Book reviews: Pick your favourite book and have the last laugh

Pick your favourite book and have the last laugh
Pick your favourite book and have the last laugh

Some books make you scared, some books make you cry… and some books make you laugh out loud!

It’s time for youngsters to celebrate the funniest children’s books by casting their votes in the 2017 Laugh Out Loud Awards (The Lollies), a set of awards now in their second year, and established by Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books.

The Lollies were created in response to Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report which revealed that two-thirds of children aged six to seventeen looked for ‘books that make me laugh’ when choosing books for themselves.

This year’s shortlist has been selected and voting is open until December 8th to teachers and their pupils, parents and children on the The Lollies website: http://www.scholastic.co.uk/lollies

The winning book in each category will be decided solely by children’s votes, with schools and parents encouraged to help youngsters get involved and vote via the website or the Scholastic channel on the PopJam app. Teachers can cast 35 votes on behalf of their class for each category. The winning books will be announced at an awards ceremony in London in January 2018.

Michael Rosen, children’s novelist, poet and former Children’s Laureate, who has long championed humorous books for children, said of the shortlist: “This is a collection of 12 whizzy, crazy, hilarious books. They are guaranteed to tickle. Parents and teachers wondering how to keep your children interested in reading, why not start here? And you can always start them off by reading them out loud.”

Rosen and his judging panel, consisting of Nicolette Jones, journalist and Sunday Times Children’s Book Editor, and Katie Thistleton, presenter and host of the CBBC Children’s Book Club, selected the shortlist from over 130 books submitted by children’s publishers.

The three categories, which include Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book, Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 6-8s and Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 9-13s, comprise some of the best and funniest books around. There are four books in each category.

Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book shortlist:

Oi Dog! by Kes and Claire Gray and Jim Field

The exciting team of writers Kes and Claire Gray and illustrator Jim Field are up to their wonderful word tricks again as they bring the house down with their second rhyming extravaganza.

The hilarious sequel to the bestselling Oi Frog! will have children laughing their socks off as they follow the madcap antics of a feisty frog in search of the comfiest seat in the animal kingdom, and learn to savour the subtleties of words and language.

A masterclass in the absurd, this clever, comical picture book stars our familiar friend Frog who is fed up of being the ‘under-dog’ and eager to change the status quo! Cat insists that there are rules… only mules sit on stools, no one but hares should sit on chairs and however irritating, dogs MUST sit on frogs.

But Frog is determined to change the rules. ‘From now on, dogs sit on logs, not frogs!’ he declares, and everyone else is going to have to sit somewhere else too. Will Cat want to sit on gnats instead of cushy mats? Will spiders like sitting on gliders? Will whales be happy to sit on nails? And, most importantly, where is Frog going to sit?

With increasingly outrageous word combinations on each page and a gorgeous gallery of Field’s bold and amazingly expressive illustrations to enjoy, youngsters will be joining in the rhymes, laughing out loud and begging for more the moment the last page has turned.

Comedy capers for all the family!

(Hodder Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Eat Your People by Lou Kuenzler and David Wojtowycz

If your children are fussy eaters, they may just dine out on this monstrously funny picture book from much-loved author Lou Kuenzler.

In a clever, comical twist on the age-old battle to get the kids to eat their greens, Kuenzler and illustrator David Wojtowycz dish up a delightful concoction of people-eating monsters who prefer tasty tots to peas, sprouts and broccoli!

Problem is that little Monty the Monster thinks that people are yucky… they are chewy and crunchy and full of bones, and they taste so sour that he has to spit them out again. Mummy Monster isn’t pleased at all; in fact, she declares that if he doesn’t eat his people, he won’t get a giant, monster-size helping of his favourite pudding… fairy cakes full of tasty fairies!

Wojtowycz’s super-sized, eye-catching illustrations bring to glorious life all the eating anarchy of the monster family as Kuenzler’s hilarious cautionary tale turns traditional dinner table wars on their head.

