If your kids liked Lemony Snicket's 13 book series A Series of Unfortunate Events, or the Netflix series about the misadventures of the Baudelaire orphans, they will loves these books featuring snarky narration, quirky characters and dastardly deeds.
All of these books are laugh-out-loud funny and gasp-out-loud surprising so they will be sure to keep fans of Lemony Snicket's books turning page after page.
Fun fact: Lemony Snicket is a pseudonym for author Daniel Handler. He also wrote the 4 book series, All the Wrong Questions and The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story.
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The Problim Children (series) by Natalie Lloyd
This is the tale of an extremely bizarre bunch of siblings who are left to their own devices while their parents are abroad. The house they are living in goes "Kaboom!" and they move into their grandfather's house in the nearby town. However, one of the residents, Desdemona O'Pinion, (what a name!) wants the house for herself and schemes to get the seven children sent to seven different continents. The Problim children, however, will not be deterred and they use their ingenuity to thwart O'pinion. Children who enjoy antics and humor like that found in Lemony Snicket's books will love this series. Ages 9 and up.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling (series) by Maryrose Wood
While out hunting, Lord Fredrick discovers three siblings raised by wolves and adopts them. Their wild howling and uncivilized manners disturb the Lady of the manor. As a result, 15-year-old Penelope Lumley is hired to be their governess. Penelope is a fan of platitudes, poetry and reading, and sets out to tame the children. But something mysterious is going on behind the scenes! This series is a clever twist to the classic Victorian governess tale and its metafictional insights will best be appreciated by kids ages 10 and up.
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye (series) by Tania del Rio
Tania del Rio's series features a delightfully weird cast of characters, a mysterious hotel, subterranean chambers, even a hedge maze! 12-year-old Warren the 13th looks after the hotel while his witchy aunt (or is she??) searches for the All-Seeing Eye. This book would also be a great choice for kids who like The Westing Game! Not for the feint of heart. Ages 10 and up.
MORE: Books Like Roald Dahl
The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters Book: The Jolly Regina (series) by Kara LaReau
Just like their last name implies, sisters Jaundice and Kale Bland, are indeed, rather dull. They are perfectly content with their boring life and endless days managing their sock darning business. But then! The adventure starts! Deadeye Delilah kidnaps poor Jaundice and Kale, forcing them to join her all-women, swashbuckling pirate crew. La Reau's dry humor and witty names for the characters will be welcomed by readers who enjoyed Lemony Snicket's writing style. Ages 7 and up.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
When Dad steps out for some milk from the corner store he encounters a group of aliens who demand that, as a representative for all mankind, he surrender. He refuses and then gets sucked into a fantastical time-traveling adventure involving a hot air balloon ride with a stegosaurus, wampires (sic), pirates, the aforementioned aliens, and not a small amount of lunacy. Through it all, he maintains a firm grasp on the milk and in the end is, fortunately, able to return in time for his children to enjoy their breakfast cereal. This is a short novel and suitable for kids ages 7 and up.
The Willoughbys (series) by Lois Lowry
Do your kid like literacy references and tongue-in-cheek, melodramatic humor? Fans of Lemony Snicket will enjoy this tale of four children, Tim, Barnaby A, Barnaby B, and Jane who fancy themselves to be "old-fashioned" in the vein of book heroes and heroines. When their unpleasant parents go off on a world trip, the siblings are left with a not-so-odious-after-all nanny and end up being semi-adopted by their lonely neighbor who has taken in a baby found on his doorstep. I especially enjoyed how Lowry included a glossary and a bibliography, written in the same gothic style as the rest of the novel. Plus, The Willoughbys is also a Netflix movie! Ages 8 and up.
The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz
Clementine's father is The Dark Lord (dun, dun, duuun), and Clementine has always understood that she will take his place one day. But now her father has been cursed, and Clementine must figure out a way to break the curse before he fades away. Venturing off her farm into the village, Clementine unexpectedly makes friends and learns the value of community. She also discovers her true nature and that her father's "reign" may not have been so dark after all. The quirky humor and wordplay keep readers interested. Ages 8 and up.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This is a wonderful, beautifully written book, bittersweet and magical. Nobody Owens, or Bod, as he is known, was supposed to be murdered on the night his parents met their tragic fate. However, as a toddler, he managed to escape. Now he lives in the graveyard and is raised by ghosts. The narrative is formatted into small, episodic stories and makes a great read aloud, especially when the wind is whistling and the leaves are swirling. Ages 9 and up.
The Crims (series) by Kate Davies
Absurdity and satire abound in this quirky novel about a family full of criminals. When Imogen's identity as a member of the Crim family comes to light, she is expelled from Lilyworth Ladies’ College. Now she has to prove that her family did not actually steal the Capt. Crook lunchbox (worth £1 million!) in order to be let back in to school. Kids who love kooky characters and tongue in cheek humor will delight in The Crims. Ages 8 and up.
The League of Beastly Dreadfuls (series) by Holly Grant
Readers who love being addressed directly by the narrator will get into the spirit of this delightfully strange tale. Anastasia's parents have died in a vacuum cleaner accident (!) and now she has been sent to live with her aunts in an asylum. Or are they really her aunts? Inspired by her favorite literary heroine, Francie Dewdrop, and with the help of two brothers, Anastasia decides to solve the mystery of what-the-heck-is-going-on. Wonderfully weird! Ages 9 and up.
A Tale Dark and Grimm (series) by Adam Gidwitz
In this subversive re-imagining of "Hansel and Gretel," a sly and snarky narrator offers warnings, observations and opinions on the action. The story, in which the siblings journey on to try and find a set of decent parents, somehow manages to merge eight different Grimm fairy tales into one cohesive tale. An engaging story, but not for the faint of heart. Ages 9 and up.
