if you’re happy and you know it stomp your feet…a list of five books to make you smile

those magnificent sheep in their flying machine cover imageThose Magnificent Sheep in their Flying Machine, by Peter Bently, illustrated by David Roberts
published in the U.S. in 2014 by Andersen Press

It’s just an ordinary day for this flock of sheep. Eunice, Lambert, Old Uncle Ramsbottom and the others are serenely munching grass, when…ZOOM!

An aeroplane streaks past and quite turns their heads. Trotting over to the aeroplane festival, the flock spies a “spiffing” yellow number that’s unattended and before you can say Bob’s-your-uncle they’re those magnificent sheep in their flying machine illustration david roberts 001airborne.

Following some stomach-churning loop-de-loops as they get the hang of this thing, the sheep unanimously agree to set off and see the world. Such adventures they have!

Meanwhile, the chap who owns that plane is madly searching for the “thieves in white sweaters” who’ve pinched it. Will he catch those wooly crooks, or not? You’ll have to read to find out.

It’s a whirlwind of a story, with marvelous,dapper language and a funny, clever ending. The invigorating illustrations convey a 20’s-era, Inspector-Clouseau style, with verve and dash and humor. Even the words, in stylized font, curve and climb about the pages, adding to the merry sense of frolic. Coming to us from the UK, this is sheer fun for ages 3 and up.

circle square moose cover imageCircle, Square, Moose, by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
published in 2014 by Greenwillow Books

Moose — that dear, attention-seeking, irrepressible fellow — is back! Have you met him, yet, in Z is for Moose? If not, I highly recommend you make his acquaintance there first. It’s a book that makes me laugh out loud!

If you know Moose, you know he cannot stand to be off-stage. Won’t take no for an answer. And will intrude, quite happily, even where he’s not invited –or perhaps especially when he’s not invited — making mincemeat of your plans.

This time around, it’s a book about shapes which Moose hijacks for his own blustering purposes. Our trusty referee, Zebra, is also back, attempting to control Moose’s mayhem. But Moose is spinning things so wildly out of control, is there any way whatsoever to prevent him from ruining the book?!

Circle Square Moose illustration paul o. zelinsky

A million giggles — that’s this book’s rating. Bingham and Zelinsky have brilliantly paired up again bringing concept, narration, personality, and hilarious illustration together for an encore worthy of their first smash hit. I was skeptical that Moose could pull it off again…but he did! Enjoy this with ages 3 or 4 and up.

ah ha cover image jeff mackAh Ha! written and illustrated by Jeff Mack
published in 2013 by Chronicle Books

The entire text of this ribbeting book is written with just two letters: A and H.

But these two letters, combined to make AH HA!, AAHH!, and HA HA! can express so very much more than you might think!

To begin with — “AAHH!” sighs the sanguine frog, lolling on his back in the cool, blue, pool.

But, “AH HA!” exults the dog, when a little boy captures that frog in ah ha illustration jeff macka Mason jar.

“AAHH!” cries the frog, when the dog thwaps the jar with his paw, tumbling the frog right out. But “AH HA!” the frog proclaims triumphantly, when he clambers onto a rock, out of the boy’s reach.

Back and forth the tide turns for this endearing, hapless, little frog in a delightful comedy of errors. Who will win out in the end? The boy? Or the frog?

Clever, clever, clever! And funny. And suspenseful. A delight for the small fry to be able to “read” along, it’s a read-it-over-and-over book for squirts from under-Two and up.

animal crackers fly the coop cover imageAnimal Crackers Fly the Coop, written and illustrated by Kevin O’Malley
published in 2010 by Walker & Company

So there’s this hen who loves to tell jokes. Loves to crack up the crowd, if you hear what I’m sayin’. Has dreams of being a…comedi-hen.


She meets a dog chasing his tail. Why is he chasing his tail? He’s trying to make ends meet.animal crackers fly the coop illustration

Ba-dum- ching!

This punny book, a comic spin on the Bremen Town Musicians, is as full of gags, puns, and one-liners as your average Jimmy Fallon monologue. I can’t quite predict at what age these will strike your particular child’s fancy, but you’ll know — when they’re at the stage when a play on words makes ’em groan, hit them with this book. They won’t be able to resist re-telling these at the supper table, is my guess.

O’Malley’s illustrations are bold, black-line drawings, digitally colored in cool tones. He uses solid, ample, close-ups that grab us and haul us in. There’s a bit of a retro vibe to them; a sense of Paul Galdone, to my eye, which is an excellent thing. And did I mention the puns?!

good night gorilla cover image peggy rathmannGood Night, Gorilla, written and illustrated by Peggy Rathman
published in 1994 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

In case you have somehow missed this book — I don’t know, maybe you’ve been living on Mars for the past two decades?  I mean, it’s in paperback, it’s in board book, it’s in Spanish, it’s in German…it is everywhere! But just in case…I’m adding it to the list today because …it is a Splendidly Funny Book.

It’s supposed to be bedtime at the zoo. There’s nothing sleepy about the little gorilla’s face, though. (Sound familiar?)

In fact, the scamp snitches the key ring right off the zookeeper’s backside, let’s himself out of his cage, then quietly shadows the keeper as he goes on his goodnight rounds, opening all the cages!  The zookeeper, oblivious to the line-up of freed animals following him, returns home through the quiet neighborhood, and goes to bed.

All the zoo animals sneakily tuck themselves up in his cozy, purple bedroom as well. Gorilla even decides to snuggle right IN the bed, his head poofing down into the soft pillow.good night gorilla illustration rathmann

Mrs. Zookeeper drowsily switches off the light and tells her husband, “Goodnight, dear.”

But…”Goodnight!” come SEVEN replies from the darkness! Huh?!

Mrs. Zookeeper takes matters firmly in hand — back to the zoo with all of you! — but if you think that’s the last she’s seen of gorilla…you just don’t know what a sneaky guy he is!

Buckets of fun for ages under-Two and up.

Hope something here makes you and your fellow-readers smile!