The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley
This graphic novel memoir focuses on one idiotic idea that changes comic-creator Gownley’s life forever. At 13, Gownley was on top of the world. He was popular, getting great grades, and was top-scorer on the school basketball team. Then he got chicken pox and he had to miss the championship game. But that wasn’t the end of his bad luck, he followed the chicken pox with a bout of pneumonia and missed more school. Soon Jimmy wasn’t a basketball star and his grades were getting bad. Jimmy did have one thing going for him though, the dumbest idea ever! It was an idea that would make him money, get him popular again, find him a girlfriend, and even impress a very stern nun. And let me tell you, it takes one amazingly stupid idea to accomplish all that!
Gownley reveals how he became a cartoonist in this graphic novel. It is cleverly done with a strong story arc that keeps the entire book sturdily structured. Gownley has a wonderful self-deprecating humor that works particularly well in comic format. His humor is smart and very funny, often conveyed with ironic twists of eyebrows or sarcastic facial expressions. The book is a quick read thanks to the format but also to the fast pacing that will have readers happily turning page after page.
Get this into the hands of Smile! fans who will appreciate the humor, the honesty and the art. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from library copy.
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton III
The author of the Max and Pinky books returns with a new duo, Andy and Preston. Andy is an alligator and Preston is a young coyote. The two of them make an unlikely team but one that works incredibly well for humor. Preston often can’t figure out what is really going on. So when Andy is hunting a rabbit, Preston thinks it is a game of tag. In the next chapter, Preston wants to take every thing they find, though Andy holds onto a stick for himself. Andy is so distracted that he doesn’t see the cliff coming and then he lets loose his anger on Preston. Then it is up to Andy to make things right, if he can. In the final chapter, Andy is trying to sleep when Preston wants to have him guess what kind of animal noise Preston is making. This quickly descends into a merry chaos and then the book comes full circle back to the rabbit in a very satisfying ending.
This is a graphic novel perfect for beginning readers. Eaton tells the story in just a few words, letting the illustrations carry most of the story rather than the words. He uses repeating words too, making it even funnier and also making it easier for the youngest readers to decipher. Filled with silly action, the book does speak to the ins and outs of friendship. Eaton’s art is clear and clean, his thick black lines filled with simple colors. The result is a graphic novel that is simple, easy and cheerful.
A great pick for beginning readers, children will enjoy the graphic novel format and the humor. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Blue Apple Books.
Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Easter books can be so filled with yellow fluffy chicks, bright Easter eggs, and soft bunnies that the become more than a bit stale. Enter the Easter Cat, a character who offers exactly what was missing in Easter books: cats! Cat wants to be able to do what the Easter Bunny does and deliver chocolate himself. But he’s going to have to figure a lot of things out before he begins: what exactly will be deliver? How will he travel? What will he wear? All of those decisions wear him out so he decides to take his eighth nap of the day, after all, he is a cat. But then he learns that the Easter Bunny never naps at all. Are all of his plans ruined? Perhaps he just needs a little help from the famous Easter Bunny himself.
Underwood of The Quiet Book has created an uproariously funny book this time. Her Cat character doesn’t speak at all, instead the reader quizzes Cat on what exactly he is doing. Cat communicates through his expressions and holding up signs most of which have cartoon drawings on them outlining his plans. The words in the book take on the tone of a parent, making it a real delight to read aloud. The reader can go from cajoling to stern and back again.
Rueda’s illustrations carry much of the storytelling since Cat doesn’t speak. She manages to convey his emotions very clearly on his face and in his stance. Cat is a very enjoyable character with big plans that aren’t very well thought out. This book on the other hand, has illustrations and words that work together flawlessly.
With the humor of Melanie Watt or Elephant and Piggie, this picture book is sure to find an eager Easter audience. Ideal for perching in baskets, this book is good enough to share all year round. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.
Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
This collaboration between two masters of children’s poetry will transport you to new and different places. Filled with cars that are amazing and wild, the humor-filled poems will delight. Visit the times of the dinosaurs, underwater driving, cars made of paper or shoes. Even cars made from bathtubs and bugs. The poetry flows fast and furious, a perfect pace for young car enthusiasts who may be surprised at how much they enjoy poems.
Lewis and Florian write with a single hand here, the poems flowing naturally from one to the other, the styles of each forming one cohesive whole. They use humor to great effect both in the titles of the poems and throughout, delighting with puns and word play. The poems are also very brief, perfect for young readers to enjoy or even memorize.
The art by Holmes plays up the humor in the poems. His busy active style has lots of motion and zany combinations. The dinosaur car looks like it could reach right off the page and grab you, the ocean page will have you floating along merrily, and the blueprint style of the contents page sets the tone early.
