These Offbeat Picture Books Will Give Young Readers the Giggles

BookendsLynn: My sons are better parents than I was, there is no doubt. When I wanted my four-year-old to stop doing something, I often resorted to shrieking. When my little grandson is up to something, my son and daughter-in-law calmly, say, “No thank you, Henry.” Masterful! So there is small wonder that both Henry and I think Thank You, Octopus (2014), by Darren Farrell, is hilarious.

Yes, thank you, Darren Farrell!
This is a new favorite at our house.

Actually, there are lots of reasons why we love this crazy picture book that is totally zeroed into a preschooler’s sense of humor. Helpful Octopus tells his young shipmate that it’s time for bed. “Aw Pickles,” says the boy, but Octopus tells him that he has made a nice warm bath. The tub turns out to be filled with egg salad. “No thank you, Octopus,” says the boy, and we’re Octopusoff on a wonderful repeating joke with increasingly silly situations. Farrell’s large, round illustrations are warmly colored and in a comic-strip style. The text is very simple and appears in big speech bubbles that draw the eye. Young readers will quickly know when to join in with the recurring refrain and the result is completely giggle-inducing. Yes, thank you, Darren Farrell! This is a new favorite at our house.

Cindy: Lynn found my offering, too, and it still has me chuckling. Lucky, by David Mackintosh (2014), is a paean to youthful enthusiasm and imagination . . . and to empathetic parents. Two brothers learn from mom that they’re having a surprise at dinner. The boys have all day to guess at what the surprise might be: curly fries, a new bike, tickets to the Amazing Yo-Yo Super Show, a swimming pool in the backyard (“We’ll need chlorine and earplugs too . . . “)—but no, they live in a high-rise apartment so it can’t be that.

Before the boys know it, they have come up with a surprise to top all surprises: a two week, all-expenses-paid vacation to Hawaii. Word spreads throughout the school about the boys’ good fortune, and the day is going just great until they get to dinner and learn the real surprise. How the parents and brother Leo soothe the embarrassed and chagrined young narrator is priceless. The whole delightful story is enhanced by detailed quirky illustrations that add to the humor.

Lucky by David MacintoshI have to add that this book reminded me of the year that we pulled the Expando-Turkey gag on our young daughters. The night before Thanksgiving we sent them to the big freezer to get the turkey to thaw. They couldn’t find it. We told them it was small and they should look again. They came back with a shrink-wrapped Cornish game hen that we told them was a new kind of turkey called “Expando-Turkey,” like the sponges that grow into large, fun shapes. We had them put it in the kitchen sink and add water and then we put them to bed. In the morning, we had our real turkey in the sink with the split-open wrapper of the game hen and the girls excitedly phoned grandma to tell her about the marvels of “Expando-Turkeys!”

The youngest laughed when we let them in on the joke, but our other daughter was old enough to be embarrassed that she’d been made a fool of and she was not amused. I felt bad, like the parents in Lucky, that her imagination caused her bad feelings. Still, she laughs now and will probably pull the prank on her children some day. Have you ever pulled pranks on your kids? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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