Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, December 28, 2018

Countdown To 2019 #4 Humor

Laughter is frequently mentioned on this blog.  Its benefits are numerous; reducing stress, providing a physical and mental release, exercising specific areas of our bodies, and changing our mind set and perspective.  Perhaps the best benefit is the connections we make, some lasting, with shared laughter.  Humans and animals do respond favorably to humor.

Once you've read a book aloud to a group of children with laughter erupting again and again, the experience, the story and the title of the book remain.  The memory of how an individual felt in your presence is lasting.  With this in mind here are five books, previously not discussed here, guaranteed to generate laughter and requests of "read it again."

Mrs. Mole, I'm Home (Candlewick Press, June 7, 2018) written and illustrated by Jarivs is a journey in the absurd.  When a character cannot see what readers can, the results are rip-roaring guffaws. What is lost is found but was it ever lost?

It had been a very long day
at work for Morris Mole.
His feet were aching,
and his eyes were
so tired.

This mole could hardly wait to leave the restaurant and spend time with his wife and children.  There was one problem.  Morris Mole could not find his glasses anywhere.  He assumed because he had made the trip so many times, getting home without his glasses would be easy.

After burrowing a bit, he rose up from the tunnel announcing his presence with a happy greeting.  He was not at his abode but the home of Mrs. Bunny and a bunch of baby bunnies.  After an apology, he left burrowing.

Morris Mole popped up repeatedly with one joyous declaration after another.  He arrived at a tree loaded with owls, an iceberg in Antarctica (It was dreadfully chilly there.), and a crocodile swampy haven.  How was he ever going to get home without his glasses?  Suddenly his sniffer caught a whiff of something he knew well.   Morris Mole makes a promise, but a final page reveals the difficulty in keeping it.

With a hilarious blend of text and dialogue, Jarvis steers readers through a tunnel worth traveling.  Repetition of key phrases before and after each mistake provides a continued connection. There is an inviting rhythm supplied with his appearance, his greeting, the discovery of his error and his leaving.  Here is a passage.

Up he popped.

"I'm home,
my darlings.
And how marvelous!
You've run me a bath!"
said Morris.

"This is our swamp.
NOT a bath!" snapped
Crocodile.  "And you
better skedaddle
before we have you
for dinner!"

Surely by the look of the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, Mole has arrived exactly where he wants to be, but as readers discover it takes multiple attempts for success.  The two hat-wearing worms shown here are Morris's companions on every portion of his trip which is a bit funny when you consider the favorite food of Morris.  To the left, on the back, with a shift in canvas color from pink to teal the Mole family are shown in all their bespectacled wonder dancing at Morris's place of work.

The opening and closing endpapers are in deep shades of blue showing what Morris tunnels through to get home.  Rendered in pencil, chalk, and paint and colored digitally the illustrations by Jarvis are full of comedy.  Nearly all the pictures span two pages.  His attention to detail is certain to have readers pausing at every page turn; carrots are everywhere in the bunny burrow, nearly all the owls are reading books, and some of the penguins are wearing ice skates.

Careful readers will notice the different hats the worms wear from place to place.  When Jarvis shows Morris thinking, the additional dialogue in these scenes is funnier than funny.  These are framed like a gallery as his mind moves from incident to incident.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Morris arrives at Antarctica.  As he pops through the ice penguins gather from their  cave, some attired in scarfs, hats and one is carrying an umbrella.  Another one is eating a popsicle.  One is walking and using a cane.  A full sun causes a bright light but it's still bitter cold.  A penguin is balanced on the top of sign reading SOUTH POLE.

For those readers needing glasses they will easily identify with Morris.  Who among us has not misplaced their eyeglasses?  Mrs. Mole, I'm Home! written and illustrated by Jarvis is a story time winner.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  The link attached to Jarvis's name takes you to his website.  Jarvis has an account on Twitter.

For those of you who love the roar of engines, this next title will get your heart racing.  The Princess And The Pit Stop (Abrams Books For Young Readers, July 10, 2018) written by Tom Angleberger with illustrations by Dan Santat is an unprecedented contest in an other-worldly realm.  Fasten your seat belts!

Once upon a time, there was a Princess who made a pit stop.  While the Birds and Beasts changed her tires, her Fairy Godmother told her she was in last place!

With only one lap left, most drivers would not have finished.  This was no ordinary princess.  She put the pedal to the metal.

The announcer could hardly keep up with all the cars and drivers she was passing.  Humpty Dumpty and his nursery crew were left in the dust.  The Three Bears were forced off the track.  A trio of Wicked Witches became specks in the distance.

Drivers, normally found in fairy tales and nursery rhymes, were no match for this determined female champion behind the wheel.  No curve was too tight.  No hill and dale could stop her speed.  No Jack or Jill or Big Bad Wolf or Three Little Pigs could best her.

The end of the race, the finish line, was getting closer and closer.

And the Gingerbread Man admitted.
She CAN catch me!

Soon it was the Ugly Stepsisters and The Princess streaming down the final stretch.  The crowd stands!  The announcer croaks!  Will this Princess and her Prince live happily ever after?

Every concise sentence builds tension page by page as author Tom Angleberger combines terms from automobile racing expertly with known names from fairy tales and nursery rhymes.  His word choices reflect the use of alliteration creating an upbeat cadence; roared, running and road.  We can hardly sit still.  We want to cheer out loud for this princess driving with purpose. Here are several passages.


MOPSY, and

One look at the open dust jacket is all you need to know about this Princess and the pit stop she makes.  Her body stance and facial expression are truly worth more than words can say.  The faded background of the frog announcer, her fairy godmother (pit boss), the castle and black and white checkered flags foreshadow events to come.  To the left, on the back, a huge question is answered.  Readers in the know will understand the meaning of every detail as the Princess stands, arms on her hips, in front of her stopped car.  (I love the crown element on her helmet and the car's hood.)

On the book case readers get a real sense of this Princess's attitude.  On a nearly white canvas with a slight wash of blue, she strides toward her car.  The car is facing the spine and her back is to us.  To the left, the back of the case, she faces to the left.  It's a portrait of her head done in shades of red and purple.  Her facial features form a look of pure determination.  Above her head reads:

"I am not afraid of storms, for
I am learning how to sail my ship."
     ---Louisa May Alcott

On a background of white for the opening and closing endpapers illustrator Dan Santat displays all the race cars, forty-six in total.  With a page turn we see a rainbow streak across white on two pages.  It is the track of the Princess.  A series of six panels follows showing the Princess racing.  In the final one her gas gauge is nearly on empty.  With a third turn, she is slowing into the pit as the title is being introduced to readers.  As she zooms into her spot the text zooms with her on the title page.

In a blend of panels, full-page pictures, and double-page images Dan Santat introduces one humorous moment after the other.  Readers won't want to miss a single element included in any of his scenes.  The number on the Three Bears car is 3.  One of the wicked witches is driving a broom.  The dwarfs from Snow White are riding in mining cars.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  An enormous green truck with humongous wheels is speeding toward readers.  There is enough room between the wheels for the Princess to race under and past the Giant.  Beneath her the tiny car of Tom Thumb is left behind.

This is a fantastic introduction to fairy tales and nursery rhymes!  The Princess And The Pit Stop written by Tom Angleberger with illustrations by Dan Santat will be enjoyed for its sheer entertainment but is sure to start a multitude of questions and a race for research.  Links are attached to Tom Angleberger's and Dan Santat's names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Both Tom and Dan are on Twitter and Instagram here and here.

Are you ready to leap into more laughter?  A frog who never fails to entertain (I Don't Want To Be A Frog, I Don't Want To Be Big and There's Nothing To Do!) is back.  In this book, I Don't Want To Go To Sleep (Doubleday Books For Young Readers, October 16, 2018) written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Mike Boldt, Frog refuses to do what frogs do in winter.

I can't wait


The snow!
The fun!
Pig told me all about it!

Frog is beyond excited about all the wintry activities like skating, drinking warm drinks and of course, the snow.  When Owl points out that Frog can't do any of these things because he's a frog and frogs hibernate, he is indignant and confused.  What is hibernate?

When Owl further offers an explanation with the statement Frog's dad is already hibernating, Frog starts to understand but he is not giving up yet.  Can he get toasty by the fire like Cat?  Can he get comfy like Pig in a plaid blanket?  No and no, according to Owl.  After another question with a less than ideal answer, Owl instructs the reluctant amphibian.

Frog is aghast! How can he have fun when he's buried in mud?  He does not want to be like Bear who hibernates.  Frog is frustrated, totally and completely.  His friends try to help.  They want to help but Frog's suggestion is not what they are expecting.  Not. At. All. How many days is it until spring?

