Written by Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Published in 1982
Genre/Topics: Humor, Fantasy
Ages: 6+, 212 pages
Most people don’t even think giants exist and those that do are usually very afraid of them. However, the Big Friendly Giant or the BFG doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Sophie is an orphan who first meets the BFG while looking out her window at night. The BFG notices and reaches through her window to take her away, since nobody would believe her if she said she saw a giant. Soon Sophie realizes that the BFG is friendly and has no plans to eat her, instead he was out at night putting dreams with his long trumpet into children’s ears. It’s not always pleasant, because the BFG is the smallest among other giants who desire to eat human beans every night. When the large and revolting giants are out eating human beans, the BFG captures dreams and stores thousands into jars. Sophie learns where the giants plan to find their next meal and the BFG and her form a plan to stop them before it’s too late.
The BFG has all the standard humor, fun, and zany words that are unique to Roald Dahl. So far I haven’t been disappointed by one of his books. I’m sure you’ll wish you also knew a giant, well at least a friendly one.
Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards
Written & Illustrated by Serge Bloch
Published by Sterling on August 5, 2008
Genre/Topics: First Day of School, Humorous, Idioms
Ages: 4+, 32 pages
The first day of school brings many emotions from excitement to nerves. This is a book to hopefully ease those butterflies in your stomach before you begin school. We’ve all heard unique speech expressions that don’t need an explanation, such as ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’, ‘cat caught your tongue’, ‘the early bird gets the worm’, ‘tickled pink’, ‘apple of my eye’, and many more. However, as children these expressions can be very confusing especially on the first day of school when you’re already nervous.
A child begins his first day of school and feels awful from the start when he wakes on ‘the wrong side of the bed’ and almost missed the bus which would cause him to be ‘in a real pickle’. The teacher tried to ease his worries stating that he was ‘all ears’ when he was ready to talk then read a funny book which had students ‘laughing their head off’. He visits the school librarian and learns that you can ‘get lost in a book’. He hopes to play outside at recess, yet everybody must come inside because ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’, but the boy is sad because he doesn’t see his dog from the sky. The story concludes with the boy arriving at home and greeting his dog, which made him feel as ‘happy as a puppy with two tails’.
I really enjoyed this book. There are a total of thirty-five idioms throughout the book. You can play a game to find all the idioms and then see who can explain them. It’s amazing how idioms make each language unique. The illustrations are great, because most of the book is simple black and white but the highlighted idiom is in color. I highly suggest this book for the first day of school or whenever you want a good laugh.
Written by Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Published by Puffin Books on January 1, 1983
Genre/Topics: Humorous, Fantasy
Ages: 8+, 208 pages
The Witches is another wonderful book by Roald Dahl that is sure to delight many readers. The story begins with a young boy who is orphaned when his parents die in a terrible car accident. In their will, the boy is to be cared for by his Norwegian grandmother who is an expert at how to identify witches. She explains that witches are not what people typically think, such as they don’t wear black hats or ride broomsticks. His grandmother states that witches instead appear like ordinary women with ordinary jobs. This is a witch’s motto: One child a week is fifty-two a year, Squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear. Throughout the book, the boy learns more about how to distinguish a witch from a normal woman. His grandmother and him stay at a hotel during the summer and this is when the fun really begins. He had a pet mouse that he tried to teach tricks well the hotel manager was very upset to have a mouse running around. The boy sneaked into an empty room that stated ‘Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’, so it must be a safe place to train his pet mouse. Suddenly women enter the room and he soon learns that they are actually not normal women at all, but witches. I’ll let you discover what happens next.
I highly enjoyed this Roald Dahl book. I believe even adults will get a laugh. The book had me guessing what would happen next and if the boy could save the day.
