Showing posts with label funny books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label funny books. Show all posts

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ten funny books to get you laughing (ages 4-13)

We all like doing the things we have fun with. Psychoanalysts might call this the "Pleasure Principle," but I call it common sense. So how do we help our kids discover the fun in reading? Here are ten books that tickle my funny bone, especially when reading them aloud with kids.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things, by Lenore Look: Asian-American second grader Alvin Ho is afraid of everything: elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’s there, he never, ever, says a word. This first book in the series is full of everyday adventures and misadventures -- from trying to get chicken pox, to hanging from a tree branch in a desperate attempt to grow taller. A great read aloud. (ages 6-10)

Bad Guys, by Aaron Blabey: Mr Wolf decides that he's fed up with always being the "bad guy," so he persuades Mr. Shark, Mr. Piranha & Mr. Snake that they need to do nice things for a change. The want-to-be good guys try hard to shed their carnivorous ways, rescuing a stranded kitty who's terrified of their point teeth. Kids are loving the hilarious antics, exaggerated illustrations and slapstick humor in this chapter book. (ages 6-10)

Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey: Kids can't get enough of George and Harold, and their superhero creation Dog Man. Originally of Captain Underpants fame, George & Harold show how Dog Man, with the head of a dog on the body of a police officer, battles crime and saves the day. Kids love the silliness, the explosions and fight scenes, and the encouragement to create their own outlandish stories. (ages 6-10)


Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon: Dory (called Rascal by her family) wants to play with her big brother and sister, but they complain that she's a pest. They try to scare her with a story about the witch Mrs. Gobble Gracker. Dory creates outlandish tales with her imaginary friend, tricks Mrs. Gobble Gracker and wins over her siblings. Families will recognize themselves in Dory's attention-getting strategies, her mom's exasperation or her siblings' bickering. A joyful, funny celebration of imagination and resilience. (ages 6-10)

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems, by Gail Carson Levine: Using William Carlos Williams's poem "This Is Just to Say" as her starting point, Levine spins a series of playful un-sorry poems. She uses famous characters like Snow White, Humpty Dumpty, the Little Engine that Could and Barbie to twist expectations and create laughs. "I, Rapunzel,/ and not the witch/ have lopped off/ my braid/ which/ you daily/ climbed/ to me/ Forgive me/ you're not worth/ the pain/ in my scalp." Subversively hilarious. Kids will love sharing this with friends, laughing together. (ages 8-12) 

Funny Girl, edited by Betsy Bird: As television comedy writers Delaney and Mackenzie Yeager explain in their opening entry, "Joke-telling is the greatest superpower a gall can posses." Being a comedian takes confidence--a combination of audacity and courage to put yourself out there. This collection of short personal essays, short stories and comics is terrific. In "One Hot Mess," Carmen Agra Deedy shares about the time her mother set a bathtub on fire to get rid of the germs, unwittingly melting the fiberglass tub in their new apartment. With this great range of stories, you're bound to find new authors you'd like to explore. (ages 9-13) 

Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein: One of my all-time favorite read alouds, a little red chicken keeps interrupting his papa's stories at bedtime, trying to save the day. When Papa starts reading Hansel and Gretel, little red chicken interrupts just as they are about to enter the witch’s house. Papa tries again with Little Red Riding Hood with exactly the same result. The interruptions bring laughter, and children love the repetition. Stein excels in comedic timing. A true crowd-pleaser. (ages 4-8)

Judy Moody, by Megan McDonald: Judy Moody is a favorite series because kids can relate to her struggles and her moods. Whether it's having a toad pee in her hand or losing her lucky penny,  Judy is always getting in a bad mood, at least for a while. Even better, each story ends with a satisfying climax. Judy realizes the power of friendships and keeps herself from throwing a tantrum. She rescues her homework, quite resourcefully, and even forgives her brother. (ages 7-10)

A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz: With dark humor, Gidwitz weaves together different Grimms' tales to create an original story starring Hansel and Gretel. I especially love the author's interruptions, where he pauses to talk directly to the reader. “This is when things start to get, well . . . awesome. But in a horrible, bloody kind of way." A terrific read aloud that will have readers alternating between laughter and suspense. (ages 9-13)

The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett and Jory John: Miles Murphy is known as the best prankster in his school, but now his family is moving and he dreads building his reputation in a new town. When he gets to school on the first day and sees the principal's car has been parked at top of the steps, blocking the school doors, Miles knows that there's already a prankster at this school. Can Miles out-prank this whoever is doing this...or maybe they can join forces. Written by a comedic duo, this series excels in deadpan humor in a school setting. (ages 8-12)

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Ivy & Bean One Big Happy Family, by Annie Barrows -- interview with Mia, age 8

I am so happy to share the newest installment of Ivy + Bean, one of my all-time favorite series of chapter books. I love these two friends; they are goofy, full of mischief, and remind me of all the things I almost did!

This series is perfect for readers new to chapter books. Pictures on every page help readers build a movie in their mind and keep the pacing going. Humor and friendship drama make these stories relatable and funny. The Ivy + Bean series fills a perfect spot in children's literature: between longer Early Readers like Mercy Watson and novels like Ramona the Pest.

Bay Area friends: You'll definitely want to see Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall on Saturday, September 8th at 10am at the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley, organized by Mrs. Dalloway's Books. Get your ticket here and save your spot!
Ivy + Bean One Big Happy Family
by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Chronicle, 2018
Amazon / Public library / Google Books preview
ages 6-9
*best new book*
When I showed the newest installment to one of my favorite readers, she was thrilled to revisit her favorite book friends. So instead of a review, I'd like to share my conversation with Mia, age 8.

Mary Ann: Hi Mia! Why were you excited to read the new Ivy & Bean?

Mia: I really like the series. I like that they're funny and silly. I also like that they're about real kids.

Mary Ann: Can you tell me a little bit about this new book?

Mia: Someone in their class says that only children are spoiled, and Ivy worries about this. So she tries to do lots of things to make sure she isn't spoiled. She gives away her clothes. Then she says they should get a new baby, so she won't be an only child. But the baby ends up crying and fussing so much! Then Ivy & Bean decide that they should actually be twin sisters, so that Ivy isn't an only child.

Mary Ann: Was there a part that made you laugh?

Mia: It was funny when Ivy & Bean tried to become twins and tied their wrists together so their skin would grow together. It was so funny because we knew it wouldn't work and they kept bonking their heads when they tried to get out of their playhouse.

Mary Ann: Were there any other parts you liked?

Mia: It was funny when Nancy was doing yoga and in downward dog. When Bean sees this, she tells Nancy that isn't what a dog looks like. Bean is really funny when she starts barking at Nancy and showing her what a dog does.

Mary Ann: Do you think you're more like Ivy or Bean?

Mia: I am really like both of them! I love reading like Ivy. I also like running around, screaming and being crazy like Bean.

Mary Ann: Thanks so much, Mia. I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts with readers!

Enjoy this book trailer for Ivy & Bean, featuring real kids and what they think about the series:


The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Chronicle. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Treehouse series, by Andy Griffiths -- zany, over-the-top, can't-put-it-down stories (ages 7-10)

Are you looking for a book to keep your kids laughing and asking for more? Do they love goofy, over-the-top stories with lots of illustrations? My students love-love-love Andy Griffiths' Treehouse series.

What kids wouldn't want their own ever-expanding treehouse, with a bowling alley, a limitless marshmallow-launcher, a swimming pool, a watermelon-smashing room, and a rocket-powered carrot-launcher?!?! The Treehouse series originated in Australia and has become a best-seller in the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and South Korea. The 91-Story Treehouse which hits shelves in the US this week.
The 91-Story Treehouse
by Andy Griffiths
illustrated by Terry Denton
Macmillan, 2018
Your local library / Amazon
ages 7-10
I'm happy to welcome Andy Griffiths here to share about his vision and purpose creating this best-selling, crowd-pleasing series.

"The Treehouse series is a comic-adventure-fantasy which employs lavish illustration & graphic nonsense on every page in order to tell a very silly but involving and complex story with a minimum of words.

This gives us an unusually broad and passionate readership of emerging, reluctant and highly competent readers from 5 - 13 years old and we are especially proud that the series has equal appeal for both boys and girls.

Each book in the series (and they can be read in any order) features a brilliant always-on-task writer called Andy—that’s me—and Terry, the irresponsible and easily distracted illustrator living in an ever-expanding fantasy treehouse while trying write a book for our bad-tempered & demanding publisher Jean Feiwel—I mean Mr Big Nose—who, if he doesn’t get his book on time gets so mad his nose explodes—but the problem is we can’t write the book because Terry keeps getting distracted by all the crazy stuff going on in the treehouse and then our intrepid and ever-resourceful neighbour Jill comes over and helps us sort it all out and then we write the book about all the crazy stuff that happened while we were trying to write the book and then we send it to Mr Big Nose just in time to prevent his nose from exploding."