The happy-go-lucky, persistent-to-a-fault Frog and his quest to stay awake during winter is presented with wit by author Dev Petty.  With a story told entirely in dialogue, readers are intimately involved in every aspect.  Owl's dry but amusing and truthful replies give us a hint at his personality.  In fact, the voices of the other animals, Pig, Cat and Rabbit, give us clear insight into their characteristics.  All this input supplies us with comedy. Here is a passage between Frog and Owl.

I want to 
be like Pig.

Pig sleeps in a fluffy plaid

You can't 
do that.

Why not?

First of all, you could
get lost in here.
Also, plaid isn't
your color.

Mostly, though, I'm taking his blanket. 

How can you look at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case without laughing?  The truth is, you can't.  How many times have you uttered those exact words or heard them?  I'll wager it's too many times to count.  Readers identify with Frog.  His owl toy is always with him for comfort.

To the left, on the back, Frog exclaims he will go to bed if we read him the three previous books.  (Clever with a capital C)  Mike Boldt begins and ends his visual interpretation on the opening and closing endpapers.  On the first Frog is shouting out


as he strides toward the right edge.  In the second set we see Frog as he is meant to be in winter.

Mike Boldt's illustrations rendered in vibrant colors make a bold statement as they extend the narrative and heighten the comedic drama.  Speech bubbles in alternating colors hold the conversations.  One of the double-page pictures with a single word on it will have readers rolling on the floor, laughing.

One of my many favorite pictures shows Frog sitting inside an ice skate and wearing a striped scarf.  He is holding a red mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating in it.  This image nearly fills the entire page.  This is what Mike Boldt does very well; changing point of view to accentuate the story.

I Don't Want To Go To Sleep written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Mike Boldt is a charming and lively look at yet another aspect of this lovable frog and his animal companions.  This would make a marvelous addition to a story time on frogs, hibernation, winter and bedtime.  Links are attached to Dev Petty's and Mike Boldt's names to access their websites.  The book trailer premiered at Watch. Connect. Read., the website of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.  You will enjoy the chat.  At PictureBookBuilders Mike Boldt speaks about this book.  Dev Petty has an account on Twitter and Instagram.  Mike Boldt also has accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

Misconceptions play a large role in Horse Meets Dog (Balzer + Bray, October 30, 2018) written by Elliott Kalan with illustrations by Tim Miller.  This is a classic case of what you see is not always what you get.  As the argument escalates who do you think will win?


You're very big.

In response to dog's statement Horse counters with his vision of the truth.  He's not big, he is a regular-sized horse. He also says he was going to tell Dog how small he is for a horse.  Believing dog is a baby, Horse cuddling him in his arms, tries to feed him a bottle of hay.

That does not go over well with Dog.  He points out the problem with Horse's feet.  Has he lost his paws? Horse wonders what is wrong with Dog's hair and his tail.  

Deciding to start their relationship over, they exchange presents but it goes from bad to worse when Horse gives Dog a miniature saddle and Dog gifts Horse with a ball for playing fetch.  When they expand on the reasons for these items, it gets funnier and funnier. 

The conversation escalates with each believing the other is a weird version of themselves.  Horse can't figure out what is wrong with Dog.  His whinny is off key.  Dog does not understand why Horse is such a huge dog.  They get louder and louder and more insistent until the arrival of a small bird.  Everything changes with the bird's first full sentence.

This meeting of "what-if" between a horse and a dog challenges how human (and animal) perception functions.  Elliott Kalan supplies us with hilarity as these two characters try to convince the other of their truth.  The story is told through dialogue apart from a few sound effects.  This technique involves readers on a more personal level.  Here is a passage.

It's a saddle.
In case a tiny person
wants to ride you.  Will
you try on your new 
saddle?  Or would you
rather be rude?
(The saddle is now on Dog.)
Now what happens?

Someone sits on you, and
you take them wherever 
they want to go.  Fun!

That doesn't sound 
like fun to me. 

Rendered using brush and ink and digital hocus-pocus the signature illustrations of Tim Miller greet readers on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  By the smiles on the faces of Horse and Dog, readers have no idea what is about to follow.  To the left, on the back, Dog is holding a mirror and puzzling over his face.  Endorsements are written over this smaller picture.  Bright sunny yellow covers the opening and closing endpapers.  

