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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Gotta laugh

October 7, 2011

I'm in a decidedly unfunny mood today. I suppose I've been reading too many dour books about dystopian futures, dysfunctional families, and vaguely familiar fantasies.

Why, I wonder, isn't there more humor in books for readers of all ages but especially for children? But then of course, humor is a tough thing to pin down especially when an adult looks at what humor appeals to children.

What is funny to children one day may not be so the next; plus children's humor changes over time as they grow and mature. But some books that make me chuckle whenever I read them often have a similar effect on kids.

Some are firmly rooted in grumpiness. Pete's parents know how to cajole their son out of a rainy day slump in William Steig's Pete's a Pizza (HarperCollins). And like the main character and his desire to run away to Australia, haven't we all had a day like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Atheneum) by Judith Viorst?

Other funny stories are based on the slapstick, exaggeration, parody. Steven Kellogg's books come to mind. He retells already tall tales like Sally Ann Thunder and Pecos Bill; he introduces larger than life characters such Pinkerton and creates entrepreneurial porkers in his reshaping of the Three Little Pigs. Kellogg also knows how to create a sight gag; his books' humor is always highlighted in lighthearted — and very funny illustrations.

So, I'll look for something to laugh about today (after all, I just read an article about the benefits of laughter).

Maybe it will start with a trip to the library.

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"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks." — Dr. Seuss