My sides hurt from making this list of funny chapter books for kids. I’m going to brag a little about my book list here. I hope you don’t mind. But there are a lot of funny books out there (my kids seem to have a knack for finding them in the library) and a lot of the books that make it onto “funny books” lists are either gross out books or are labeled “books for boys” (don’t even get me started on that). Now, there are some of those so-called potty humor books on this list, too but these are books that grown-ups will actually appreciate reading aloud (for the most part, everyone is different, dontcha know).
I hope I have included a laugh out loud book for everyone. There are soft chuckle books, knowing smile books, hearty laugh books, and snort-milk-out-your-nose books. I’ve separated them out into a few different categories to help keep the list more user-friendly. But no need to point out any typos. My fingers are exhausted. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Because this list is so long you can jump to the following sections:
- Books fun for the whole family
- Books fun for ages 7/8 and up
- Funny beginning chapter books
- Funny classics
For picture books see this list: funny books for kids.
Side note: I’ll let you in on a little secret: With all the series and sequels on this list it is not exactly 100 funny chapter books. It is actually much, more! Happy laughing!
Funny Chapter Books The Whole Family Will Love
I should note that there are many other books on this list, especially the classics, that everyone will love.
When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad is hands down my favorite read aloud so far this year. In early 20th century Denmark, an orphan girl meets her grandmother for the first time when she goes to live with her after the death of her mother. Inge Maria is a free spirit and even though trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes (hilarious trouble, to be sure) the townspeople and her grandmother can’t help but fall utterly in love with her. I thought Nannestad masterfully handled Inge Maria’s grief over her mother’s death, her joyous attitude towards new experiences, and her headstrong imagination. If you are a fan of Anne of Green Gables, you will love this book.
The Adventures of Miss Pettifour by Anne Michaels is a delightful collection of stories about the winsome Miss Pettifour and her sixteen cats, “Minky, Misty, Taffy, Purrsia, Pirate, Mustard, Moutarde, Hemdela, Earring, Grigorovitch, Clasby, Captain Captain, Captain Catkin, Captain Clothespin, Your Shyness and Sizzles.” (My son loved reciting the names during their frequent appearances.) Miss Pettifour travels from place to place with the help of a large tablecloth and a burst of wind. Her cats go with her, hanging on in line formation. Each of the quirky stories, such as the search for a missing postage stamp, or a trip to the jumble sale stand alone, for a satisfying read aloud session. The content is appropriate for all ages and lovely little drawings will charm everyone.
The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry. Princess Patricia Priscilla is bored with her life, and a bit spoiled. She is horrified at the idea of her impending 16th birthday ball, at which she is required to choose a husband. She offers her maid a chance to spend the day reading Alice in Wonderland, in exchange for her peasant clothes and spends the next several days attending the local school. This is a highly entertaining story in which everyone seems to have a good time, there is lots of delicious word play and plenty of quirky characters to keep the family laughing. I recently finished reading this aloud to my 7 year old and he got quite a kick out of it and had a grand time laughing at the foibles of the characters, especially the ridiculous suitors.
Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot 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. We are eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel!
My Dad’s a Birdman by David Almond. I just finished reading this clever, poignant and yet very humorous book. Older children understand that the father’s bird behaviors and his determination to enter a flying contest, and his daughter’s support are born out of grief. Younger kids will especially enjoy the funny, whimsical flying contestants and their hilarious attempts. This would be a great read aloud for the whole family.
Matilda by Roald Dahl. Of course this list could be filled with books by Dahl, but I will just include my favorites, like this one about a book loving girl who tuns the tables on her horrible family and finds a true friend in her school teacher. Also, if you ever have the chance to see the musical, do it!
Henry Huggins. (SERIES) Classics are always worth revisiting! Kiddo read Cleary’s series of books about Henry and his friends when he was 5 or 6 (we also enjoyed them together as read alouds) and yet here he is at age 8 reading them again and telling me how much he loves them. Henry often plays second fiddle to the wildly popular Ramona; I imagine because his scrapes are not quite as precarious as his more famous neighbor. If you have a Ramona fan who hasn’t yet been introduced to this series, he or she will love reading Henry’s perspective on her antics. Alternatively, if your son doesn’t want to read a “book about a girl” he’ll most definitely want to read the Ramona books after getting a glimpse of her through Henry’s eyes.
Mean Margaret by Tor Seidler. We love Seidler’s books and this one qualifies as the funniest so far that we’ve read. A belligerent toddler gets lost in the forest and is adopted by a woodchuck couple. The are forced out of their den and live together in a cave with a bat and a few other furry fellows. Along the way, Margaret learns a thing or two about how to treat others.