I've seen kids gobble these stories up. They love the silliness, the abundant illustrations, and the rampant imagination. Take a look at The 13-Story Treehouse preview from Google Books:


The New York Times compares Andy Griffiths to Roald Dahl, which I think is apt.
"Mr. Griffiths’ work is both witty and fantastical, with a dark edge not dissimilar to Roald Dahl. In person, however, he is humble and thoughtful, if tightly coiled, with the taut, sinewy body of a long-distance runner and zany green eyes."
I'd argue that the visual nature, drawing on cartoons and comics, makes these stories even more appealing to today's kids.

Why 91 stories in this treehouse, you might wonder? Griffiths began with 13 levels in the first book back in 2011, and has added another 13 levels every year since. So you get the secret numerical code hidden in the titles: 13-26-39-52-65-78-91. Next March will bring The 104-Story Treehouse, which will bring the US completely up to date with Australia.

Griffiths concludes with a nod to humor and to his true purpose:
If you’re wondering, our secret agenda—aside from evoking the exhilarating joy and freedom of imaginative play and converting non-readers into passionate book-lovers—is to teach children the sadly neglected 13 times table."
Here's what I wrote in 2014 when Andy visited our school:
My favorite part? I love how Andy gives total permission to laugh at anything -- whether it's stinky underwear or stuffing your face with marshmallows. He tells plenty of poop jokes, because he knows his audience (hello, have you listened to 8 year old boys?), but he also gets us laughing at our greatest fears.
Andy visits with an Australia classroom and gets them excited about writing their own stories:

He's got some great tips for young writers here. Also check out his website FAQs to learn more about his process.

Many thanks, Andy, for all your creative storytelling and for working so hard to keep us all laughing. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, June 7, 2018

#SummerReading 2018 for 5th and 6th graders

Kids know that practice is important in developing any skill; our job as parents is making our expectations clear AND creating a positive environment to encourage practice. You'll have much more success persuading your kids to read if they are able to choose what to read.

Validate their reading choices, engaging them to think and talk about what they read. Prod them a little to try something new--I often like to talk about it in terms of having a varied reading diet. Here are some of my favorite books to hook 5th and 6th graders.
#SummerReading: 5th & 6th
click for full 2018 summer reading lists

Exciting Adventure & Fantasy
Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelley Barnhill
The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste
Peak, by Roland Smith
The Wonderling, by Mira Bartok

Funny Stories
Funny Girl, edited by Betsy Bird
Hamster Princess, by Ursula Vernon
Pickle, by Kim Baker
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger
The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett

Historical Fiction
Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Inquisitor's Tale, by Adam Gidwitz
The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani
Refugee, by Alan Gratz
The War I Finally Won, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Graphic Novels We Love!
Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang
Real Friends, by Shannon Hale
Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer L. Holm
The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag

Stories that Touch Your Heart

Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Like Vanessa, by Tami Charles
Rebound, by Kwame Alexander

Fascinating Nonfiction
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin
Boots on the Ground, by Elizabeth Partridge
I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
Marley Dias Gets It Done, by Marley Dias

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#SummerReading 2018 for 3rd & 4th graders

Kids read every day during the school year, sharing books they like with friends. Keep those reading muscles strong over the summer by feeding them a steady diet of fun books to read!

Here are some of my favorite chapter books, graphic novels and nonfiction for kids who have finished 3rd and 4th grades. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.
#SummerReading: 3rd & 4th
click for full 2018 summer reading lists
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.


Favorite Chapter Book Series (levels N-O-P)
Bowling Alley Bandit, by Laurie Keller
EllRay Jakes, by Sally Warner
I Survived series, by Lauren Tarshis
Jaden Toussaint, by Marti Dumas

Funny Stories (levels Q-R-S-T)
Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom, by Booki Vivat
Hamster Princess, by Ursua Vernon
Jake the Fake, by Craig Robinson
Timmy Failure, by Stephan Pastis

Adventure and Historical Fiction (levels Q-R-S)

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
Dash, by Kirby Larson
The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson
What Elephants Know, by Eric Dinerstein

Exciting Adventure & Fantasy (levels Q-R-S-T)
Endling: The Last, by Katherine Applegate
The Serpent's Secret, by Sayantani DasGupta
Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon
Wings of Fire, by Tui Sutherland


New Graphic Novels We Love!
5 Worlds: The Cobalt Prince, by Mark Siegel
Be Prepared, by Vera Brosgol
Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani
Secret Coders: Potions & Parameters, by Gene Luen Yang

Stories that Touch Your Heart (levels Q-R-S-T)
The 14th Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm
Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan
The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


Fascinating Nonfiction
Grand Canyon, by Jason Chin
Marley Dias Gets It Done, by Marley Dias
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, by Chris Barton

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

#SummerReading 2018 for 1st & 2nd graders

First and second graders have made monumental leaps in their reading this year. Keep those reading muscles strong by feeding them a steady diet of fun books to read!

Here are some of my favorite beginning readers, chapter books, graphic novels and picture books for kids just finishing 1st and 2nd grade. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.
#SummerReading: 1st & 2nd grade
click for full 2018 summer reading lists
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.

Beginning to Read (levels G-H-I)
Block Party, by Gwendolyn Hooks
It's Shoe Time!, by Bryan Collier
My Toothbrush Is Missing!, by Jan Thomas

Developing Readers (levels J-K)
Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy, by Laurel Snyder
Pedro's Big Goal, by Fran Manushkin
Zelda & Ivy, by Laura Kvasnosky

New Picture Books We're Loving
After the Fall, by Dan Santat
Harriet Gets Carried Away, by Jessie Sima
Mommy's Khimar, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
No Kimchi For Me!, by Aram Kim

Beginning with Chapter Books (levels L-M)
Ashley Small & Ashlee Tall series, by Michele Jakubowski
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
Fergus & Zeke, by Kate Messner
King & Kayla series, by Dori Hillestad Butler

Graphic Novel Series We Love!
Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey
Hilo, by Judd Winick
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, by Ben Clayton

Having Fun with Chapter Book Series (levels N-O-P)
Bad Guys, by Aaron Blabey
DATA Set series, by Ada Hopper
Zoey & Sassafras series, by Asia Citro

Fascinating Nonfiction
Give Bees a Chance, by Bethany Barton
Her Right Foot, by Dave Eggers
Malala's Magic Pencil, by Malala Yousafzai

Picture Books Full of Imagination
Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub
Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy
Take Away the A, by Michael Escoffier

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Unicorn Rescue Society: Creature of the Pines, by Adam Gidwitz: a new fun, short, engaging mystery series (ages 7-10)

Unicorns are pretty awesome! So are Sasquatch, the Minotaur and all sorts of other mythical creatures--magical, powerful and hard to find. I know kids love reading fantasy series, yet when it comes to recommending books for developing readers there just aren't many fantastic fantasy series out there.

Adam Gidwitz's new series Unicorn Rescue Society is perfectly aimed at readers transitioning from short chapter books and moving up toward longer stories. Hand this to kids who have read all the Magic Tree House and Secrets of Droon books but aren't quite ready for Percy Jackson or Harry Potter.
Creature of the Pines, Unicorn Rescue Society #1
by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Dutton / Penguin, 2018
Amazon / your local library / preview chapters 1-3
ages 7-10
*best new book*
Elliot's first day at a new school turns out to be full of adventure. Chapter One opens as Elliot stares down the long aisle of the school bus. It's his first day of school, and his class is taking a field trip. Gidwitz brings the reader right into this uncomfortable situation, as Elliot struggles to make a new friend. While I totally relate to Elliot, I love Uchenna -- the Nigerian American girl who befriends Elliot. Uchenna looks "like the lead singer in a punk rock band." She's got style, confidence and a sense of adventure.

Before we even find out where Elliot and Uchenna's class is going on their field trip, we meet their teacher Miss Vole and their special guest, the intimidating and mysterious Professor Fauna. He informs the class that they will be going to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where many dangerous things haunt the forrest.
Professor Fauna, Elliot, Uchenna and Jersey
When they get to the Pine Barrens, Uchenna wanders off the path to investigate a noise she hears. Elliot follows, and they discover a blue-furred magical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon.” This creature, the mythical Jersey Devil, takes an immediate liking to the pair, following them back to the school bus. A hide-and-seek chase ensues as Elliot and Uchenna try to protect the Jersey Devil.

The book closes as Professor Fauna invites Uchenna and Elliot to join his secret organization that is committed to protecting mythical creatures. You'll have fun showing this video to kids, as Elliot and Uchenna explain what the Unicorn Rescue Society does.