Little ones will empathise with Monty’s efforts to avoid eating what’s on his plate, and parents will enjoy the wry humour of the threats, pleas, promises… and flyaway twist in the tail. Food for thought for all the family!

(Orchard Books, paperback, £6.99)

Prince of Pants by Alan MacDonald and Sarah McIntyre

Say hello to a boy who keeps his pants in a bottom drawer!

B-bum… there are laughs from the very first page in this joyous and playful tale starring Pip, the Prince of Pants, a new and funny creation from the ever-inventive mind of Dirty Bertie books author Alan MacDonald.

Author of over seventy books for children, MacDonald is probably best known for his comic fiction for younger readers and this pants-down picture book winner will touch the funny bone of all mischievous children.

It’s Prince Pip’s birthday and he can’t wait to choose a pair of pants to wear on his special day. Should it be morning pants, evening pants or his pirate pants for an adventure? But when he goes to his pants drawer, he can’t believe that it’s empty! The king and queen haven’t seen Pip’s pants so where have they all gone? Could it be that the palace has planned a very special, pants-tastic surprise party?

Sarah McIntyre provides the extra bright and colourful illustrations for a story brimming with a plethora of patterned pants and with a pair of super glow-in-the dark undies on the final page, this is a right royal romp for all little adventurers.

Bottoms up!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Danny McGee Drinks the Sea by Andy Stanton and Neal Layton

Everyone’s stomachs will be churning with delight when they get a taste of the little boy who drinks the sea!

You can take this story with a pinch of salt or you can laugh out loud as the inimitable Andy Stanton, author of Mr Gum, and much-loved illustrator Neal Layton work their special brand of magic on the rhyming adventures of the delectable Danny McGee.

Anarchy really does reign supreme when show-off Danny sets out to prove to his sister Frannie that he can drink the sea and eat everything from a man learning to ski to the weather girl on TV. Yes, from mountains, trees and jungles to flies, fleas and peas, Danny can devour them all. Soon everyone – even author Andy Stanton – are inside Danny McGee. There’s just one person left… feisty Frannie. Can she finally stop the eating rampage?

As knockabout fun goes, this is certainly a knockout! Children will be eating every word of this super surreal, read-aloud story as they follow the cheeky antics of Danny and his long-suffering sister Frannie.

A hard act to swallow!

(Hodder Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 6-8 year olds shortlist:

Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash-Up by Simon Cherry

Ahoy me hearties… head off to the high seas for a cracking pirate adventure!

Television producer, writer and director Simon Cherry makes giant waves of laughter in his first book for children, the high-octane, hilarious tale of a bored schoolboy and his outrageously silly pirate pal, Mad Bad Jake McHake, otherwise known as ‘Captain.’

Eddy Stone’s holiday at his gran’s old seaside cottage in Tidemark Bay is a disaster. He’s miserable and bored and he has only been there for four days. But one morning, just as he is about to get stuck into his bowl of Choccy Puffs, he hears a deep bellow and a heavy thump. And when he creeps upstairs, who’s there? It’s a pirate… sitting in the bath, fully clothed and with a big black beard! Even better, he wants Eddy to help him find some buried treasure.

Setting sail in a ship-shaped shed, crewed by an old lady and a grumpy penguin, what could possibly stop their quest for booty? Well apart, that is, from the world’s most evil shopkeeper, a man-eating beast, and the maddest, baddest villain in all the seven seas…

Francis Blake’s suitably anarchic black and white illustrations add yet more frantic fun to a laugh-out-loud, irreverent story packed with brilliant jokes, knockabout action and plenty of potty pirates.

So hoist the mainsail and hold on to your pirate hats for the battiest and best adventure series on the high seas!

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Hamish and the Neverpeople by Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler

Danny Wallace, an award-winning writer who by his own admission has done lots of silly things, turns his hand, head and humour to children’s fiction in this irresistibly laugh-out-loud children’s series that is going from strength to strength.

Just the job for reluctant readers who like their books to be funny, visually exciting and brimming with mischief, these fun, fantasy adventures are filled with Wallace’s trademark comedy and flights of fancy, and were inspired by the books that set his own young imagination alight.