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins is a funny tale about adventurous woodland creatures. A group of friends head out into the unknown when their squirrel pal is carried off by a hawk. The captured squirrel, manages to escape the hawk’s clutches and lands in an unknown area and befriends the local squirrels. The narration alternates between the quirky group of searchers and the lost squirrel. The disparate groups of squirrels come together as they learn of a threat even greater than hawks.
The Year of Billy Miller. I bet you didn’t know the author of Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse also wrote chapter books. The Year of Billy Miller is a pitch-perfect account of the year in the life of a second grader. Billy has a stay-at-home dad (not something you usually see in books, but it just so happens Bobby the Brave also has a SAHD — see below), school projects that present problems, sibling rivalry — in short all the typical family and social situations that children must learn to navigate as they grow up. Henkes (and Billy) handle it all with aplomb and good humor. There’s something very gentle and “old-fashioned” but timeless about this book and I think your kids will enjoy it.
Frogged. I found this book after my kids and I couldn’t stop laughing at Vivian Vande Velde’s book, 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos (see it on my Funny Read Alouds list), and I wanted to read more of her writing. Frogged, as you may have guessed, is a retelling of “The Frog Prince”. Princess Imogene’s mother is making her read a horrid book titled, The Art of Being a Princess. When she wanders down to a pond, a frog convinces her to kiss him. The frog, however, not only does not turn into a prince (he turns into smart-aleck peasant), but the spell reverses and Imogene turns into a frog! The only way to turn back into a princess is to dupe someone into kissing her, thus casting the frog spell on another unsuspecting person. But Imogen worries about the ethics of that! As a theater nerd I loved the way Imogene the frog gets taken on a hilarious adventure with a theater troupe, and the memorable and not-a-little bit crazy characters will keep you reading to the end. This would make a great read aloud.
8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos is perhaps the book that elicited the most laughter in our house ever (well, before we discovered Nanny Piggins). The story begins when a dog chases a squirrel into a nearby elementary school. The squirrel runs from classroom to classroom leaving chaos in its wake. Each chapter is narrated in the first person by the various class pets that inhabit the classrooms. The pets range from hamsters to snakes to fish to birds and getting their different perspectives on the ruckus is extremely entertaining to say the least.
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher made me laugh out loud. I read the book myself and read aloud some of the most humorous passages to my kids while they were busy on the floor with their Pokemon (sigh). A family of 2 dads and 4 adopted sons (all together they span several ethnicities and religions) lead a rather disordered and hilarious lifestyle. The boys all have different personalities, which could lend themselves to stereotypes, but thankfully do not. After finishing this book I wanted to move right in to the Fletcher household, if only to try out their DIY hockey rink. (You’ll have to read it to find out.)
Appleblossom the Possum. Holly Goldberg Sloan wrote this clever and charming tale of young possum siblings making their way in the world. The story turned out to be surprisingly funny, too! Mama Possum teaches her children about how performance is an integral part of life as a possum and they all practice their acting skills, which come in handy on many occasions. When Apple Blossom falls down a chimney and is adopted by a girl with a longing for an attentive pet, her brothers enlist the help of their wayward dad and dance-floor loving mom to rescue her. I adored all the theater references and loved how much my boys laughed throughout the story.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. A run in with a vacuum cleaner gives Ulysses the squirrel superhero powers! 10 year old Flora, a self-proclaimed cynic and comic book reader becomes friends with this new superhero, and even opens up her cynical heart. The novel uses comic strip style illustrations to tell parts of the story and is wonderfully funny as well as touching. This book does touch on some more serious topics and although it can be quite funny, I recommend it for kids ages 8 and up.
Toys Go Out. This is the first book in a trilogy about a group of toys and their adventures in and out of a girl’s bedroom. The three main toys are Lumphy the buffalo, StingRay, and Plastic, a bouncy ball. Über-talented author Emily Jenkins has a particular knack for transferring the emotions, anxieties and joys of childhood experiences and discoveries onto the anthropomorphized toys. There is a lot of humor in the book, too, as the toys engage in gentle absurdities, such as when Lumphy intentionally dips himself in peanut butter so he can visit his friend the Washer in the basement, or when Plastic tries to discover just exactly what she is. Dramatic readers (such as myself) will especially enjoy Jenkins’ writing.
The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R. A. Spratt. We love this series so much I ordered the complete set from Australia! (It’s now available in the US, though.) This hilarious series about three siblings whose father is so frugal he hires a pig to take care of them. Nanny Piggins is no Mary Poppins, however. The enthusiastic circus pig thinks school is overrated, chocolate is a food group and takes the kids on “marvelous adventures.” This is a great book for kids (and adults) who enjoy Roald Dahl, and over-the-top, subversive humor and plain, good fun. If you prefer moral didacticism, move on.
Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston is hard to resist reading out loud with crazy, crazy voices! Weston’s novels are written in lively, creative verse. The fast-paced, clever, rhyming story follows Katrina Katrell, who runs away from her evil guardian, and alights on an adventure with a strange creature called a Zorgle from Zorgamazoo. A complicated mystery, with bizarre and hilarious characters follow. Winner of the 2009 E.B White Read Aloud Award. I read this to my then-5 year old and 9 year old.
Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff by Robert Paul Weston. The premise is wonderfully silly: in the Kingdom of Spiff everyone is obsessed with fashion, and ridiculously elaborate fashion at that. Well, almost everyone — the Princess prefers pajamas… and books. In Spud, however, things are a bit different and when Puggly of Spud and Frannie of Spiff meet up they set out to teach the others a thing or two about what is really important. This is really fun to read aloud because of the fantastical vocabulary and the rhyming couplets. Even the font is “fancified.” I do, however, recommend it for more experienced listeners. I certainly think a 5 year old can listen to it, but it is not the usual fare and I found that mini recaps of the action before we began each reading session to be extra-helpful. Nevertheless, it was a hit.
As always, this is not a strict age range. From time to time I like to remind you I am not a literacy expert, just a book lover.
Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (series) by Jack Gantos. Joey is dealing with some tough situations, not least of which is the failure of Ritalin to control is ADD. This is a great book that addresses what insensitive adults would label “bad behavior” in school. It is at times humorous, but also deals with hard situations. National Book Award Finalist.
Almost Super by Marion Jensen. My youngest listened to Almost Super on audiobook and cracked up. Two kids in a family of super heroes await the arrival of their powers. Those powers turn out to be duds, but that doesn’t stop the kids from fighting for what they think is right.
The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli. My 11 year old proclaimed this book, “good and funny”. George finds a job looking after strange and wonderful, and extinct (well, sort of) creatures. He and his new friend, Prudence must keep the animals protected from the evil taxidermist. Weird and crazy and totally madcap.
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. I couldn’t really get into in this series, but a lot of other people thought it was hilarious, including my son. It is also the inspiration for the recent film, Home. (I didn’t see the movie.) Rex is an author I appreciate so I think it is worth reading if your children like off the wall stories. This is a crazy tale of aliens, a Buick turned spaceship and it even includes a flying billboard named Bill. If that isn’t a recipe for silliness, I don’t know what is.
My older son loved the How to Train Your Dragon books. Hiccup the Viking must train up his very own dragon. Lots of hilarious slapstick misadventures ensues.
Dragonbreath (series) by Ursula Vernon. Danny Dragonbreath has a bit of a problem: he can’t breath fire. In an effort to complete a school assignment, he drags his friend, Wendell off on an adventure, which doesn’t turn out so well for Wendell, but Danny’s breath might just finally save the day. This is a combo novel-graphic-novel book that my boys loved and I caught them laughing quite a few times.
Hamster Princess (series) by Ursula Vernon. When Harriet Hamsterbone finds out she is destined to prick her finger and fall into a deep sleep at age 12, she decides she is invincible until then and goes on a series of adventures with her trusty quail friend, Mumfrey. Super giggle-worthy.
A Series of Unfortunate Events (Series) by Lemony Snicket. You have probably heard of this best selling series filled with orphans and guardians worthy of the best gothic Victorian melodramas. The Baudelaire children, upon learning that their parents have perished in a fire are delivered into the hands of the evil Count Olaf who is determined to get a hold of their fortune. The narrator consistently reminds the reader that this book is filled with depressing events and has an unhappy ending (all in good fun of course) so be prepared! (Or skip it if you don’t like tongue in cheek humor – in which case, I got nothing.)
The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones (series) by Will Mabbitt. 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 zany tale. I read it to myself and have added it to our stack of read alouds because I love reading crazy books to my kids.
Wedgie and Gizmo (series) by Suzanne Selfors. I had great fun drawing upon my silly voices superpower when reading this hilarious book aloud to my son! The narrative voice alternates between Gizmo, the self-proclaimed evil genius guinea pig, and Wedgie the rather dim-witted corgi who become part of the same household when their families merge. Selfors absolutely nails the personalities of the two creatures and your children will be rolling on the floor in tears of laughter. You’ll never be able to say the phrase, “furry potato,” with a straight face again. Bonus, this is a series, and when they come across a funny book series, kids keep reading! I also recommend the audiobook!