Perfect poems to share aloud with a class, this one may get lost in poetry collections but marketed correctly should zoom off of library shelves. Beep beep!
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Bang by Leo Timmers
Using only the word “bang” throughout, this nearly-wordless picture book is a humor-filled delight. In a series of car crashes, one after another, the story is told. It all starts with a deer who isn’t paying any attention, since he’s reading this book while driving. Then comes the truck full of chickens driven by a pig. Then a fashionable giraffe in an orange sportster. A hungry alligator with a truck full of tires follows. And more and more. After each car enters the page, there is an enormous bang, and then each new car impacts all of the others in new ways. Colors change, items move from one vehicle to another, and merry chaos reigns.
Timmers fills his wordless book with wonderful details that make lingering on the pages a must. You even start guessing from the introduction of the new elements about what will happen to the other vehicles in line. The final fold-out page with all of the vehicles in a row is great fun to look at and makes for a grand finale.
Timmers’ art is quirky and bright. The vehicles are all completely unique, formatted to fit the bulk of a pig, or the height of a giraffe. The pages are filled with bright colors and lots of action. As each new vehicle comes onto the page, there is wonderful moment before you know what happens. This pacing is perfection and all thanks to the art.
Jolly and very funny, this is a picture book that children who enjoy vehicles or large crashes will adore. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.
The Roald Dahl Funny Prize is a British children’s book prize that “aims to promote laughter and humour as a feel-good factor when reading, to draw attention to funny books as readable and enjoyable books and to reward authors and illustrators who write and illustrate books using humour.” There are two age categories to the award. Here are the winners:
AGES SIX AND UNDER
Monkey Nut by Simon Rickerty
AGES SEVEN TO FOURTEEN
I Am Still Not a Loser by Jim Smith
God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Taken from Rylant’s previous book of poetry, God Went to Beauty School, this smaller collection is completely disarming and dazzling. Repackaged for a younger audience, this book celebrates God in a wonderfully homely and down-to-earth way that manages at the same time to make Him/Her all the more wondrous. In a series of poems, God goes to beauty school because he loves hands so much. She goes for a ride in a boat for the first time and gets an entirely new perspective on water. He goes to the doctor. She tries out a desk job for awhile. He visits India. She writes a book. They are small moments, small things to do, but in the end they are all profound and beautiful.
As someone who is trying to slow down and enjoy the small things in life, this book truly speaks to me. It is about God himself doing exactly the same thing. Rylant injects each of the poems with a lovely quiet humor and a softness that enriches each moment. Her poems are completely relatable, understandable by elementary children but also deep enough to be appreciated by adults.
Frazee was the ideal person to illustrate this book. With her soft colors and natural humor, Frazee captures these moments in God’s day. Each is beautifully set up, but also simple and honest. They are singular but also create a lovely whole.
Smart, funny and above all kind and radiant, this book will make a great holiday gift for all ages as well as a wonderful way to start talking about spirituality. Appropriate for all ages.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Roald Dahl Funny Prize was launched in 2008, so this is the sixth year the prize has been awarded. The award goes to authors and illustrators who use humor in books for children. The prize has two categories based on age. You can see the shortlist below for each category:
Ages Six and Under
Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo! by Amy Sparkes, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
Monkey Nut by Simon Rickerty
Noisy Bottoms by Sam Taplin, illustrated by Mark Chambers
Spaghetti with the Yeti by Charlotte and Adam Guillain, illustrated by Lee Wildish
Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson
Weasels by Elys Dolan
Ages Seven to Fourteen
Fish-Head Steve by Jamie Smart
Geek Girl by Holly Smale
The Grunts All at Sea by Philip Ardagh, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
I Am Still Not a Loser by Jim Smith
My Parents Are Out of Control by Pete Johnson
Pants Are Everything by Mark Lowery
Moo! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Told in just a couple of words, this picture book is one wild ride. When the farmer puts a sign up that says that his car is for sale, it catches the attention of a cow nearby. She jumps right in and starts off driving up hill and down: Moooooooooooooooo. But then disaster strikes: Moo! And she lands in trouble with the police. She tries to explain herself, but the officer just sends her back home, walking. When the farmer finds out, what is a cow to do? You will just have to see how this romp of a picture book ends.
The partnership between author and illustrator is so seamless that I not sure who came up with the concepts. The text in the book is entirely animal noises and is so simple that any small child will be able to read it on their own after just one shared reading. Who knew that “moo” could say so much! The illustrations are simple as well, and play up the jolly humor of the book.
A simple book perfect for storytime, expect lots of giggles on this joy ride. Appropriate for ages 1-4.
Reviewed from library copy.