Gidwitz has hit a great balance between short, engaging chapters and a mystery that makes you want to learn more. Hatem Aly's illustrations keep readers grounded, helping them create the movie in their heads. The fantasy and humor elements are engaging, but never overwhelm the straight-forward storyline. Hand this new series to 2nd & 3rd graders who have moved beyond Magic Treehouse, but still want a story that moves quickly.

I'm particularly excited to see how this series unfolds. Elliot and Uchenna will rescue mythical animals from different cultures and places, bringing young readers traveling the globe with them. Gidwitz is partnering with authors from different cultures, so that they bring their experiences and cultural knowledge to the series. Gidwitz describes upcoming installments in his Nerdy Book Club post:
"Joseph Bruchac and I are writing about the Native American legend of Sasquatch. Emma Otheguy and I will travel to Cuba to rescue the madre de aguas. David Bowles and I will scour both banks of the Rio Grande to find, and protect, the chupacabras. And Hena Khan and I will write about the mythical creatures of Pakistan. These are the first members of The Unicorn Rescue Society."
I love how intentionally inclusive Adam Gidwitz is with his storytelling. When I was at the launch for this book at the Brooklyn Public Library, a young Black girl asked Adam where he got the inspiration for creating the character of Uchenna. He explained that Uchenna and Eliot are based on students from his teaching days in Brooklyn. Uchenna was one of his students, and is now in college (I think). This representation matters to young people.

It's no secret that I have loved Adam's writing since I first read A Tale Dark & Grimm, and my book club Skyped with him. Those kids are now in high school, and they still talk about how awesome that experience was.

I want to end with Adam's mission statement, as it were, that he shared in the Nerdy Book Club post.
"I’ve always believed that kids books should be ambitious. They should challenge children. Stretch their vocabularies. Or their courage. Stretch them emotionally and psychologically. Or stretch their imaginations. Maybe stretch their moral imaginations. But I have also always believed that ambition in kids books (in any book) is useless unless kids are actually reading the book. You can have the genius of James Joyce, but if you write like James Joyce, the kids will never get to experience your genius. The first priority is to get kids turning the pages. All the pages. All the way to the end. The second priority is to make it worth turning the pages.

"The Unicorn Rescue Society is pretty darn fun. When I write it, I generally find myself cackling like an idiot.

"But The Unicorn Rescue Society is also, I hope, worthwhile.

"Oh, and we rescue unicorns."
My job as a librarian isn't to share books I love, but to help kids discover books they like -- books that get them excited to read. Like Adam, I also believe that books have the potential to challenge, stretch and connect with kids. But I also know very clearly that this will never happen unless kids get hooked on a story, that they want to read the book in front of them.

Illustration copyright ©2017 Hatem Aly and the Mixtape Club founders Jesse Casey and Chris Lenox Smith. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Dutton Books for Young Readers / Penguin Publishing Group. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Humor Hooks Readers: book recommendations from the Bay Area Book Fest (ages 6-10)

We had a terrific time at the Bay Area Book Fest this weekend, and I want to share the book recommendations for funny books. Megan McDonald, Travis Nichols and LeUyen Pham were all so funny, thoughtful and kind. I was honored to facilitate this conversation.
Putting the FUN in Reading (downloadable PDF)
Funny picture books
The Bear Who Wasn't There, by LeUyen Pham
Betty's Burgled Bakery, by Travis Nichols
Disgusting Critters series, by Elise Gravel
NiƱo Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales

Funny chapter books
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
Judy Moody Was In a Mood, by Megan McDonald
Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham
Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid, by Megan McDonald
Unicorn Rescue Society, by Adam Gidwitz

Funny graphic novels
Astronaut Academy, by Dave Roman
Babymouse, by Jennifer Holm
Bird & Squirrel, by James Burks
Phoebe & Her Unicorn, by Dana Simpson
Travis and Uyen both started drawing from a very early age, using pictures to tell stories. Drawing was really important to both of them as they tried to find their place in the world. Uyen talked about how she was very shy and realized that her classmates really liked the drawings she could do. She even started selling her drawings of popular movie characters to classmates!

I especially loved how Megan talked about the humor in Judy Moody stemming from how readers can relate to Judy. Megan read aloud the very beginning of Judy Moody Was In a Mood, and talked about how everyone knows how awful it is to be in a bad mood. But we can also laugh at how grumpy Judy gets. So while we're empathizing with her, we're also laughing at ourselves in a safe and gentle way.