13 Story Tree House (series) by Andy Griffiths is an Australian import. This is the most amazing tree house ever! I mean, it includes a machine that shoots marshmallows into your mouth! The boys who live in the tree house have some seriously wacky adventures and loads of illustrations bring everything to life. Each book in the series adds several stories to the house! My son is currently on The 52 Story Tree House.
The Terrible Two (series) by Jory John and Mac Barnett. My 11 year old enjoyed reading these and my youngest has been listening to the audiobooks on repeat. It is a epic war of tricks and pranks when Miles moves to Yawnee Valley, only to find out the school already has a master prankster in residence: Niles. Miles and Niles join forces to become the “Terrible Two” in an attempt to pull off the most epic prank ever. This book is a high interest, easy to read novel for kids who might be classified as “reluctant readers.”
The Qwickpick Papers (series) by Tom Angleberger. I know you are going to be put off by the title, but anything by Tom Angleberger is worth checking out. This series is written with diary entries, illustrations, notes, cartoons, etc. and is an engaging, funny read for middle schoolers. Three friends form the “Qwikpick Adventure Society” and in this opening book in the series their mission is to see the local “poop fountain” (a sewage treatment area). Honestly, it’s pretty funny, even with all the gross-ness. In the next books in the series, the kids try to top their poop fountain field trip success. (Bet you can’t wait.)
Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind. I have a bit of a soft spot for crazy long names so how could I resist this one? 7th grader 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 narration switches from the Lenny (male) to Jodie (female) and somehow Angleberger makes it all work brilliantly.
The Bolds by Julian Clary. I read this very weird and very funny book out loud to my 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. (I said it was weird.) 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. Kids who also like Roald Dahl will get a kick out of this book.
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. Raise your hand if you read this 1973 book when you were a kid! If you haven’t yet read it, do not judge a book by its title. This is a smart, funny, suspenseful book which paints a realistic portrait of boys in a state of “war” against each other. I bought this book for Kiddo as one of his first-day-of-third-grade-books. Billy accepts a challenge to eat 15 worms in 15 days. The prize is a whopping $50. While Billy thinks of new ways to make the worms palatable, his competitors come up with increasingly complex ways to outwit him.
Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre is for families and kids who enjoy a healthy dose of quirky humor. (— as you might guess from seeing the cover. I would also assert that the book is much, much better than the cover makes it look.) A shipping accident leaves a gaggle of pugs stranded in the snowy, frozen north. They are saved and adopted by a pair of kids, Sika and Shen. Sika and Shen harness the pugs in attempt to win the Great Northern Race, which ends at the home of a mythical man called Snowfather. There are many shenanigans along the race, including a bizarre encounter with noodle loving creatures! This is the first Not-So-Impossible-Tale we have read, but you can bet we will pick up more.
Oona Finds and Egg (Oodlethunks series) by Adele Griffin. I am going to tell you that I judged this book by it’s cover. Honestly, it did not look very good to me. You’d think by now I’d know better (see, for example, Pugs of the Frozen North, above). However, when Kirkus gave it a starred review, I picked it up. Well, we all enjoyed it. The plot revolves around Oona, who finds and egg and decides to nurture it, in hopes that it will hatch into something that her brother will not be allergic to. The bully neighbor, Bruce Brute, has taken the egg and Oona and her brother must find a way to get it back. There is a lot of humor in this book that kids will love and I loved the touches like the career mom who is trying to reinvent the wheel, and the stay at home dad, even the relationship of the siblings was touchingly adorable.
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford. (series) We listened to this (and the sequel) on audiobook and my 7 year old spent much of the time laughing, especially during the periodic one word chapters. Moxy is supposed to read Stuart Little for her summer reading assignment, but she spends more time avoiding — and justifying that avoidance — than she does reading. Hilarious, and the text edition includes a very clever use of photographs to highlight Moxy’s creative procrastination skills.
Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye is a short graphic novel series about the “world’s fluffiest detective”. In the first book, Sasspants, PI(G) is determined to solve the mystery of the missing sandwich, going so far as to set a trap by disguising a turtle as a sandwich in order to smoke out the thief. The cast of characters in the pet shop are highly entertaining and this humorous series is great for kids who love graphic novels but aren’t ready for full-length novels.
Supercat vs The Fry Thief (series) 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!
Bobby the Brave (Sometimes). Bobby Ellis-Chan struggles the fact that he is not interested in football even though his dad is a retired professional. “The Freezer”, as his dad is known, is now a stay-at-home dad and while the siblings have their usual back-and-forths, it is a functional, loving family. Bobby’s family is bi-racial and his friends come from different ethnic backgrounds but it is not a focus of the book at all. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking it reflected my own sons’ diverse classrooms. This is a funny, charming book with non-stock characters and I’m looking forward to reading more books in the series.