The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels by Beth Lincoln
First of all, how can you not love a heroine named Shenanigan Swift? When someone pushes Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude down the stairs at the Swift family reunion and treasure hunt, Shenanigan is on the case! Everyone one in the Swift family is expected to live up to their name but Shenanigan thinks her legacy can be more than just chaos. With some help from her sisters, Phenomena and Felicity, Shenanigan makes progress solving the case and choosing her own path. Utterly delightful, clever and hilarious. Ages 9 and up.
The Last Last-Day-of-Summer (series) by Lamar Giles
This is one of the quirkiest books I have ever read! Cousins Otto and Sheed live in a Virginia county known for strange happenings. Together they have worked to solve many mysteries but this is the last day of summer and they are not ready for it to be over. They encounter a mysterious man with a camera that stops time and that's when the weirdness really begins! Zany, imaginative, not-a-little-bit-surreal, yet still thoughtful. Ages 8 an up.
The Doldrums (series) by Nicholas Gannon
Archer, his friend Oliver, and Adélaïde, a peg-legged ex-ballerina, journey in search of Archer's missing grandparents, the famous explorers. Kids will enjoy this story, with its fun word play, magical realism, slapstick humor, and offbeat characters. Ages 8 and up.
The Terrible Two (series) by Jory John and Mac Barnett
There's an epic war of tricks and pranks when Miles moves to Yawnee Valley and finds out the school already has a master prankster in residence: Niles. Miles and Niles join forces to become the "Terrible Two" and attempt to pull off the most legendary prank ever. This book is a high interest, easy to read novel for kids who might be classified as "reluctant readers." Ages 8 and up.
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr
I 100% LOVE this 1955 classic. We've read it aloud multiple times, and my son still reads it on his own! As you might guess from the title, Polly readily outwits a not-so-shrewd wolf who would like nothing better than to eat her for dinner. Storr's storytelling ability is just as clever and witty as her heroine. ages 8 and up.
The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (Brixton Brothers series) by Mac Barnett
12-year-old Steve dreams of being a detective and has studiously read and re-read "The Baily Brothers Detective Handbook." He knows everything about solving crimes, which comes in handy when he finds himself thrown into the middle of an exciting mystery. Every book in the series has tons of adventure, twist and turns, loads of intelligent humor and a satisfying ending. Ages 8 and up.
The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill
You may think that this is the wild card of the list, but given the absurd nature of the premise of both Snicket's series and The Pushcart War, I think readers will love both selections. Merrill penned this classic tale of underdogs in 1964, but its appeal endures. Narrated as a sort of historical documentary, the story, set in New York City, follows the fate of the pushcart vendors when they dare to stand up to the truck drivers who are taking over the city streets. The vendors sabotage the bully truckers with the Pea Shooter Campaign. Ages 9 an up.
Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans
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Fidge is excited about taking a vacation with her mom and 4 year old sister, Minnie. But when Minnie gets into an accident, Fidge has to stay with her overly anxious cousin Graham. Soon Fidge finds herself and Graham thrown in the middle of a bizarre world populated with the whimsical Wimbley Woos and ruled by a usurper king, who just so happens to be Minnie's stuffed toy, Wed Wabbit. Hijinks ensue. Age 8 and up.
Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger
Lenny Flem Jr.'s friend, Casper, comes into an unexpected windfall and purchases a suit and fake mustache. Shortly afterwards, a string of robberies takes place and Casper makes a grab for world domination. Sound absurd enough for you? One of the surprising twists of this books is that half-way through, the deadpan narration switches from Lenny to Jodie and somehow Angleberger makes it all work brilliantly. Ages 8 and up.
Nooks and Crannies by Jennifer Lawson
A philanthropist Countess sends out six mysterious invitations to six children. The eclectic group of children, including our heroine, Tabitha Crumb, arrive at the mansion to discover that one of them is believed to be the Countess's long lost grandchild. However, things are not always as they seem and the children (or at least the good children) must work together to unravel the mysteries of the house. The cast of characters here is delightfully kooky and weird, with inept and neglectful parents, both spoiled and erudite children, and disguise-wearing servants. Ages 10 and up.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
I loved this splendidly wicked book. I listened to the audiobook narration of this twist on the Victorian boarding school mystery novel, and it was glorious. I didn't know what to expect and when, in the first few pages, the headmistress and her brother drop dead from poison, and the girls subsequently decide to bury them instead of report it, I thought, "how macabre!" The girls, who have wonderful monikers like "Smooth Kitty," "Disgraceful Mary Jane," and "Stout Alice," decide to try and convince everyone that their headmistress is still alive so they can avoid being sent home. Author Berry is a smart, clever storyteller with a sharp wit. Ages 10 and up.
The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones (series) by Will Mabbitt
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Mabel opens a portal to a pirate world by -- get this -- picking her nose and eating it. After they have finished saying "eeuuuuuuwwww!!!", your kids will laugh themselves silly over this fast-paced zany tale. Ages 8 and up.
The Bolds (series) by Julian Clary
I read this very weird and very funny book out loud to my then-7-year-old. A pair of hyenas assume the identity of a British couple, leave their home in Africa and move into a home in England. They raise a pair of pups and spend their time avoiding having their true identities revealed, sussing out the strange neighbor and rescuing fellow hyenas from the local zoo. Ages 8 and up.
Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset by Tom Angleberger
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How can you not love a book with that title? The farce begins when M'Lady Luggertuck's maid does not tighten her mistress's corset quite as tightly as she usually does. The slight increase in M'Lady Luggertuck's ability to breath sets off a wonderfully ridiculous chain of events, including the theft of the Luggertuck treasure. The over-the-top villains, detectives, servants and all around delightfully quirky characters would fit right into any Dickens, Dahl or Snicket book. Ages 8 and up.