What are you looking for in a good book? One that takes you places, although your feet may be on the ground? One that shivers your timbers? Twangs your heartstrings?
The genre often most difficult to ‘get right’ is humour. Yet this genre is ideal for child readers, enticing reluctant readers, bonding at bedtime or during a holiday, or for ‘I’m bored and tired’ spells.
Frequently I’ve read a blurb urging ‘this book will make you laugh out loud.’ Most often, it doesn’t. Preparing this piece, Bob and I considered books that make us laugh He recalls laughing through David Nobbs’ ‘Reginald Perrin’, and ‘Scoop’ by Evelyn Waugh. P.G. Wodehouse makes me laugh. I remember laughing so much while reading ‘They Came from SW19’ by Nigel Williams, that I had gravel rash on my tummy- (I was sunbathing on a pebbly beach.)
However, as booksellers who read everything we sell, we have a greater responsibility to find books that make us laugh, and therefore our readers:- George Bernard Shaw, ‘Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.’
So, what makes the Bookwagon team laugh?
We love Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Together, they have written splendid titles Bookwagon is delighted to sell, like Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Just writing the title has me grinning in recall.)
One of my favourite read aloud titles is Shh! We Have a Plan by award winning, Chris Haughton. It has my child audience and me convulsing in laughter at every reading, in anticipation, yet complete perplexity, as the story progresses.
I discovered Mrs Mole, I’m Home! by Jarvis (V&A illustrator of the year) at the 2017 London Book Fair. I laughed long and hard while reading it, much to the distraction of other shelf browsers. I determined there and then we would add it to Bookwagon.
I found Before & After by Jean Jullien while book browsing with a friend. We both laughed at the inventive comparisons included in this wonderful picture book. It led me to discover Sean Taylor, with whom the writer had collaborated on Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise. I have seen little boys fall from their chairs with laughter at this daft and wonderful title!
A new picture book title popular with our younger readers is Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow. There is great comedy in having the title character hiding in clear view!
A.L. Kennedy’s and Gemma Correll’s Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure is populated by comedically grotesque characters, and a menacing, yet almost farcical, plot line. It is great fun to read alone, or share, and will elicit a lot of laughter, for certain. (You may not choose to eat pie for a while!)
Writing humour is a real skill. Successful purveyors do not over egg the story or circumstance. Philip Pullman, master storyteller, created two very different but funny stories in I Was a Rat! and The Scarecrow and His Servant. The latter is another title wherein I have seen children rolling on the floor with laughter. (Spoiler alert:- There is a certain part in which one of our heroes loses his pea brain…..)
Funny poetry has been popular in Britain throughout the ages. Jeanne Willis’ and Tony Ross’s Sticky Ends picks up where Hillaire Belloc and Roald Dahl left off, with a collection of cautionary, humorous, and sometimes gruesome verse, beloved by our readers.
I suggest two titles with which I am besotted, that left me bereft when I’d finished reading. Both have nuanced humour, one sweet and considered, the other slightly bruised and raw, but gosh, they are funny. Bookwagon is proud to offer both books, and recommends them ‘to the moon’ and back (as Barker the Dog would say).
Bicycling to the Moon by Timo Parvele and Virpi Talvitiie is translated by Gecko Press from the Finnish original. I adore this title and hope it may be the start of a series.
I finished The Incredible Billy Wild by Joanna Nadin two weeks ago, but continued to carry it with me as an accessory. It is an outstanding book, wise, warm, stirring and so very funny. I love Billy, and suggest other lucky readers will feel the same way about him and his family. Again, I think a series may be in the offing.
We have added a couple of classic humorous titles to our older readers’ section, after thinking about all the ‘issue’ titles that seem to proliferate this genre. Do tweens/ teens/ young adults enjoy humorous stories too? We returned to two favourites, one of which might be forgotten, but is a very funny read. So, William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (as good as the outstanding film adaptation) and My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I have not taken to the ITV series, so returned to read the original story . Again, it made me laugh out loud. I wonder whether it will do the same for you?
Let us know titles and authors that make you and your family laugh. We’d be especially interested in hearing about writers and books with whom or which we may not be familiar. Bronnie