Frindle. Although I’ve recommended other books by Andrew Clements, I believe this is the first time I’ve put his most famous novel on a list. Frindle is the story of Nick Allen who decides to show his vocabulary-obsessed fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Granger, that if he wants to, he can invent a new word that will end up in the dictionary. With the help of his friends, Nick succeeds in renaming a “pen” a “frindle”. Both my kids found this book hilarious.
No Talking is another one of my favorite books by Andrew Clements. The boys and girls in 5th grade have a contest to see who can say the fewest words. (This would be a delight for teachers everywhere) My son also read The Report Card, which he assured me was very amusing and is about a girl who, although she can easily earn As, decides to get Ds and Cs on her report card in order to prove a point.
Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder is a series by Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbø. Friends Nilly and Lisa help the good doctor develop the flatulent powder in question and in a move worthy of the Weasley twins, they sell it at school. Their plan is to get revenge on the class bullies, Truls and Trym, which they do in a most hilarious fashion. But when the doctor invents a stronger (much stronger) Fartonaut Powder, the kids must keep it away from those who wish to use the power of farts for evil. (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.) Explosively good fun. (I couldn’t help myself.)
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. With a knowing nod to my neighbors in New Jersey, you have to admit that any book which couples “Hoboken” and “Chicken” in the title has got to be hilarious. When there are no turkeys to be found anywhere in Hoboken for Thanksgiving dinner, Arthur returns home with a chicken. The problem? The chicken is 266 pounds. Hijinks ensue. I read this aloud to my sons and they loved it. (Suitable for early elementary as a read aloud.)
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. (series) Christopher Healy’s series is best for kids who like a lot of humor in their reading. Four bumbling princes are thrown out by their respective fairy tale princesses. The princesses have their own personality quirks, but all together they battle the less savory creatures in the kingdom and have their own versions of happy, mediocre and not-so happy endings. Very funny and hilariously tongue in cheek. If you like fairy-tale themed books, I have more for you on my list of Fairy Tale Chapter Books or Princess chapter books.
A Long Way From Chicago is a modern classic. Siblings Joey and Mary Alice visit their Grandma Dowdel in downstate Illinois. Set during the Depression, with a quirky cast of characters (especially Grandma!), my kids liked this one a lot. They usually respond well to anything that is funny and even if some of the text and vocabulary goes over New Kid’s head, when he sees his older brother laugh, he laughs right along with him. He never wants to be left out!
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman. When Dad steps out for some milk at 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 and the aforementioned aliens. 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. Kooky, bizarre, imaginative and thoroughly Dahl-esque. This is a short novel and suitable for kids ages 7 and up.
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko is just plain good fun. The year is 1935 and 12 year old Moose and his family move to Alcatraz after his father gets a job there. Moose’s older sister is autistic and their mother attempts to get her into a special school while Moose gets wrapped up with crazy money-making schemes dreamed up by the warden’s daughter. This is fast-paced, realistic fiction that has big heart and big humor.
Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset. 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 inM’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 or Dahl book. Great fun, especially if you read it aloud and love to do silly voices. Enjoy!
Gooseberry Park. My son’s teachers read this to the class and my 6 year old loved it so much he wanted me to read it at home. So of course I did! This charming story follows the adventures of a bat with a taste for junk food, a kind dog and a wise hermit crab as they try to save their friend Stumpy the Squirrel and her new babies. Recently we also read the sequel, Gooseberry Park and the Master Plan, (a beginning chapter book) and enjoyed it just as much.
With it’s large text and numerous illustrations, the humorous Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieska can also be enjoyed by so called “reluctant readers”. Frank is a boy genius bent on winning a science competition with his robot inventions but his rival, T. Edison, is determined to thwart him. Kids who enjoy science will get into this book (also see my list of science themed chapter books). This is the start of a 6 book series and my son declared it “super funny, especially the robot who loves to hug.”
Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon, Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (Tales from Deckawoo Drive series). These two books begin a Mercy Watson spin-off series by Kate DiCamillo, and I must say I can’t wait for more. The trademark humor from the Mercy easy reader series permeates these longer chapter books. Leroy and Francine, both supporting characters in Mercy Watson, get their own stories. Leroy gets his dreamed of horse and Francine, the award winning animal control specialist ,comes face to face with the first animal who might actually elude her. Laugh out loud funny and very entertaining as read alouds, too!
