The Hands-Down Funniest Books for Kids, According to Authors
by the Brightly Editors
To celebrate Humor Month, we asked 21 authors to share their picks for the all-time funniest books for kids. Here are the giggle-inducing reads they’ve chuckled at, loved, and gone back to time and again.
The Monster at the End of This Book
“When I was a kid, The Monster at the End of This Book made me laugh so hard. I remember squealing with delight every time I turned the page (despite Grover desperately begging me not to). The whole thing is a setup to the punchline with the reader in control. It was kind of like an interactive app — way before the iPad ever came around. Plus, the illustrations are hilarious and the pacing is perfect. The ‘Did you know that you are very strong?’ spread still gets me every time.”
—Adam Rubin, author of Dragons Love Tacos and Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel
All in One Piece
“I absolutely loved All in One Piece by Jill Murphy as a child and used to giggle at the little elephants’ antics — particularly the baby who ransacked Mrs. Large’s dressing table and then clumsily applied all her makeup. It’s funny when you’re a kid because you’re watching other kids get up to mischief (and somebody not realizing they’ve got something stuck to their bottom is never not funny). It still makes me laugh now, as a parent, because I sympathize with poor Mrs. Large and her plight to leave the house for a very rare night off.”
—Sarah Turner, author of The Unmumsy Mum: The Hilarious Highs and Emotional Lows of Motherhood
I Want My Hat Back
“Okay, so the lesson in I Want My Hat Back is perhaps not the best one to teach your child (‘Someone stole your hat? KILL HIM.’), but the expression on the bear's face when he realizes that the rabbit stole his hat is perfection. (Also, the book presents an excellent opportunity to employ the ‘Lies Are Okay Sometimes’ parenting rule when you tell your child not to worry — the cute little bunny totally realized he had done something wrong and totally was not eaten by the bear and totally learned his lesson and never stole again for the rest of his long and happy bunny life.)”
—Jordan Reid, co-author of The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People
Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?
“As a kid, I loved nothing better than to sneak into my brother’s room and steal his copy of Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? The illustrations of a community of animals at work — building houses, running a water treatment plant, putting out fires — are filled with strange details, like a wolf wearing a bucket with a chick hatching on his head. What? Surreal and trippy, while also incredibly informative.”
—Fiona Davis, author of The Masterpiece (on sale 8/7/18), The Address, and The Dollhouse
We Are in a Book!
“In Mo Willems’s We Are in a Book! Gerald the Elephant emerges as an eloquent spokesman for authors everywhere. From his startled delight that ‘a reader is reading us’ and his power-drunk pleasure in making that reader say a certain word, to his existential horror that the book will soon end and his candid admission that ‘I just want to be read,’ I feel like Gerald really, y’know, gets me as a writer and ... oh, sorry, this is supposed to be a recommendation for children? Yeah, my kids thought this book was hysterical, too.”
—Brad Parks, author of Closer Than You Know and Say Nothing
Big Bird's Red Book
“The funniest children's book that has ever been written is Big Bird's Red Book as read to me by my late Grandma Gen when I was a toddler. The Sesame Street character teaches you all about the color red by walking through town, but that's all a lead-up to literature's greatest punchline: Big Bird sits on a bunch of tomatoes in front of everyone. My grandma would re-read this page, shouting the caption ‘SQUASH!’ over and over until I would almost pass out with joy. I still can't eat tomatoes without thinking of that delightful scene.”
—Andy Boyle, author of Adulthood for Beginners: All the Life Secrets Nobody Bothered to Tell You
The Night I Followed the Dog
“My sons loved The Night I Followed the Dog by Nina Laden and so did I. The story’s told by a little boy who thinks his dog is just an ordinary dog until one morning when he happens to see his tuxedo-clad pet climbing out of a limo. And that’s not all his dog is up to.
The writing is wonderful and the humor is pitch perfect. It’s a treat not only for children but for the adults reading with or to them. I’ve kept our copy of The Night I Followed the Dog to pass on to future grandchildren and have given copies as gifts to numerous new parents.”
—Wendy Wax, author of Best Beach Ever (on sale 5/22/18)
Captain Underpants Series
“My toddler has seen ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ a few times. He was thrilled to find out that the story continues and expands in the Captain Underpants books. We read them every night and upon finishing one, we race to the bookstore to buy the next in the series. What is there for a kid not to like? The books feature two best friends who match wits against their school principal, who they can also transform into a superhero clad in underwear. Dav Pilkey does a great job of weaving the stories on the level that a young reader can digest, but also including enough humor that adults can also chuckle every once in a while.”
—Jonathan Abrams, author of All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire® and Boys Among Men
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
“I love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s classic is eternally hilarious, no matter what age you are. The story is magical, the characters (The Mad Hatter, The Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts) are unforgettable, and the language is endlessly alive, especially for children. Take, for instance, the ‘Jabberwocky’ poem:
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe
Who couldn’t love that?
And, of course, Alice’s entire adventure is because she got bored and fell asleep — a lesson both about the power of idleness and wonder and the importance of dreams as pathways to another reality.”
—Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time
Robert the Rose Horse
“I love read-aloud books that generously let YOU be hilarious. Robert the Rose Horse, a somewhat unlikely pick, tops my childhood list mostly because it showcased my mother’s ability to belt out the most outrageous ‘KERCHOO!’ whenever poor, allergic Robert encountered roses. I’d join in with as mighty a sneeze as 3-year-old-me could muster, then we'd giggle until our bellies hurt. Our laughter, and the feel-good ending, made this a favorite.”
