Thursday, October 09, 2014

Bringing On the Giggles in Children's Books

I am not especially funny. At least not when I try to be. Though I have been known to make people laugh, my brand of humor is generally spontaneous and unexpected. If you have ever chuckled when reading one of my blog posts, I can assure you it was not planned in advance.

But in raising kids, and working with kids, and writing for kids, I have discovered that there are a few things that are practically guaranteed to bring out the giggles, whether in experiences, movies or in books.

1. Butts. And any variation thereof. Hiney, tush, rear end. The mention of this part of the human body elicits giggles so easily that teachers have taken to asking kids to sit on their pockets rather than their bottoms. Why else would books like Chicken Butt by Erica S. Pearl and The Butt Book by Artie Bennett make it onto shelves?

2. Underwear. Haven't we all tried to trick someone into saying "underwear" at some point? It's funny, and kids know it. Captain Underpants, anyone?

3. Farts. It doesn't have to be the actual word "fart," to bring on the giggles (like in Walter the Farting Dog). Onomatopoeia also does the trick, as do various references to stinky gas. We adults may shake our heads at this kind of humor, but often we are secretly laughing our butts off!

4. Poop. Noticing a pattern here? Yes, kids think poop is funny. Hilarious. Dog poop, cow manure, dung beetles. Excrement can be an author's best friend! Having worked in a library, I have seen first hand how kids are drawn to books with titles like Poop Eaters: Dung Beetles in the Food Chain and Everyone Poops. And let's not forget Professor Poopypants, or the diaper references in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.

5. Grossness. In addition to farts and poop, anything else that elicits an "Ew!" is likely to elicit a giggle or two. A monster that slurps slugs for breakfast, a dog with severely bad breath (like in Dog Breath by Dav Pilkey), and anything else that is gooey, slobbery or just plain gross will do the trick.

6. Naughtiness. Kids love reading about naughty kids' antics in books like No, David! or David Goes to School by David Shannon (my own David loved his books when he was little). Not only do they find this stuff funny, but it's good for them to see that characters in children's books are as flawed as they are.

7. Slapstick. Who doesn't love a little slapstick comedy, like in Aaron Zenz's Hiccupotomus (bonus "bottom" humor in this one) or Karma Wilson's Sakes Alive! A Cattle Drive? A little bumbling, colliding, and near catastrophe can go a long way to amp up the humor in a children's book!

Of course, a book doesn't have to be all laughs in order for humor to be an important element. Sometimes the best giggle is the one you didn't see coming.

What kind of humor do you like to see in children's books?

2 comments:

  1. One of the reasons I most love working with children is the giggles. Since I do story times for the younger ones, beginning with babies, we clown a lot, but don't get into the butt/fart humor so much. You're spot on right here!

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  2. I've steered clear of flatulence and feces so far, but I admit there is a "butt" line in my upcoming picture book.

    Though, when my son was learning to read, I wrote out a lot of sentences about poop just so he would laugh and it would be fun. LOL Whatever works! (within reason, of course)

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