What adult cannot relate to the idea of being a lion not living up to his potential as a carnivorous alpha predator? No honest adult, I think. Such is the premise of How To Be A Lion, by Ed Vere, one of the many new children's books this year that, along with many thoroughly vetted stories from previous years, earns the distinction of "actually funny kid's book." (Why are we even here, if not for life-affirming comedy.)
I am a voracious picture book reader. I enjoy them just as much (if not more) than my kids do. And I'm always on the lookout for books that are so good, I can't wait to read them with my kids. (And then, because they're kids, read them a hundred more times.) There is nothing better — nothing — than having a good laugh with the people you love surrounded by 15 of their best toy friends, and laughing while reading is basically my idea of heaven. I've looked for books for littles of all ages that are sure to induce the giggles. Sure, some have potty humor that kids love (fart jokes are an important developmental milestone, you heard it here first), and some are maybe funnier to you than they are to your kids, but I've rounded up some legit funny children's books that are sure to delight everyone in your family.
1'Snow Pony And The Seven Miniature Ponies' by Christian Trimmer, Illustrated by Jessie Sima
I love a good retelling and this one is amazing. Who doesn't love Snow White? And ponies? No spoilers but there is a visual joke in here that might go over your kids' heads, but is sure to give you a glow in the funnies.
2'Lady Pancake And Sir French Toast' by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney
OMG, the wordplay in this book. The titular characters are duking it out and racing through the fridge to get the last of the syrup. Honestly, the rhyming language and anthropomorphized food are so funny. The best part? The sequel is just as good. And there is a third installment coming soon.
3'Valensteins' by Ethan Long
A bunch of Halloween-y characters (the Fright Club) are confused as to why Fran K. Stein is cutting hearts out of paper. They don't even know what a heart is. (Is it a paper butt?) They give Fran a hard time when they realize he's in love. I view this as a hilarious take on dismantling toxic masculinity.
4'The Princess And The Pony' by Kate Beaton
Yes, this is the second princess/pony book on the list. But this one is just so charmingly quirky. Princess Pinecone wants a fierce, strong, large steed so she can be a warrior princess. Instead she gets the cutest, fattest, little pony in all the land. Like, it's impossible to look at this pony and not grin.
5'The Day The Crayons Came Home' by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
These crayons are just bursting with personality and whimsy (shout out to Esteban!) And any parent who has crayons in the house (AKA every parent) will laugh at where some of these crayons have ended up.
6'Vader's Little Princess' by Jeffrey Brown
Dads with daughters will really appreciate this one. As will Star Wars fans of all kinds. Who knew Darth Vader could be so relatable? And Jeffrey Brown is just so amazing at charming illustrations. This is definitely tongue-in-cheek and, honestly, written more for the parents than the kids.
7'Be Quiet' by Ryan T. Higgins
I love picture books that are meta, and this one is hilariously so. The poor little mouse in this book wants to create an artistic picture book. That means no talking. But the other mice in the book are loudly unhelpful, despite their good intentions. The author of Mother Bruce kicks another goal.
8'Walter The Farting Dog' by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray, illustrated by Audrey Colman
Farting is funny. It just is. We as parents may try to deny it, but it's a losing battle. Why not embrace the funny, and enjoy this tale of stinky plight? I dare you not to giggle at the illustrated air biscuits.
9'Interrupting Chicken And The Elephant Of Surprise' by David Ezra Stein
Sweet little Chicken has heard that every good story has "an elephant of surprise" and sure enough, as he reads stories with his dad there is always... wait for it... a very surprising elephant. The suspense in this book is—INTERRUPTING CHICKEN—hysterical.
10'Square' by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
The premise of this book is pretty simple. Circle thinks Square is a ~genius~ sculptor. And Square has no idea what she's talking about. He tries to make a sculpture for Circle, but it just doesn't go well.
The illustrations are super-expressive, and readers will feel Square's despair. But they'll also see why Circle thinks he's a genius. This book is clever on all fronts, and it has a great "aha" moment that's just as rewarding for arteestes struggling to keep their crayons within the lines as it is for those of us who at 30 feel like imposters in our chosen careers.
11'Caps For Sale' by Esphyr Slobodinka
This classic is a go-to read-aloud. I mean, what parent doesn't like acting out the monkeys going Tssss tssss tssss? The more into this book the teller is, the better it becomes for everyone. Life with kids can sometimes feel like life with a bunch of monkeys who steal your hats, so everyone feels "in" on this book.
12'Blue Hat, Green Hat' by Sandra Boynton
All three of my kids have loved this book. Even when they don't know really how to talk yet, they are delighted by the turkey's "oops" on every page. It's also one of the first books they can read to me (before they really know how to read). It's delightfully predictable, and still manages to have a fun twist at the end.
For fans of Sandra Boynton, be sure to also check out the follow-up to the 1982 book But Not The Hippopatamus. At long last, we get to learn a little bit about the armadillo in But Not The Armadillo.
13'Amelia Bedelia' by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Slebel
One of my most important jobs as a parent is to teach my kids what "literal" means so that they don't grow up saying things like "that was so scary I literally died." (That would be figurative!) Amelia Bedelia takes everything literally. And it's hilarious. So not only will you and your kids laugh at this book (which is maybe over the heads of kids until they are about five or six), you'll be teaching them one of life's most important lessons.
14'Henry And Ribsy' by Beverly Cleary
In my opinion, the Henry Huggins books are just the best read-aloud chapter books on the planet. This volume in particular is hilarious. Henry and his dog Ribsy just get into all sorts of odd and complicated jams in this book. All of it is so believable. And you can feel Henry's woe as his dog gets him into trouble time and time again. None of this lessens Henry's love for Ribsy, though. (Bonus side note: one of my best memories as a kid was my dad reading the chapter "The Haircut" and actually crying from laughing so hard.) If you're into audio books, there's a production of Neil Patrick Harris reading this one and it's fantastic.
15'I'm Sad' by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Tackling a subject such as sadness is made humorous while we watch a girl, a flamingo, and a potato deal with the fact that, sometimes, you just feel sad. It's a really affirming book that tells us it's okay to be sad. The potato character really steals the show, and even gets the very sad flamingo to laugh.
16'People Don't Bite People' by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Molly Idle
17'How To Be A Lion' by Ed Vere
This is a wise, wise book about being yourself and supporting your friends. It's also full of delightfully witty details. This lion Leonard is best friends with Marianne who's a duck. And together they have deep conversations and write poetry. Some little details to love: the way Leonard the Lion's mane blows in the wind while he rides a scooter, and when he declares that he doesn't want to "chomp Marianne."
18'Jack At Bat' by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
Jack at Bat (a Jack book) by Mac Barnett & Greg Pizzoli (Penguin Random House, February 26, 2019)
This book (which is forthcoming), is part of a series. Jack is the bat boy. He picks up the bats. Put down the bat, Jack! Now pick it up. That's what you do, you're a bat boy.
The titular Jack is a seriously mischievous monkey, and in this volume, he's in a high-stakes baseball game. The pressure is on!
Early readers will be able to tackle this one with you. It's never too early to work on comedic timing — consider this a very early tip for a book you need to snap up in 2019.