The Frog Prince Continued
Written by Jon Scieszka
Illustrated by Steve Johnson
Published May 1, 1991 by Puffin
Genre/Topics: Humor, Alternative Fairy Tale
Ages: 6+, 32 pages
I love Jon Scieszka’s book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, so I had high expectations for The Frog Prince Continued. I was not disappointed as I laughed throughout the book. There is a unique twist on “happily ever after”, ever since the Frog Prince kissed the Princess. She’s also not happy, since his tongue always sticks out, she finds lily pads in his pockets, and he leaps everywhere. So the Frog Prince begins a journey looking for a witch to turn him back into a frog. He meets interesting characters along his journey such as a witch who wants him to finish eating an apple, but he knows his fairy tales and doesn’t eat it. Then he meets a witch with a gingerbread house who is expecting Hansel and Gretel soon. Finally, the Frog Prince returns home to discover that the Princess was worried about him. She kissed his lips and both turned into frogs and together they lived happily ever after.
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Written by Roald Dahl
Read by Eric Idle
Published on August 12, 1972 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Audio Edition Published July 6, 2004 by Harper Festival
Ages: 8+, 176 pages
Audio Edition: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator picks up right where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory concludes. Charlie has won the chocolate factory prize and is now in the glass elevator with his entire family. Inside the great glass elevator are Charlie, Mr. Willy Wonka, Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina, and Mr. and Mrs. Bucket. They are riding high into space. Along the way, they encounter Vermicious Knids, Gnoolies, a space hotel, a strange communication with the President of the United States, unique vitamins that increase and decrease your age, and more crazy adventures with Mr. Willy Wonka. I enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory more, but you’re in for another delightful Roald Dahl treat with this book.
Dead End in Norvelt
Written by Jack Gantos
Published on September 13, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Ages 10+, 341 pages
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Humorous
Jack Gantos is grounded for the entire summer in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, in 1962. How did Jack get himself grounded during the entire summer? He accidentally shot a bullet from his father’s Japanese rifle and disobeyed his mother’s commands when he cut down her corn crop. To get out of the house, Jack agrees to help his elderly neighbor, Miss Volker, type obituaries. Miss Volker is a Norvelt town original and it is her duty to report obituaries for the original Norvelt citizens. The obituaries include much more than just information about the deceased, instead it is historical narratives about how their life impacted the small town. There are many colorful characters in Norvelt. Jack’s best friend is Bunny whose father is the town undertaker. Mr. Spizz rides an adult tricycle and adores Miss Volker, yet she has no plans to marry him. Each obituary leads to new adventures with real historical information scrambled in the book. Miss Volker always reminds Jack that people need to learn from the past, because mistakes can be repeated. Sprinkled inside the story are Girl Scout cookies, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Hells Angels, melted wax, a homemade airplane, a bloody nose, and even a possible murder.
Dead End in Norvelt won the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction in 2012. Personally, I think this book was very humorous at times but I’m not sure it fully deserves a Newbery Medal. I think the book had little emotion, plot, character development, and it didn’t leave me with a lasting moral or lesson the way many wonderful Newbery Medal books have done. I enjoyed that there was real history throughout the pages, since Jack spent his grounded time reading historical books and he learned information from Miss Volker when writing the obituaries. If you’re searching for a book with sarcastic humor, death, true facts, and a glance into 1962 as a child then this may be your book.
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, a Christmas Story
By Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown
Ages 6 & up, 24 pages
Lemony Snicket is most often recognized for his A Series of Unfortunate Events book series. This is a humorous story about a latke or a potato pancake eaten during the celebration of Hanukkah. The latke began screaming when it was heated in a pan full of oil. So what’s a toasted latke to now do? Well of course it then jumps out of the hot pan and out the window. It ran down the street past flashing Christmas lights who angrily shout that they are the ones to make cheer. The flashing lights believe he’s just hash browns, but the latke screams that it’s completely different. It then comes across a candy cane who’s upset that the screaming is spoiling the peppermint scent. The latke responds that its smell symbolizes the feeling of Hanukkah. The candy cane states that someone should write a Christmas carol about it. Of course, the latke screams that it’s not part of Christmas and it’s a completely different thing. The latke continues to scream until it stumbles into a forest. Finally, a family finds the latke and takes it home to eat for their Hanukkah dinner with applesauce and sour cream. The last pages explain that it’s sometimes difficult to be understood and makes you want to scream, but everything should be welcomed somewhere. The latke was welcome in a home where people understood it and fit perfectly during the Hanukkah celebration.
