I meant for this list of funny beginning chapter books, or “early chapter books” to be much shorter and more manageable, but I could not stop putting books on it! I finally forced myself to stop and when I did I noticed that the majority of books are about animals! For a typical developing reader I would say that these funny early chapter books are great choices for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. They are certainly appropriate for any reader ages 6-10.
Obviously some kids learn to read earlier or later than the average age of seven. I don’t normally include the “reading level” of books I recommends. Growing Book by Book has a terrific post which explains my thoughts on this completely. When going to the library, let your kids chose the books that interest them. Leave levels for classroom instruction. (This is my opinion, you may disagree.)
Anywhoooo, the benefit of funny early and beginning chapter books is that they grab kids’ attention and makes reading enjoyable, meaning they will continue to do more of it!
The Giggler Treatment by Roddy Doyle. There is just no child who doesn’t love a good poop joke. It is an easy to read chapter book, perfect for so called reluctant readers, but steer clear if you don’t like the word, “poo.” I read it aloud on the subway to my son and he was in stitches. How any author managed to create such suspense over the possibility that a man might step in a pile of dog poo is an amazing (and hilarious) feat. I have to admit, I found it quite funny and well-written.
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon. These books had me and my son in stitches as we were reading it. Dory is a highly imaginative 6 year old. Her older brother and sister invent a “Mrs. Gobble Gracker” in order to scare Dory into “not behaving like a baby,” but Dory grabs onto the idea and her imagination runs away. It’s hard to describe the whole intricate plot here, but the way Dory’s imaginary world and real world overlap is hilarious.
Smarter Than Squirrels (Down Girl and Sit ) by Lucy Nolan is a funny, charming series told from the point of view of two dogs, who might not exactly be the brightest canines on the block. At least, they don’t always interpret their humans’ actions and intentions in the way we might expect. Very clever and great fun.
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist by Jim Benton. Franny is a young mad scientist (yes, for real!) but I love how her problems are that of a normal kid. She just wants to fit in with the other kids at school. Since she is a scientist she makes observations about what the other kids are doing (playing with dolls, dressing “cute”) and eating (squishy white bread sandwiches instead of pumpkin ravioli) and then conducts experiments to see how best she can adapt. It turns out, however, that her uniqueness is what helps her be accepted and appreciated by her classmates. This very clever series is lots of fun for both boys and girls.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Leonore Look. I love Alvin Ho and cannot resist encouraging you (yet again) to pick up one of these books for your child. Alvin suffers from anxiety over many things and this leads him to become mute at school. Nevertheless, his family life, antics and tales of how he navigates “scary things” never fail to charm.
Digby O’Day in the Fast Lane by Shirley Hughes. Canine best friends, Digby and Percy enter a race which proves to be more of a twist-y turn-y adventure than they expected. With a nod to the tortoise and the hare fable, this is a book full of great fun and humor.
The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson. Jamieson is the author of the popular middle grade graphic novel, Roller Girl. This is the first book in a graphic novel series for younger kids, Pets on the Loose. A class pet, GW the hamster, has collected enough classroom debris to create a machine to allow him to escape his cage. He sets out to free the other class pets where chaos and hijinks ensue.
8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos by Vivian Velde. This was one of the most hilarious read alouds the boys and I have ever enjoyed. Each chapter is told from a different animal’s point of view as a dog chases a squirrel through various classrooms in and elementary school, each with its own class pet. Riotous, great giggly fun.
The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Croninis an spin off of J.J. Tully Mystery series (found on our list of mystery early chapter books ). Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie are chicks with varying degrees of intelligence who solve backyard crimes that inevitably involve the squirrel population.
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton. This is a lovely and funny-cute graphic novel series. Each book is three stories about the cheerful, silly Narwhal and his straight-person type sidekick, Jelly. Each story is a very sweet story that emphasizes the pleasure of friendship and having a positive outlook.
Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers by John Dougherty. If your kids love over the top weird and crazy, this British import is for them! Stinkbomb and his sister Ketchup-Face are certain the badgers are responsible for their missing money. So they head out to meet King Toothbrush Weasel to foil the evil, treacherous bad-news badgers. This series is incredibly silly and kids will LOVE it. I read it aloud and particularly enjoyed the metafictional narrative elements. There are six books in the series, but not all are available in American versions – you can get them from Book Depository, though, like we did!
The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey. I read the first book in the series out loud and my then-8 year old and I could not stop laughing! He subsequently gobbled up the next two books on his own. Mr. Wolf is on a mission to change his reputation and convinces his fellow reprobates, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha and Mr. Shark to join him in the Good Guys Club. Their first mission is to free 200 dogs from the Maximum Security City Dog Pound! Absolutely hilarious and extremely silly in the very best way.
All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks. I was slightly skeptical about this series but my 7 year old was laughing his head off and so I picked it up and found the word play to be quite humorous. I’m a big fan of word play as a literary device; I think it gives kids a greater understanding of vocabulary. Haggis the scottie dog plays the straight man to Tank’s absentminded goof and together they set sail on an imaginary venture. This series, which is a graphic novel-hybrid, is a great choice for reluctant readers.
Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Cece Bell. Angleberger’s trademark goofy humor is on full display in this series. Inspector Flytrap is indeed a venus flytrap, and he narrates his bizarre, and sometimes a bit gross,detective adventures. The walking, talking carnivorous plant and his sidekick, Nina the Goat (who is oh-so-unimpressed with everything) solve the mystery of a strange yellow blob on a DaVinci painting at the museum. We thought it was hilarious and your kids will, too.
Supercat vs The Fry Thief by Jeanne Willis is a British import that is silly and fun. I read the first book out loud to my 6 year old in one sitting because he wouldn’t let me put it down. It’s longer than some of the others on this list, but still has the trademark large font and copious illustrations that characterize chapter books for younger readers. Tiger the cat licks a toxic sock and transforms into a walking, talking super cat with opposable thumbs. He and his owner, James, set out to foil the plans of Count Backwards who is trying to destroy the potato crop with weevil bombs. My son laughed out loud at this book so much!
The Adventures of Jo Schmo by Greg Trine. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of superhero chapter books about girls! Jo Schmo helps fill the gap. When she gets a mysterious package, (conveniently labelled “mysterious package for Jo Schmo”), a fourth grade girl joins the family business of crime fighting. Because Jo is a 4th grader, this is a good series to hand to older kids who are still working on their reading skills and may not want to read book that “are about little kids”, as many early chapter books are. There is also a lot of age-appropriate silliness, (not surprising as it is by the author of Melvin Beederman — see below)which makes the books fun to read aloud.
Melvin Beederman Superhero by Greg Trine. Melvin has just graduated from the Superhero Academy and now on the job fighting crime in Los Angeles. But like his more famous counterpart, Superman, he has a weakness. That weakness? Bologna. Turns out his strength dissolves into to jelly in the face of the cursed lunch meat. Fortunately, his new sidekick, Candace, is there to help. Even if she can’t seem to get all the superhero code lingo quite right. Super silly. Super fun.
Kung Pow Chicken by Cyndi Marko straddles the line between graphic novel and chapter book. My 6 year old LOVED this series and demanded I check all of them out of the library. Although the storyline wasn’t my cup of tea, the puns did have me giggling. A young chicken gains superpowers when he accidentally falls into a mysterious vat in his uncle’s lab in their home town of Fowladelphia (see what I mean?). In this first adventure, he and his sidekick must figure out what is causing the local population to lose their feathers. Silly and fun.
Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld was one of our best read aloud novels of 2015. When I read this to my then-6 year old we could not stop laughing! I quite enjoyed creating silly voices for all of Sarah Courtauld’s ridiculous and charming characters. Hard-working, practical Eliza and her dreamy, prince poster-collecting sister Gertrude are total opposites. When Gertrude goes off one day to find a prince and instead gets captured, her sister heads out to rescue her. All of the books in this British series are now available state-side!
Other useful lists full of funny books for beginning readers: