Star Wars), so this book was a big hit. It involves a kid in a spacesuit, a robot, and a monkey who live together in a base on the moon. Plus, there are aliens. And bananas. The illustrations are fantastic — I read that the author/illustrator is a graphic designer by trade and this is his first children’s book. It’s definitely a winner in our home.
Interrupting Chicken – by David Ezra Stein
I love reading this book aloud. It’s the story of a father chicken reading a bedtime story to his daughter chicken. But the little chicken just can’t keep herself from interrupting — as soon as the characters in the story start doing something they shouldn’t, she jumps in to change the story and save the day. The frame story of the father and daughter’s interactions is very sweet, and the daughter’s alternate endings for all of the classic fairy tales her father reads to her are quite hilarious. My son cracks up every time we read this together.
This is another one of those picture books that tickles my literary analysis bone. I love the fact that the little chicken is so engaged with the characters of her bedtime stories that she just can’t let them make bad decisions. I’ve also noticed that this book has seemed to affect my son’s perception of the immutability of stories. After we started reading this book together, I’ve noticed that he’s quicker to tack on alternate endings to stories or to make up his own versions of the bedtime stories we tell him.