One of the best things you can do to dispel the anxiety of these times is to sit down with your kids and share great picture books. For my kids, laughter is the ticket to making reading fun. But with story times canceled and so many libraries closing, perhaps now is a good time to support your local bookstore and grow your home library with some guaranteed funny books your kids will want to read again and again.
Or you could check out Libby, an e-reading platform that allows users access to their local library right from the app for free. All you need is a library card. For those who may not have a library card, participating libraries offer an instant digital card, which gives immediate access to the e-library with just a phone number.
Let’s start with my picks for the 10 funniest picture books of 2019:
“How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps” by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by John Martz
This supposedly simple manual for bathing your cat quickly gets derailed when the cat won’t cooperate. The play of words and pictures, with the narrator’s calm yet ever-changing and confused instructions, makes this manual anything but dry reading!
“Who Wet My Pants?” by Bob Shea, illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Reuben has an embarrassing stain on his pants, and although he doesn’t know what caused it, he’s convinced someone else is to blame. Kids will be stunned by his hilarious conspiracy theories and unbelievable accusations.
“Pig the Stinker” by Aaron Blabey
Pig the Pug loves getting filthy and smelly, so when his owner decides he must have a bath, Pig is determined to prevent it! Like the other Pig the Pug books, this one is an opportunity for kids to learn great vocabulary from the rhyming verse while laughing at Pig’s disgusting antics.
“Croc and Turtle: The Bestest Friends Ever!” by Mike Wohnoutka
Croc thinks he’s the best at everything — and Turtle agrees. But what will they do when other animals prove Croc wrong? Kids will laugh at Croc’s competitiveness and appreciate Turtle for loving him no matter what.
“Llama Destroys the World” by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Heather Fox
Llama knows this much: He is Llama, and he loves cake. He does not know what to do about the black hole that was caused by his love of cake, but he will do research and figure it out! Kids will laugh at the random silliness of this book while getting an introduction to the scientific method.
“Not Your Nest!” by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi
Poor Bird. Every time she tries to build a nest, other animals move in! Kids will empathize with Bird’s growing exasperation while snorting at the implausibility of animals such as zebras and elephants hogging a bird’s nest.
“The Happy Book” by Andy Rash
Life has always been happy for Camper and Clam, until Camper forgets to share. Now Clam is feeling sad, Camper is feeling scared and both have to go through all kinds of emotions, wondering whether they’ll ever be happy again. Kids will have fun acting out the emotions of the characters as you read this aloud together.
“The Very Impatient Caterpillar” by Ross Burach
A very clueless caterpillar is freaking out because his friends are all leaving to metamorphose (“meta-what?”) into butterflies. As the other caterpillars educate him about his own life cycle, the caterpillar moves through each stage with great anxiety. Kids will learn about the butterfly life cycle while laughing at the caterpillar’s total lack of patience.
“Dandy” by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Charles Santoso
Daddy is under intense pressure from the neighbors to kill the dandelion growing in his yard. But his cute little girl loves the flower and names it Charlotte. What’s a dad to do? Kids will soon see the dandelion crisis from both perspectives and shake their heads at poor Daddy’s unsuccessful attempts to remove the weed without his daughter noticing.
“Just Because” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
A little girl delays bedtime by asking her dad questions about the world, and he hastens to get her to sleep by making up wildly incorrect answers. The imaginative illustrations and ridiculous answers will get kids thinking and laughing!
And here are some other hilarious picture books published in recent years:
“I Won’t Eat That” by Christopher Silas Neal
A picky cat absolutely refuses to eat his dry, boring cat food. But what can he eat? He interviews other animals, only to find their preferred meals even more repulsive. Your own picky eaters will laugh at the cat’s stubbornness and scoop up vocabulary from the increasingly specific list of things he won’t eat.
“Do You Believe in Unicorns?” by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Is that just a horse in a hat, or a unicorn in disguise? Kids will be dying to solve this mystery, with cheeky, clever text and illustrations to keep them constantly guessing.
“Attack of the 50-Foot Fluffy” by Mike Boldt
Everything is going wrong for Claire today, and when Claire gets angry, her stuffed bunny Fluffy gets angry, too. So angry, in fact, that he becomes a giant bunny who destroys the playground! Kids will love the subtle but expressive changes to Claire’s face as she struggles to curtail her growing tantrum.
“Eat Pete” by Michael Rex
When a monster shows up outside the window of a boy named Pete, Pete invites him to come and play. The monster now has to juggle his desire to eat Pete with his curiosity about playing with him. Kids will chime in on the repeating refrain “Eat Pete!” even as they are rooting for the monster to explore other alternatives.
“Potato Pants!” By Laurie Keller
Potato is excited because today the store is selling the coveted Potato Pants – but when he sees Eggplant there, he becomes filled with anger and anxiety and thinks that Eggplant should leave. Little does he know, Eggplant has a very good reason for being there, even though it’s not Eggplant Pants Day. Kids will find Potato’s panic amusing, even as they learn a good lesson about prejudice, assumptions and the power of forgiveness.
“Still Stuck” by Shinsuke Yoshitake
A child gets stuck in his shirt while trying to undress, and wonders if he will be stuck forever. Kids will find his predicament hilarious and relatable, even if his expectations of lifelong misery are a bit over the top.
I urge you to buy these books from a local bookstore if you cannot find eBook or audiobook versions at your library’s website. Support bookstores, because they support the creation and existence of great books!
AnnMarie Kolakowski is a children’s librarian and author of the book 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras, published by ALA Editions. It presents creative writing activities inspired by picture books, designed to get kindergarten and first grade kids writing. Find her on Twitter at @kolakowskiann.