—Kate Marshall, co-author of The Book of You: For My Child, with Love (A Keepsake Journal)
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf
“There’s nothing better than busting into giggles alongside your kid. One of my old favorites is Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr. The poor wolf is hilarious. There are several in the series, and they’re all great.
The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books are also funnier than you remember, with character names like Calliope Ragbag, Cormorant Broomrack, and Pergola Wingsproggle. More recently, my 9-year-old and I really enjoyed the Mabel Jones series by Will Mabbitt, and the Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters by Kara LaReau.”
—Abbi Waxman, author of The Garden of Small Beginnings
The Paper Bag Princess
“My dearest late friend, Heidi, introduced me to the magic of Robert Munsch when my children were very small, and The Paper Bag Princess remains my favorite. It is utterly charming and has the kind of clever, sly humor that is equally appealing to the parents having to read the same story night after night. I particularly love that Princess Elizabeth eschews her ghastly prince, dancing off into the sunset happily single and filled with self-possession.”
—Jane Green, author of The Sunshine Sisters
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
“Mo Willems hits the nail on the head when it comes to infusing both his illustrations and his storytelling with humor in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The absurdity alone makes reading this book a blast, especially when I add my goofy voices to the pigeon’s character. On the same note, Diaper Dude: The Ultimate Dad's Guide to Surviving the First Two Years
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
“People don't always associate the words ‘Judy Blume’ with the words ‘gut-wrenching hilarity’ but as far as I'm concerned she was the humorist par excellence of my childhood. I didn't know the New York City she conjured up and I was baffled by some of the aspects of it (what's an ‘apartment’?), but I never stopped sympathizing with and laughing at (the two are not incompatible) poor Peter and his irrepressible little brother Fudge in Blume's Fudge series. Judy Blume is the original American funny lady for kids.”
—Betsy Bird, editor of Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever.
“The sorely missed, amazing wordsmith Amy Krouse Rosenthal is the creator of what I consider to be the funniest and cleverest children’s book around. Spoon is about a spoon (duh!) who feels like a total zero compared to sharp knife, useful folk, and all the other utensils with whom he shares a drawer. His mother helps him see just how lucky and useful he is: scooping ice cream, twirling in tea, clanging the cereal bowl. Chopstick sure is jealous of spoon — at least he can do things by himself! This is the ultimate the-grass-isn’t-always-greener book, illustrated beautifully, and told with witty jokes that work on a kid and adult level. You’ll never see your cutlery the same way again.”
—Elyssa Friedland, author of The Intermission (on sale 7/3/18)
Frank and Ernest
“Frank and Ernest by Alexandra Day was one of the books my daughters most often wanted me to read to them, before they could read. An elephant (Frank) and a bear (Ernest) take charge of a diner while its owner is out of town. The illustrations are quietly comic; the wordplay is hilarious. ‘Paint a bow-wow red’ is diner-speak for ‘a hotdog with ketchup.’ Jell-O is called ‘nervous pudding.’ Frank and Ernest star in two additional books, but this one’s the best.”
—Julie Schumacher, author of The Shakespeare Requirement (on sale 8/14/18) and Dear Committee Members
Ada Twist, Scientist
“Ada Twist, Scientist might not be the funniest book on the planet, but it does involve discovering the source of a very stinky smell through hypothesizing and robust scientific experimentation. The drawings are beautiful, full of charm and tasteful mid-century modern furniture. Also, any book whose main character is a brilliant female scientist will always be at the top of my list.”
—Erin Williams, co-author of The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People
I Have to Go!
“I was a HUGE Robert Munsch fan when I was growing up! Everything he wrote is pretty funny, but my favorite was I Have to Go! I was really into bathroom humor as a 6-year-old and it cracked me up every time my parents read it to me. Now for something current, There’s a Lion in My Cornflakes by Michelle Robinson is laugh-out-loud, milk-coming-out-of-my-nose hilarious. And for writers it’s a master class on escalating events!”
—Stephen W. Martin, author of Charlotte and the Rock
Frog and Toad Are Friends
“The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel were some of my children’s favorites. Our favorite story is about one of the friends wanting to surprise the other by getting them both ice cream cones. But on his way to deliver the treat he trips and the cones get stuck on his face so when he finds his friend, his friend runs away, scared because he thinks he’s seen a monster. The illustrations are priceless! My kids would cry laughing every time and, of course, I’d do the same. It never got old.”
—Karen White, author of The Night the Lights Went Out
“If you love monsters like I do, William Steig's Shrek! is a revelation. Shrek is JOYFUL monster. When Shrek’s parents kick him out of their swamp, smiling, Shrek is smiling too! Hilarious. Then Shrek sets off and trees bend away from him, animals flee, people faint. Shrek is delighted — I'm cracking up. It feels like Shrek is saying, ‘We monsters are horrible, yes. BUT AREN’T I THE MOST HILARIOUS THING YOU’VE EVER SEEN?’ And he is. Shrek finds the ugliest princess on the planet. They marry and live ‘horribly ever after.’ Monster loves himself, monster is loved.”
—Gabe Hudson, author of Gork, the Teenage Dragon
The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree
“There’s something especially fun if a book is both funny and a little spooky. When my children were little we loved to read Stan and Jan Berenstain’s The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree. We’d all sit together and I would do all the different voices as I read. I now read it to my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, much to their delight. It’s not too spooky, but it’s certainly funny! I’ve owned this book so many times and I’ve gifted it even more! It’s special, spooky, and a little kooky!”
—Christine Feehan, author of Bound Together and Shadow Reaper