a list of…five stories for those who love to laugh

There’s nothing like reading a funny book together to fix the grumpies, warm the hearts, spread the sunshine.

count the monkeys cover image kevin cornellCount the Monkeys, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Oh look! A counting book of monkeys. “It’s fun. It’s easy. All you have to do is turn the page and count the monkeys,” it says. What a nice idea…

Hang onto your hats, though, because what you find when you turn the page is Definitely Not A Monkey!!! It’s a long, scaly, very, very scary, cobra! In fact, it has scared away the monkeys! We are instructed to “turn the page very slowly” to avoid disturbing this fella. When we do…will we find the monkeys?

Oh dear! Not at all! Two mongooses have scared off that cobra, but there are still no monkeys. I guess they’ll be on the next page.

Blimey! Now three fearsome and toothy crocodiles have popped up, chasing off the mongooses! Still no monkeys!count the monkeys illustration kevin cornell

And on it goes. One bit of bedlam after the next ensues throughout this boisterous book. Each time we hopefully turn the page, ready to count monkeys, we are greeted by someone else who does not belong there. Our trusty narrator gives us loads of advice on getting rid of the  pesky creatures…”make a loud roar,” or tell them to “scram!”  he says. Will any of that help? Will we ever find those monkeys and count them?!

Mac Barnett is a seriously silly guy who seems to know just what will tickle a child’s funny bone. Taking such a mundane topic as Counting Things, he turns everything on its head and delivers general hilarity. Rowdy participation is definitely required.

Kevin Cornell has illustrated this with brazen, rambunctious beasts who race, cartwheel, or lollygag across the pages, utterly unconcerned by our pleas for them to move on out. Comical expressions, props, and costumes, along with ever-increasing crowds as the story moves along, create a marvelous sense of pandemonium. Terrific fun for 4-6 year olds!

mr. davies and the baby cover image charlotte voakeMr. Davies and the Baby, written and illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Mr. Davies is a little Scottish Terrier. He is very friendly.

Next door to Mr. Davies lives a little chap who goes for a walk with his mother every day. And every day as they pass by, Mr. Davies and the baby boy greet each other enthusiastically mr davies and the baby illus charlotte voake 001through the gate.

One day, Mr. Davies discovers that he can squeeze under his gate and — oh, joy! — join the baby on his walk! This pleases the baby no end. But Mr. Davies’ penchant for chasing ducks, cats, and bicyclists makes things difficult for the baby’s mother. She politely asks Mr. Davies’ owner to please keep him safely in his own yard.

So, Mr. Davies is tied up to his doghouse. That’s a bit sad, though it ought to settle things…but does it?

This book features one of the most surprising and delightful page-turns ever! The whole story is excellently paced, building up to an astonishing turn of events. Charlotte Voake’s trademark watercolor and ink illustrations amplify the breezy, comfy, lighthearted tone  of this tale, as does her gorgeous hand lettering and generous use of white space. The whole book is a breath of fresh air and happiness. I’ve loved this one for years, Just right for 2 year olds and up.

mr. putney's quacking dog cover image jon ageeMr. Putney’s Quacking Dog, written and illustrated by Jon Agee

Meet Mr. Putney, a solid, quiet sort of man with many, unusual animal friends. 

For example, there’s the fellow who wakes him up in the mornings…his ALARMADILLO!! 

mr. putney's quacking dog illustration jon agee

And the toothy guy with a habit of nabbing Mr. Putney’s ice cream — that’d be a CROOKADILE!

Twenty Putney animal friends make for twenty groan-worthy wordplays in this ridiculous roster of riddles, with questions posed on one page, and the really funny answers awaiting when you turn the page. Can you guess the animal’s goofy name before you read it?

Jon Agee’s comical illustrations, with their simplicity, straightforward-perspectives, and understated colors, add to the sense of deadpan humor in this terrifically funny book. Share it with kids old enough to get the plays on words…probably early elementary and up.

once upon a banana cover image david smallOnce Upon a Banana, by Jennifer Armstrong, illustrated by David Small

On the sidewalk in a bustling city center, a street entertainer is working the crowd. Dressed in a jolly jester’s outfit, he merrily juggles three colorful balls, his perky monkey perched on his shoulder. 

Suddenly, the monkey leaps to the ground, and faster that you can say fruit basket upset, that little rascal has scampered down the street and nabbed a banana from a vendor’s heaping bin.

Our juggler races after him, but the monkey’s already out of sight, snarfing the banana and tossing the peel right where a fella might step…and slip…and whooops! knock a ladder out from underneath a guy who’s painting on the second story… spilling paint everywhere and once upon a banana illustration david smallpropelling the painter into an oncoming shopping cart…causing a rollerskating, dogwalking, stop-sign bending traffic melee…and that’s just the beginning of the banana brouhaha brought on by this one, small, monkey.

Consternation-laden ruckus-filled, two-page spreads depict the increasing mayhem as dogs, bicyclists, city councilmen, skateboards, garden produce, baby buggies, garbage trucks and passers-by all crash in turn like so many dominoes.

And where’s the monkey in all of this? Is the juggler ever reunited with him? Indeed he is, and not only that, he becomes quite a hero along the way!

This nearly-wordless book is crammed with slapstick catastrophes, all drawn for us by the one-and-only David Small. So much to see! So much commotion! So much speed and danger and disaster, yet all with such a rollicking sense of humor. This is a book to look at again and again, following different chains of events through the pages. Careful observation will yield a sighting or two of a couple other slapstick comedians as well — Laurel and Hardy. Can you spot them?

madame lagrande cover image s d schindlerMadame LaGrande and Her So High, To the Sky, Uproarious Pompadour, by Candace Fleming, illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Madame LaGrande is wild about style.

Living in Paris, she earnestly follows the fashion rags and spends oodles of money and long hours shopping and fussing over her gowns and gloves and glamorous hair-dos.

So, Madame LaGrande is thrilled to discover that pompadours — those towering confections of hair — are all the rage just now. Furthermore, as she is going to the Royal Opera tonight, she simply must have a spectacular pompadour created by her hairdresser this very day!

Marcel the Hairdresser obliges her, designing the most stupendous, towering, elaborate pompadour there ever was. Ooh la la! Doesn’t Madame LaGrande look stunning, traipsing madame lagrande illustration s d schindler 001down the avenue to the theater?!

What Madame LaGrande does not realize is that while she makes her way down the boulevard, an assortment of, ahem, additions… are making their way into her pompadour! And all these additions will make a spectacular extra scene for the folks at the Opera tonight!

Hilarious, over-the-top, buffoonery shines in this marvelous story of dear, oblivious, vain Madame LaGrande. There simply is no stopping her. S.D. Schindler’s illustrations perfectly pair with the text. Brimming with ostrich plumes and lace cuffs, fanciful colors and powdered wigs, and increasingly crammed with hullabaloo while the unflappable, serene face of Mme LaGrande remains the calm amid a stormy sea.  Read this one with aplomb, with ages 6 and up.