Starkley used to be one of the most boring towns in Britain but thanks to the efforts of ten-year-old Hamish Ellerby and his friends, the place has been well and truly put on the map. Hamish and his gang, the Pause Defence Force (PDF), have become local celebrities after saving the town from evil beasts called the WorldStoppers.

And nobody knows it yet, but the people of Earth are in big, big trouble again. Yes, this is HUGE trouble. Oh, come on, where’s your imagination? Double what you’re thinking! And it’s all got to do with a shadowy figure, an enormous tower, some sinister monsters, an army of huge clanking and thundering metal oddballs, and people who are just like you… but not like you at all. Luckily Hamish and the PDF are around to help save the day! Aren’t they?

Hamish and the Neverpeople dishes up the irresistible mix of comedy capers and chaos that fans of Hamish have come to expect while Jamie Littler’s vibrant and quirky illustrations add extra life and vitality as our madcap hero sets out – once again – to save the Earth.

Out-of-this-world laughs on every page!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Thimble Monkey Superstar by Jon Blake and Martin Chatterton

Some books come perfectly pitched at children’s humour… and the adventures of Jams and his mischievous monkey certainly hit the bullseye!

There won’t be a dry eye (tears of laughter, not tears of despair) in the house as one boy and his manic monkey steal the show in a riotously funny story packed with brilliant one-liners, zany antics and the funniest dad this side of story time.

Life is never boring now that Jams Cogan and his family have a monkey to look after (it was supposed to be a hamster but their weird neighbours have left the monkey and done a disappearing act). Jams and his mum love Thimble the monkey (he told them his name by sign language) and they think he’s rather cute but Dad is determined to get rid of him… to a zoo, a school, even a demolition site. But when Jams and his dad are in mortal danger, Thimble proves once and for all why he is a Monkey Superstar! It turns out Thimble is very clever and very naughty… and just the best friend Jams has been waiting for.

Author Jon Blake’s prodigious imagination and sense of fun swing into overdrive as this adorable family gets to grips (or tries to get to grips) with their manic monkey. Martin Chatterton supplies the hilarious cartoon-style illustrations and Jams’ disability adds an extra layer of poignancy to the story.

Monkey business has never been so much fun!

(Firefly Press, paperback, £5.99)

Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms by Jim Smith

Immerse yourself in the weird and wacky world of the fantastically funny Future Ratboy and you will never want to return to your boring old life again!

Jim Smith, Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning author of the brilliant Barry Loser books, plays out a comic masterpiece in his all-action, laugh-until-your-sides-split sequel to the amazing Future Ratboy and the Attack of the Killer Robot Grannies.

When a bolt of lightning hit Colin Lamppost, he was zapped millions of years into the future and turned into a half boy, half rat, half TV! With new superkeel powers and a real-life sidekick in Not Bird, Future Ratboy was born.

In this new adventure, can Future Ratboy and Not Bird save Shnozville from the bitey little insects that are turning everyone into zombies? Will they defeat the evil Mr X? And how will they ever find their way home?

This fun and frenetic comedy adventure starring the unlikeliest of superheroes comes packed with Smith’s addictive sense of humour, in-your-face, cartoon-style illustrations and a specially invented language which includes tongue-twisting humdingers like ‘cheesebleurghers,’ ‘splorgy’ and ‘zigzaggedy chips.’

With danger, dastardly enemies, cool heroes and hedgehog colas, this is the tastiest, funniest and most ingenious story currently available on Shnozville High Street!

(Egmont, paperback, £6.99)

The four shortlisted books in the Best Laugh Out Loud category for 9-13 year olds are: I Don’t Like Poetry by Joshua Seigal (Bloomsbury); The Best Medicine by Christine Hamil (Little Island Books); My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord by David Solomons and Laura Ellen Anderson (Nosy Crow); AniMalcolm by David Baddiel and Jim Field (Harper Collins Children's Books).