Surviving the Applewhites. Jake has gotten kicked out of his last school and now has come to live with the eccentric, artistic, homeschooling Applewhite family. The father has taken on directing a local production of “The Sound of Music” and no one is more surprised than Jake when he finds he loves performing. I loved the quirky characters and the boundless energy of this book. When the family has to pull together to get the show up after they are blackballed by a local stage mom, the results are hilariously successful. I really enjoy how the story reinforces the necessity of cooperation when putting on a play. I also recommend this as a terrific read aloud. A 2003 Newbery Honor book.
Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate!. 13 year old Nate’s snappy narrative about his adventure in New York City auditioning for E.T. The Musical (yes, that’s right) is marvelous and incredibly funny. The scene in which Nate reads the “sides” during his audition had me laughing so hard I could barely see the words through my tears. I am currently reading the sequel, in which Nate experiences the ups and downs of rehearsing for a Broadway show and it is just as wonderful as the first. Also on my summer reading list for 8-12 year olds. A New York Times Notable Book of 2013.
Double Dog Dare. I gave my son this book for Christmas and he gobbled up in one sitting. With an opening chapter titled, “A Pair of Boy’s Underwear,” who can blame him? Don’t let the silliness of the chapter titles put you off. This is a terrific, funny book about a “dare contest” (in my son’s words) between two enemies who end up finding common ground in their mischievous ways.
Leon and the Spitting Image. When I was quizzing Kiddo on his favorite recent books for this post he said, “Mom, this was the book I couldn’t get my head out of when MorMor was visiting.” Translation: two thumbs up. I haven’t read this book, but here is what I’ve gathered from talking with my son and reading the reviews: This funny, rather wacky story is about 4th grader Leon, whose teacher loves sewing so much, she makes the kids in her class sew stuffed animals with perfect stiches. Leon fashions a doll that looks like Mrs. Hagmeyer and it turns out to have voodoo-like qualities. Kiddo agreed that this was a very funny read and reminded him of Dahl’s books.
Catherine, Called Birdy.In the 13th century, 14-year-old Catherine, the daughter of a landed knight, has a little more gumption than a girl in her times is supposed to have. Her father is trying to marry her off to enrich his coffers but she would rather run around with the peasants on the manor and thwart his efforts. This short novel is told in a diary format and does not sugar-coat life in Medieval England, nevertheless Catherine’s spirit and determination contains lots of humor.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. (SERIES) Timmy Failure’s format is easier to read than many other middle grade books (e.g. more accessible for kids who may still resist small type) and includes plentiful illustrations (Pastis is a cartoonist). Timmy aspires to be a great detective, but that’s a bit tricky when his partner is an imaginary polar bear. Timmy is also a bit clueless and naively confident of his skills. This all sounds depressing as I write it, but the book is actually a great mix of offbeat silliness and more serious issues. Parents of younger kids may be tempted to pick up these books because of the large type and illustrations but the sly humor is best appreciated by kids ages 8 and up.
The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure (series) is an spin off of J.J. Tully Mystery series (found on our list of mystery early chapter books ). We read the second book first, and it was one of my son’s best books of the year in 2014. We’ve since read the first book in the series about Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie, chicks with varying degrees of intelligence who solve backyard crimes that inevitably involve the squirrel population.
The Giggler Treatment by Roddy Doyle. Unless you are a Kindle reader, this will be hard to find in the US libraries, but used copies can be found on line. 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.
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale. (series) Princess Magnolia’s secret identity has her fighting the local monsters when they harass the shepherd’s charges. Tongue in cheek humor, color illustrations, spare text and a bit of action make this a great book for early readers. The sequels are great, too.
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. (series) Clementine might be my favorite 21sh century heroine. She’s super-spunky and determined to enjoy life despite constantly getting into scrapes. She’s been compared to Ramona many times, but I think I like her even better.
Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows. Bean and Ivy are best friends with highly creative imaginations and a flair for inventing complicated games and finding convoluted solutions to problems. Both girls are intensely likable and their adventures will have your kids in stitches. Don’t miss these books; large font, illustrations and short chapters make them a high quality chose for beginners (and grown-ups like me).
Dory Fantasmagory had 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. It’s a real winner, as is the follow up, Dory and the Real True Friend!
Invisible Inkling. (trilogy) Somehow, an invisible (not imaginary) bandapat from the Peruvian Woods of Mystery has made it to Brooklyn, where he is now dragging Hank in all sorts of adventures. This series is very funny and my kids have enjoyed it both as a read aloud and as an independent read.
Mercy Watson to the Rescue is the first book in the incredibly popular, funny and wry series from Kate DiCamillo. Full color illustrations about a pig with a huge personality and very little brain power make this beginning chapter book a winner to read aloud, but early readers will enjoy the humor on their own, too.