A large part of humor is in the timing. With picture books, illustrators really work at using the page turn to create tension and set up the punchline. They also really play with kids' expectations and then turning the tables. We had a blast listening to some of the kids' jokes!
Listening to kids tell jokes.
Cracking up with the punchline!
(photo credit: Armin Arethna)
I also loved how they all agreed on the importance of pictures in creating the humor that hooks kids. Uyen emphasized how reading the pictures and seeing the funny setups there was just as important as reading the words. She read some of The Itchy Book!, her newest book that's part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series. That's a really important message to share with young kids who are struggling with decoding. They bring so much to the story by figuring out what's happening in the pictures!

Travis talked about how his newest book Betty's Burgled Bakery started from a failure. He was struggling with the followup to Foul Play, trying to focus the story on idioms, when it came to him how alliteration might be funnier and easier for kids to get. This makes me think about the way Uyen described incorporating her mistakes in artwork. She really likes doing artwork by hand and not just the computer, because the mistakes make her more creative and bring even more out of her drawings.

Many thanks to Travis, Uyen and Megan for their time, humor and kind spirits. Many thanks to the publishers for sponsoring their time, and to the Bay Area Book Festival for inviting us all to speak with kids and families. And many thanks to my friends and family who came out to support me! If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Putting the FUN in Reading! at the Bay Area Book Festival, April 28th (ages 7-10)

We all like doing the things we have fun with. Psychoanalysts might call this the "Pleasure Principle," but I call it common sense. So how do we help our kids discover the fun in reading? Come join me in conversation with four terrific authors/illustrators at the Bay Area Book Festival this weekend.
Join me in hearing from LeUyen Pham, Megan McDonald, Travis Nichols and Judd Winnick about how they make reading fun for kids. It's sure to be a great session, with stories about Judy Moody, Hilo, crime-fighting princesses and wordplay in the bakery.
These authors and illustrators bring their sense of fun to picture books, short chapter books, and graphic novels. I'm looking forward to asking them about how they focus on the fun in reading. Comedy is truly an art form! Come enjoy a laugh with us and learn about the magic ingredients in their storytelling.
Putting the FUN in Reading! 
with LeUyen Pham, Megan McDonald, Travis Nichols
Bay Area Book Festival
The Marsh Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA
Sunday, April 29, 11:45am - 1:00 pm
LeUyen Pham illustrates the Princess in Black series with Shannon Hale, as well as the terrific graphic novel Real Friends. She's also the author of several picture books. Megan McDonald writes the Judy Moody and Stink books, bringing shenanigans and hijinks, along with real life struggles, to every chapter. Travis Nichols combines word play, comic book panels and crisp, clever capers into punchy picture books like Betty's Burgled Bakery. And Judd Winick is the author of our favorite Hilo graphic novels.

Everyone loves a good joke. We're going to put them to the test and ask each of them to share a joke. And then we'll turn the tables, to ask the audience to come up with a few jokes.

We'll also look at why visual comedy is so important for kids. You'll notice that all of these books use pictures to pack a punch. How do illustrations add to the reading experience for kids?

Finally, we'll brainstorm together ways to keep reading fun. Bring your kids and let them join the creative fun we'll have together! Hope to see you on Sunday in Berkeley!

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, August 7, 2017

Pets on the Loose! series by Victoria Jamieson -- terrific pair of graphic novels for young readers (ages 6-10)

Have you ever imagined what your pets get up to while you're away? Victoria Jamieson takes this notion and gives it a fresh spin, imagining a trio of classroom pets and their antics when the kids go home for the day. Pets on the Loose! is a terrific series for kids moving into longer stories, whether you're reading it aloud together or kids are gobbling it up on their own.
The Great Pet Escape
Pets on the Loose!
volume 1
by Victoria Jamieson
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2016
Google Books preview
Amazon / Your local library
ages 6-10
George Washington, or "GW" for short, plays the part of a a sweet, innocent classroom hamster, but the second graders at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School don't know that he's an experienced con man. Having been locked up in 2nd grade for three months, he's determined to escape and reunite with his pals Barry the rabbit and Biter the guinea pig.
"Prison can't stop me. I am now building my greatest invention ever... the Hairy Houdini Escape-O-Matic."
As soon as GW escapes and frees his pals, they run into their biggest problem: Harriet the mouse. With her minion mice and Lucinda, the 5th grade pet snake, Harriet is planning to cause chaos in the school by preparing "the most vile, disgusting lunch they've EVER seen."