Three French Hens
by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Richard Egielski
Ages 6 & up, 36 pages
On the third day of Christmas a mademoiselle from Paris sent her true love three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree. However, there was a major problem with a smudged address because the hens never arrived to the true love. Colette, Poulette, and Fifi decide they will deliver themselves and find Monsieur Philippe Renard. They look in the New York City phone book and discover that they’re actually searching for Phil Fox. As you may have guessed, Phil Fox is a fox and hasn’t had a good meal in a month and has no friends. Phil Fox opens his door and sees his next meal. Before he realizes it, the French hens have bathed him, decorated his house, and cooked delicious food. Phil Fox feels somewhat guilty, because he’s not who they think he is and isn’t even French. Colette, Poulette, and Fifi don’t care at all and like their friend just as he is. Phil Fox is touched that the French hens consider him a friend. A great friendship forms between three French hens from Paris and Phil Fox from the Bronx.
Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy
by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Frank Ansley
Ages 4-6, 32 pages
Turk’s parents are so proud of him. His mother believes he’s a dancer and his father believes he’ll make a football player. Nobody listens to his brother Runt who continues to state that Turk looks juicy and ready to be roasted. A ballet instructor and football coach visit the farm and desire the best turkey. Well, Turk dances and tackles to impress them. Runt puts on a disastrous display and nobody picks a turkey, because they think they’re crazy. Finally, his family believes Runt and they prepare themselves when others visit the farm searching for a turkey.
by Carl Hiaasen
Ages 10 & up, 292 pages
Realistic Fiction, Humorous
I really enjoyed this book and finished it in a day. I don’t want to share too much information about the book, because part of the reason that kept me reading was the mystery held my attention. Roy Eberhardt is the new student at Trace Middle in Florida. He’s constantly bullied and misses his last home in Montana. If it wasn’t for Roy’s bully, Dana Materson, pushing his face against the window on the school bus then he wouldn’t have seen the strange boy running with no shoes. Roy’s curious about this boy and is determined to see him again, which causes Roy trouble. Another story plot occurs with mysterious vandalism at the future site for the next Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House. Survey stakes in the ground are removed and even animals are let loose. The running boy and vandalism mystery plot move back and forth and finally intertwine in the middle. The characters are well developed and the story elements move smoothly. Hoot will surely keep your interest as you discover what all the hoot is about in this humorous tale as a young boy attempts to do what is right while surviving at school. I highly recommend this book for all ages! Hoot also won a Newbery Honor in 2003.
A Plump and Perky Turkey
by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Jeff Shelly
Ages 5-8, 32 pages
Thanksgiving is approaching and Squawk Valley has a terrible problem, there’s no turkey. Everyone agrees that what they need is a plump and perky turkey, but all the turkeys near town have gotten smarter and leave when autumn arrives. So, Ebenezer Beezer has a plan that the turkey will find them instead at a turkey art show. They post papers in the forest that the town desires a plump and perky turkey to model for the show. Pete, the turkey, applies and models as townspeople create turkeys from clay, oatmeal, soap, and more. Pete picked the the winner, but then disappeared. All the turkey art made a camouflage to leave. He ate the oatmeal as his modeling fee. The townspeople in Squawk Valley learn a lesson and enjoy Thanksgiving with no turkey. I thought this was a delightful and funny book that is written in rhyme. You’ll be cheering for the turkey that got away.
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie
by Alison Jackson, illustrated by Judith Byron Schachner
Ages 4-7, 32 pages
This book is similar to I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly as she continues to eat more and more. It begins with an old lady who ate a Thanksgiving pie that was really too dry. She then drinks cider to moisten the dry pie. The humorous tale continues as she eats squash, a whole turkey, an entire cake, but what puts her over the top is some bread. The old lady becomes so huge at the end that she’s in a Thanksgiving parade. It’s a fun book that I’m sure most will get a laugh at. Perhaps you’ll think twice before going up for seconds.