On the title page the two characters' heads are positioned on either side looking at each other.  On the verso page Horse is blow drying his mane.  Dog is leaping with a ball in his mouth on the dedication page.  

Thick black lines outline the comical Horse and Dog.  Their wide-eyed looks heighten the laughter factor and increase the emphasis on what they are saying.  Sometimes Tim Miller brings us close to the duo and other times we see their entire bodies.  Some of the visuals extend page edge to page edge and others are framed in thick black lines.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is after Dog has been fed the hay in the bottle.  On a white canvas he is exclaiming 


His eyes are huge.  His mouth is wide open with his tongue hanging out.  He is 
spitting out the hay.  The baby bottle is in his right hand. 

Readers of all ages will greatly enjoy the exaggerated absurdity of this exchange between these two animals.  Horse Meets Dog written by Elliott Kalan with illustrations by Tim Miller is a fabulous addition to any humorous story collection.  It is certain to be a hit at story times.  The link attached to Tim Miller's name takes you to his website.  Both Elliott and Tim have Twitter accounts.  For the book trailer premiere Elliot Kalan is a guest writer at Watch. Connect. Read., the site of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.

We first met a funny fowl in Duck In The FridgeHe and his friends supply one little boy (now a father) with a nighttime memory he will never forget.  In a companion title, Duck On A Disco Ball (Two Lions, November 1, 2018) written and illustrated by Jeff Mack, readers again get to enjoy the crazy antics of not only Duck but his two best friends, a mom and a dad!

Every night, it's the same old story.

Why can't 
I stay up
late like


guys need

The little boy does not want to go to bed.  He's afraid he will miss something fun, something important.  All his complaints and excuses don't delay the inevitable.  It's good night and sleep tight time.  The problem for this child is every morning there are little things out of place.  He wants to know what happens.

He speculates.  Does his toy duck come alive?  Does he paint with his parents?  Do they have action adventures in the bath tub? One night he follows sounds and spies.  He can't believe what he is seeing.

His parents and his duck are using the sofa for a diving exhibition.  The living room is invaded by animals; a dog, cow, pony, elephant, sheep and other ducks.  They are consuming mass quantities of food.  It is a party beyond his most imaginative dreams.  A loud disruptive crash fills the air and then . . . his parents and his duck are defying gravity.

Suddenly silence descends.  In the morning the child wonders if it was all a dream.  A discovery and a hilarious comment will have readers exploding with laughter.

Oh, the word play and puns are wondrous.  You'll hardly be able to keep from continuously laughing (or groaning) once the shenanigans begin.  Jeff Mack clearly has a masterful knack for arranging language to tell a humorous story.  His combination of narrative by the child plus dialogue is excellent.  Here are several passages.


I just 
a pizza.

Will it
be long?

It'll be

Care for a cookie?
stuffed. (says the boy's duck)

All readers will want to do is dance when they see Duck swinging on the disco ball on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case.  His sheer happiness and the glittering ball tell a tale all their own.  Similar vibrant colors are used to the left, on the back.  Amid pastel rays, a spotted cow is raising her hoof in the air and posing like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.  (When an author/illustrator makes these references, it expands the enjoyment to cover a larger age group.  I burst out in laughter.)

The opening and closing endpapers are filled with rays and dots as if a disco ball is casting light on walls.  Beneath the text on the title page the child, boy, is being swung between his mom and dad.  Each illustration rendered in digital media is brimming with details asking readers to pause.  They make reference to events to come and when the party starts each page is packed.

Varying in size the images are highly animated.  Some span double pages, single pages or look like panels on a single page.  The conversations appear in speech bubbles.

One of my many favorite pictures spans two pages.  The background is bright yellow.  Across the bottom the flower-patterned print sofa is placed with two red-feather pillows.  Jumping and somersaulting in the air are the boy's parents and Duck.  They are laughing and yelling


Peeking unseen over one of the arms is the boy, wide-eyed with amazement.

Every reader will be wishing for a duck like this duck.  Duck On A Disco Ball written and illustrated by Jeff Mack is loads of fun.  You might want to have some late seventies music on hand to play before or after reading this title.  It's a perfect companion to the first title.  To learn more about Jeff Mack and his other work, follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Jeff has accounts on Twitter and Instagram.  Jeff Mack wrote an article for The Children's Book Review about his writing and reading life.


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