Kids will crack up at the thought of mice running havoc in the cafeteria, adding chocolate chips and pickles to the casserole, making soup with ketchup, relish and mustard. The food fight finale will certainly bring giggles a plenty, and kids will relish (ha!) how the friends support one another.

I love the pacing and goofy humor in this graphic novel. GW is cute but mischievous, a good friend but also pretty self-centered. Readers new to longer graphic novels will appreciate that each panel only has one or two short sentences, and that the whole story is captured in eleven short chapters.

Kids will be eager to read the sequel, The Great Art Caper:
The Great Art Caper
Pets on the Loose!
 volume 2
by Victoria Jamieson
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2017
Google Books preview
Amazon / Your local library
ages 6-10
GW the hamster continue his adventures with his friends, this time saving the students’ art show from sabotage by Harriet the mouse. As the story opens, the pets have settled into a nice routine in each of their classrooms. They want to go to the art room to make a card for GW's friend Carina, but it's on the 2nd floor -- the domain of Harriet and her minions. How are they going to make it all the way there?

Harriet and her minions are plotting to steal Carina’s picture from the art show, wrecking havoc on the school once again. Worst of all, they going to frame GW and his friends so that they will be sent away to St. Bart’s Obedience School for Unruly Pets.

Jamieson continues her series with her terrific blend of humor and pacing, filling this with slapstick humor and an underlying message of friendship. You'll get a nice sense through this Google Books preview:

One of my favorite experiences as a mom was reading aloud a graphic novel to my daughter when she was in 3rd grade. We snuggled up together, each reading different characters' parts aloud. This series would make a great comic book to read aloud with 1st, 2nd or 3rd graders who are ready to listen and read along with a longer story.

The review copies came from our public library, checked out through Axis 360 ebooks. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lights, Camera, Middle School! Babymouse Tales from the Locker, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (ages 8-12)

Our students love books that blend lots of images with stories that pull them through. With their knack for laughing through all the challenges that life throws your way, Jenni and Matt Holm bring Babymouse into a new format with Babymouse Tales from the Locker. Seek this out for kids who are ready to move to longer novels, but love graphic novels.

Lights, Camera, Middle SchoolBabymouse Tales from the Lockerby Jennifer L. Holm
illustrated by Matthew Holm
Random House, 2017
Google Books preview
Amazon / Your local library
ages 8-12
As Babymouse heads to middle school, she's worried about whether she'll find friends, what she'll wear and what afterschool activities she'll do. With her great sense of style and leadership, she decides to join the film club and is named director of her group's project. But nothing turns out quite as easy as it seems at first glance. She has to wrangle difficult actors (i.e., friends), make decisions about locations, and make sure everyone's on the same page.

Babymouse struggles with friendships in such a relatable way. She yearns to be part of larger friend group, but then ends up pushing her friends away because she's too bossy. Sound like anyone I know (moi???...)...

Fans of Babymouse will find the same blend of fantasy and school life, but kids new to the series will have no problem fitting right in from the get go. While this is set in middle school, the sweet spot will be with 4th graders who are looking ahead a few years as they figure out the changing landscape of friendships.

Take a look at this preview on Google Books to see how seemlessly the narrative moves between text and images:

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Funny Girl: Terrific collection of stories to make you laugh (ages 9-13)

Laughter and happiness is so important to share and foster with our children. Children love reading funny books and they thrive when adults can share their joy. And yet how often do we promote truly funny books, much less read them aloud with our kids? A terrific new collection fills this need: Funny Girl, a selection of 28 short stories, personal memoirs and comics that will tickle your funny bone.
Funny Girl
edited by Betsy Bird
Viking / Penguin, 2017
Amazon / your local library
ages 9-13
Betsy Bird, an outstanding children's librarian and blogger, has collected women writers and comedians to share their humor and advice to young readers. As television comedy writers Delaney and Mackenzie Yeager explain in their opening entry, "Joke-telling is the greatest superpower a gall can posses." Being a comedian takes confidence--a combination of audacity and courage to put yourself out there.

Short personal essays are among my favorites. In "One Hot Mess," Carmen Agra Deedy shares about the time her mother set a bathtub on fire to get rid of the germs, unwittingly melting the fiberglass tub in their new apartment. One of my students loved Ursula Vernon's story "Grandma in Oil Country." She loved the outrageous, over-the-top situations and the silly illustrations. Just look at the note that Maya wrote:
"SUPER FUNNY!" writes Maya about
Ursula Vernon's "Grandma in Oil Country"
The short format is great for these funny stories because they get to the humor quickly. There are plenty of relatable situations, helping readers laugh at the crazy things in their own lives. I appreciate the diverse range of authors. In "Brown Girl Pop Quiz," Mitali Perkins draws on her experiences  and shows how "all of the above" so often applies to our multiple identities.

