I WINCED MY WAY through the movie "Borat" and cringed in embarrassment during "Meet the Parents." However, show me a viral video of dogs doing something amusing and I will laugh until tears roll down my face. Humorous books are some of the trickiest things to suggest to people simply because what we find amusing differs so widely. One person's invitation to hysterical laughter will seem vulgar or disgusting to someone else. One person giggles nonstop and another won't even crack a smile. I am sure you get my point. However, in honor of April Fools Day I will attempt to list off a few of my funny favorites. Hopefully you'll discover something here that will encourage giggles and not gags.
Chicken Butt! by Erica S. Perl and illustrated by Henry Cole
I don't know about you, but I've certainly noticed that most kids go through a gross out stage. They enjoy dancing on the line between being a little outrageous and all out disgusting. This particular picture book feeds that type of humor. In addition to the classic question-and-answer that we've all experienced on the playground ("Do you know what?" "Chicken butt!") the author expands into a series of silly rhymes that kids and their parents will find hilarious. The dynamic illustrations only add to the fun. The only word of warning I will add is that this book is compulsively readable...and you may find yourself the "butt" of a certain joke many times over.
Someone messed up when they were building Wayside School. Instead of building thirty classrooms on the ground, they stacked them on top of each other to form the tallest school in the entire district. If you're in class on the thirtieth story, sometimes you can't even make it down the stairs in time for recess. This silly beginning sets the mood for the remaining thirty short stories, all following the zany exploits of the teacher and students of Classroom 30.
Roy Eberhardt is once again the new kid in school. He has to deal with all the uncomfortable moments and little humiliations. This includes eating lunch by himself and catching the attention of a nasty bully. However, Roy soon meets fellow outcasts Mullet Fingers (a homeless boy) and bully-hating Beatrice. The trio finds common ground when they discover that burrowing owls are making their home in an empty lot that is going to be bulldozed to make way for a pancake restaurant. The three friends will have to face off against some pretty villainous adults in order to save the burrowing owls.
Young lass Tiffany Aching has always had to take care of her young brother. So, when her brother Wentworth is snatched away by the Queen of the Faeries, Tiffany sets out after him. Luckily, Tiffany has been training to become a witch. Unluckily, she hasn't got far in her studies quite yet. With the help of her trusty frying pan, a borrowed toad and a clan of six inch high blue warrior men called the Nac Mac Feegles (otherwise known as the Wee Free Men), Tiffany hopes to rescue her brother and discover her own powers. This book takes place in Pratchett's punny Discworld universe.
I've never been one to play pranks on April Fool's Day (I worry I'll hurt someone's feelings), but even I was captivated by this book's description of creative mayhem. The introduction opens with a prank by senior students at MIT who managed to put a police cruiser (sort of) on top of an enormous dome. This prank is held in high regard because it is funny, attention getting and above all ingenious. The author goes on to describe other pranks, recipes and suggestions that will surely get the mischievous ideas flowing. Parents, worry not that this book will encourage malicious mischief. There's is a Prankster's Code that is repeated throughout the book which advises would be pranksters to do no damage and respect other people and property.
Bill Bryson is not an athletic guy. Nor, I'm sure, would he have called himself an outdoorsman. Yet, in spite of these things Bill Bryson was enchanted by the history and great beauty of the Appalachian Trail. The trail goes over some 2,000 miles of wilderness from the state of Georgia to the state of Maine. In spite of Bryson's lack of experience, he decides he wants to hike as much of the Appalachian Trail (or AT) as he possibly can. To accompany him is one of his friends from school, an overweight man named Katz. This unprepossessing duo sets out on their journey and encounter many unique people, interesting wildlife and breathtaking beauty. Especially when the two first set out, there are some hilarious mistakes made. Katz in particular doesn't really know what to pack for the trip, which results in him flinging everything he doesn't want to carry throughout the woods. By turns fascinating and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is a love story to one of America's most beautiful hikes.
Justin Halpern's father has always said some pretty amusing things. One day, just for kicks, Halpern set up a Twitter account and posted some of his father's witticisms. Several million followers later, Halpern realized that other people found his dad as hilarious as he did and Halpern decided to write a book. "Sh*t My Dad Says" is a collection of essays about and quotes from and about Halpern's father. Somewhere amidst the potty mouth exclamations and a confrontation with a "burglar" in the nude (you're going to have to read it to believe it) the reader realizes that this is a man who genuinely loves his family. Although Halpern's father has a pretty spectacular temper, he is never cruel and he always supports his children. A note of caution - the author's father does not skimp on swear words. If that sort of humor does not appeal, then it's best to skip this book.
Many of us have experienced the frustration of having our flights cancelled and being stranded at the airport. However, fifty-three year old Bennie is on his way to his estranged daughter's wedding. He can't afford to miss this event as it may be the only chance to reunite with his daughter. Having exhausted all the options, Bennie pours out all of his frustrations in a letter of complaint to American Airlines. What begins as a letter turns into an examination of his life and his own failings. By turns funny and sad, Bennie uses his scathing wit on both American Airlines and his own existence.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
"Cold Comfort Farm" is a recently discovered read that has risen to become one of my all time favorites. Stella Gibbons penned this comedic novel in the 1930s, slyly poking fun at popular themes in literature of the day. The story follows one Flora Poste, a thoroughly modern girl who decides to move in with distant relatives rather than find gainful employment. Flora journeys to Cold Comfort farm in Sussex, England where she discovers several mournful relatives, each with their own unique issues. One example is matriarch Aunt Ada Doom, who keeps her family in line by wielding a scarring experience she had as a child when she "saw something nasty in the woodshed". Flora is determined to help her poor backward family, so, armed only with her firm common sense and modern ideals, she sets off to make things right.
Jenna Zarzycki is a former intern with the King County Library System.