Ruffleclaw by Cornela Funke. I read this rather odd and funny book to my youngest. Ruffleclaw is a monster who is dissatisfied with his life in the shed. He decides to move into the house, and causes quite a bit of trouble for Tommy, the boy who wants to keep him as a pet.
Gooney Bird Green is a classic series from the marvelous Lois Lowry. 2nd grader, Gooney Bird has a gift for storytelling, a unique sense of style and an irresistible personality.
Lulu’s Mysterious Mission is the third book in the Lulu series by the author of Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Lulu’s parents have finally decided to go on a much needed vacation without their somewhat spoiled child. Lula and Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky clash until Ms. S reveals her secret identity and Lulu begs her to be allowed to undergo spy training. This was a really fun read aloud for my 6 year old (and for me, because I loved reading the part of the babysitter!!) and no doubt will be enjoyed by independent readers as well.
Down Girl and Sit Series 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. 4 books in the series.
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.
Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts!: The First Experiment (From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire) (series) by Frances O’Roark Dowell, illustrated by Preston McDaniels. Phineas (aka “Mac”) is a fourth grader who goes through life looking at everything from a scientific angle. He observes, collects and applies data, but when he is paired with the new kid at school for a science experiment the pair have to figure out how to work together. The writing is funny and clever and kids will easily relate to the characters. The book even includes several experiments for readers to try at home.
Magical Mix Up series. I read the second book, Grasshopper Magic out loud to my 6 year old (who unlike his brother at that age, is not reading early chapter books yet), and he quite liked it and asked for more. There was is quite a bit of age appropriate humor and it’s a very friendly sort of book series. In each book (there are four so far) four siblings encounter a bit of magic, whose source is beneath their lawn and they rally around each other to undo the magical mix up.
The Adventures of Captain Underpants. I understand that there are parents who don’t want their kids reading Pilkey’s funny series about a pair of boys who turn their principal into a ridiculous superhero who sports a mean pair of tidy whiteys. Personally, I think the series is no more subversive than Roald Dahl and I do think it can be good for kids to have an outlet for their feelings about school. My son loves these books, yet still shows great respect for his teachers and principal.
Digby O’Day in the Fast Lane. 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. It also makes a great read aloud.
Dinosaur Trouble. I love to sing the praises of Dick King-Smith (most famous for Babe: The Gallant Pig) as an essential go-to author for early chapter books. In this one young dinosaurs make friends and take on the scary T-Rex. Lately, my son has been asking for this one over and over and over!
Mrs. Noodlekugel. A babysitter who brings gingerbread mice to life? That’s got to be fun. In fact, these books are quite silly and imaginative.My 3 1/2 year old, loves this one and asks for it all the time. He can listen to it in one sitting.
Lady Lollipop. A spoiled princess chooses a pig for her eighth birthday present. During the pig’s training the princess, herself gets a bit of a makeover. Also try the sequel, Clever Lollipop. These may be good for your young 3 year old.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is the first in Blume’s Fudge series about Peter Hatcher and his 2 year old kid brother, “Fudge.” Older siblings everywhere will relate to Peter’s exasperation at his messy, loud, trouble making brother, especially since Peter seems to get the lion’s share of blame.
Wolf Storyher by William McCleery. Five year old Michael wants his dad to tell him a story about a wolf, and a hen named Rainbow, but as five year olds will do, he keeps interrupting to instruct his dad on the story details. A humorous short novel which is also great for reading aloud to younger kids.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School (series) by Louis Sachar. I liked reading this book about a wacky school environment to the kids. I think it’s good to allow them an outlet for thinking about school in a non-traditional (dare I say “subversive”) way. While my then-5 year old did laugh along, the humor was more suited to my 9 year old. Both kids who love the silly and ridiculous and parents who appreciate well-written, humorous books will find something to charm them.
The Enormous Egg. Both kids loved this book from the 1950s in which a chicken’s egg hatches to reveal a baby triceratops. Nate Twitchell names his new pet Uncle Beazley. Caring for Uncle Beazley is not without its ups and down. The dino can’t help but get into trouble until one day its time to take him to the National Museum in Washington, D.C. If you have a child who you think is ready to listen to chapter book and he or she loves dinosaurs, try this charming, funny book on for size.
George’s Marvelous Medicine is another book that both my son’s teachers and I read to him. This is Dahl’s quirky tale about a boy who mixes a concoction to turn his horridly grumpy grandma into a sweet old lady. The mixture, however, makes her grow enormously tall. Unable to recall the exact ingredients, George and his father try to recreate the medicine with decidedly hilarious and Dahl-esque results.