The collection ends with short biographical entries for each author. With this great range of stories, you're bound to find new authors you'd like to explore. I was so excited talking with Maya about this story that I grabbed some other books by Ursula Vernon. I think she'll have fun with the Hamster Princess series:
Funny Girl editor Betsy Bird blogs at Fuse 8 and is a good friend and colleague. I have purchased this review copy for our home collection, as gifts and for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Funny & easy: two beginning reader series (ages 4-6)

Beginning to read is a daunting task -- kids and parents feel the pressure. Please know that sharing books together is the most important thing. Model reading, talk about books, invite your children to try with you. Above all, try to make it fun. That's why I love these two series of books for beginning readers--they're silly, they have good stories, and they use just a few words on each page.
The Adventures of Otto:
Go, Otto, Go! // Swing, Otto, Swing! // See Pip Point
by David Milgrim
preview on Overdrive (with read-along narration)
Simon Spotlight, 2016
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-6
Otto is a lovable robot, trying to figure out how to get along here on Earth. He tries to build a robot to fly home: "Work, Otto, work." Milgrim does a terrific job using only two or three words on a page to convey what's happening, with repetition that flows naturally. 
"Work, Otto, work"
Otto always ends up getting in trouble, bringing lots of giggles to young readers. In Swing, Otto, Swing, he tries to fly from tree to tree like his monkey friends. Somehow, it's much harder than it looks.

If you like the goofy adventures of Otto, you might also like Big Dog and Little Dog beginning readers by Dav Pilkey. These two goofy friends get into all sorts of mischief.
Big Dog and Little Dog // Getting in Trouble // Making a Mistake
by Dav Pilkey
Green Light Readers / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-6
Big Dog and Little Dog want to play, like any two friends. "But there is nothing to play with. What will they play with?" They start playing with the couch, but that soon turns into a game of tug-of-war. Uh, oh. They keep just getting into trouble! Pilkey uses simple sentences and bold drawings that move the action along.

If you have a dog that's ever met a skunk, you'll laugh as these friends find out just how awful a skunk can smell. "Big Dog thinks it is a kitty. Sssssss. But it does not smell like a kitty." These relatable situations are perfect for young readers.

I'm happy to join friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Mrs. Knott's Bookshelf in celebrating the #Road2Reading. As they write, "All journeys have a starting place. This is a weekly place to find books and tools that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey."

The review copies for The Adventures of Otto were kindly sent by the publisher, Simon & Schuster. The review copies of Big Dog and Little Dog came from my home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, by Bob Raczka -- delightfully fun wordplay (ages 8-12)

I love sharing the way poets play with words to make us laugh, think and look at things in a new way. My students especially respond to concrete poetry, where the words are arranged to create images. Wet Cement is an outstanding, fresh collection of concrete poems, definitely worth seeking out.
Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems
by Bob Raczka
Roaring Brook / Macmillan, 2016
Amazon / Your local library
ages 8-12
Bob Raczka writes that poems are like "word paintings," using words to create pictures in our minds. Concrete poems takes this a step further, creating a visual art form with words.
"In concrete poems, or shape poems...the poet arranges words in the shape of the thing the poem is about or in a way that emphasizes the poem's meaning."
This outstanding collection of concrete poems makes me laugh and smile at Raczka's inventive use of words and letters. He not only creates the poem in new shapes, each title is its own shape poem, with a clever arrangement of the letters. I love the way he uses the "L" to create the hands of a clock in this poem:
"The clock on the wall says it's five 'til three but
the kids in my class say it's five 'til free."

Raczka's wordplay is accessible and inventive, inviting readers to think of words, letters and shapes in a fresh new way. As students what they thing the "t" in "takeoff" is doing all by itself on the page--what does it make them think about? And why did Raczka choose the phrase "Wright on course"?
"Wright on course, headed for heaven. One two three four five..."
These poems give us a moment to play with text, to think about how words create visual art and to laugh at the inventive ways we can arrange words and letters on a page. I love the idea of turning this over to kids, asking them to see how they might play with letters and words to create different shapes. After all, as Raczka shows us, the word "try" is certainly embedded in the word "poetry."

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Roaring Brook / Macmillan. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books