Freddy the Detective by Walter R. Brooks is a wonderful and funny classic book from 1932. I wish Freddy the Pig got more attention that he does because my sons loved this book. After reading Sherlock Holmes, Freddy decides to try his hand at barnyard sleuthing. After a bit of success (some of it hilariously accidental), some of the other animals realize that the jail is actually more cushy than the outdoors. While reading it, I couldn’t help but compare it to my kids’ other favorite pig, Nanny Piggins. The humor in Freddy, while charmingly silly is much less over-the-top ridiculous.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was on my very popular list of chapter books to read aloud to preschoolers. Right now my 5 year old is working his way through the series in audiobook format. During mealtime I ask him about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s cures and he loves to recap the story.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car. My son loved this book, too. This humorous tale by the author of James Bond is great fun. The crazy Pott family purchases a car that can fly as well at catch bumbling criminals. (Don’t bother watching the movie! Ugh.) Suitable for reading aloud to early elementary children.
Emil and the Great Escape.(series) Here’s a kid your kids will love. The author of Pippi Longstocking also wrote several books about Emil, a young boy who lives on a farm with his parents, baby sister, a farm hand and housemaid. Much to the delight of my 6 year old, who loves books about well-meaning troublemakers, Emil’s grand sense of adventure and his natural goodwill gets him into all sorts of sorts of scrapes, but it is impossible to think badly of a boy who wants to help others so much. There are three books and they are well worth hunting down. Other books: Emil and the Clever Pig, Emil and the Sneaky Rat.
Pippi Longstocking. I hardly need introduce this classic title. The irreverent Pippi is the forerunner of many of our favorite contemporary heroines, so if you’ve read Dahl’s books with your kids, but not Pippi, fix that situation right now. Suitable for reading aloud to any age who is ready to listen to chapter books.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins. This Newbery Honor book from 1938 is still as funny today as it was then. Mr. Popper and his family adopt a penguin sent to them by a famous explorer. The brood grows to 12 penguins and the laughs begin. We first listened to this as an audiobook when my youngest son was almost 4 and he enjoyed it immensely, especially the scene in which the Poppers flood the basement with water, then freeze it so the penguins can slide around their home. A wonderful read aloud for children ages 4 and up.
Half Magic. (7 book series) This classic series should be read by everyone. A group of siblings discover a coin that grants only half a wish. The children must work together to make complete wishes and then navigate the unexpected outcomes. Delightful.
McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales.These humorous tales can be read as stand alone stories so they are perfect for kids who may not have the attention span for longer novels, or who don’t like the idea of pausing the action at the end of a chapter. These quite hilarious tales feature McBroom and his 11 children, bamboozles, tricksters and lots of wit and wisdom.
Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories. This is a long time favorite book of mine, but we came back to it this year almost accidentally. I checked out a picture book about Chelm, (The Jar of Fools: Eight Hanukkah Stories from Chelm) and my younger son laughed so hard that I decided we should read Isaac Bashevis Singer’s book, too. If you are not familiar with Chelm, there is no time like the present. Chelm is a village of fools and the seven Elders are the most foolish of all. There are seven stories in all, each with a little lesson to be gleaned, but read them for the light-hearted humor and a few giggles.
Ramona the Pest. If someone where to ask you for a book that teaches empathy, this classic may not be the first to jump to your mind, but I bet as soon as you saw the cover you thought, “Of course!” Beverly Cleary is a master at taking the reader through the mind of a child and all the accompanying emotional ups and downs. My son listened to these audio books over and over again last summer and then in conversation he would bring up his observations about the troubles Ramona experienced and how she handled them. Best of all, kids of all ages can relate to Ramona as she grows up in the series.
Owls in the Family is a short chapter book about boys growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1950s. One of the boys adopts a pair of great horned owls. The owls, added to the family dogs, the pen of rabbits and gophers (in which the owls miraculously co-habit) bring hilarious chaos to the boys’ lives. We have read this book aloud
3 times now 4 times 5 times and I expect we will read it again. (Note: includes some racial stereotyping. Please discuss this with your children.)
Homer Price and Centerburg Tales: More Adventures of Homer Price. (1943) Like the Besty-Tacy books, Homer and his pals are a fun way to read about kids having good old fashioned fun without the help of cell phones and ipads. Best of all, these stories are quite funny. Also: donuts! (Note: includes some racial stereotyping. Please discuss this with your children.)
The Paddington books by Michael Bond. I read the original book to my kids when they were younger, but I recently started reading the sequels to my 2nd grader and he appreciated them so much! He was literally jumping all over the bed in hysterics at Paddington’s antics.
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