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Laugh and the World Laughs With You: Jenny Pearson on her Favourite Funny Children's Fiction

Posted on 3rd April 2020 by Mark Skinner

Whilst it is blessed with moments of poignancy and seriousness, fundamentally The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates, Waterstones Children's Book of the Month for April, continues a great tradition of side-splittingly funny fiction for kids. In this exclusive piece, the book's author, Jenny Pearson, takes us through her favourite examples of a wonderfully entertaining genre.    

For me, laughing is the physical reminder of the joy that we sometimes find it hard to feel. You laugh, and  - ‘ah, there it is – happiness.’ It hasn’t disappeared. It’s always there, waiting to be found. I wrote The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates after the death of my stepdad, a man who could always see the funny, even when things were difficult, and I wanted to celebrate that. When Freddie and his two best friends Ben and Charlie set off on their madcap adventure across Wales, they encounter all sorts of unlikely challenges, including an onion eating competition, an angry antiques thief, and a slight mishap involving their clothes and an oven hob. But the boys learn that if you are able to laugh with friends, the difficult situations you can sometimes find yourself in, don’t seem quite so terrible.

Humour has always helped people through the tough times – as a nation we’re excellent at it, surely evidenced recently by the videos and memes shared on social media. I can’t think of a time when funny children’s books have been more needed. Not only to keep boredom at bay, but because our children desperately need humour and escapism. Our kids are separated from their family and friends, from their teachers and from the safety of routine.

But while, for now at least, their adventures are confined to their living rooms, their imaginations are not. Through books, our children can still travel – they can escape into space and to far off lands or even back to the familiarity of school. They can join in adventures and be part of friendships and importantly they can laugh.

Give them a funny book, and you are giving them a chance to feel happy.

Here are some more of my favourite funny books that I have had so much fun sharing with my own kids and the children I have taught over the years.

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

I could recommend any one of Cottrell-Boyce’s titles – he surely is the master of creating the most wonderful, real characters and his stories burst with heart and humour. I have chosen Cosmic as it includes one of my favourite ever scenes – Liam, a boy who looks far older than he is, manages to be mistaken as the new teacher at school and accidentally causes a mass walk-out of pupils! Maybe because I am a teacher this has particular appeal. Liam ends up on a journey into outer-space which is hilarious, but what I love most about this book is the friendship between Liam and Florida – a girl hiding her pain over an absent father that Liam helps to heal.

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Interstellar shenanigans from the inspired pen of the great Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Cosmic tells the side-splitting story of long-legged Liam and his quest to be the first child in space.
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The Charlie Changes Into A Chicken Series by Sam Copeland

This has been a favourite with every class I’ve read to – I’m talking children rolling around on the carpet laughing. I’ve had so many parents tell me how this is the book that got their child into reading. It’s is an absolute joy to read out loud – the French pigeons – I mean, who doesn’t love putting on an accent! Charlie, Mohsen, Flora and Wogan are a gang who children can identify with and want to belong to. Alongside the humour, is an important and deftly delivered message about how to cope with anxiety, which is needed more now than ever.

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The first installment of Sam Copeland’s sublimely silly series about a boy with very particular transformational abilities. Deceptively smart and tightly written, Charlie Changes into a Chicken is hilarious fun for younger readers.
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The Diary of Pig Series by Emer Stamp

The Friday before lockdown, I covered a Year Six class who were all too aware of the gravity of the situation we are facing. It could have been a sad day, but I read to them The Unbelievable Diary of a Pig and it filled the classroom with laughter. This is a book that I usually read to younger years, but there is something so wonderful about Stamp’s writing that it appeals to all ages. Pig is a main character that you can’t help but fall in love with and root for. I had to pause so many times and wait for the hysterics to die down and I heard audible gasps of horror when Pig delighted in the Farmer’s nickname for him, Roast Pig. Stamp’s new book, Pests promises more of the same.

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A loveable porker, a despicable farmer and a gang of evil chickens who might just save the day; the first installment of Emer Stamp’s riotous comic series introduces us to an endearingly deluded narrator in a very sticky situation.
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Anisha, Accidental Detective by Serena Patel

Ahead of her aunt Bindhi’s wedding, Anisha and her best friend Milo have to solve the mystery of the disappearing groom, Tony. Patel has created a truly fantastic main character in science-mad Anisha and her comic capers are set against a background both warm and rich in culture. There are mishaps, a runaway lobster and a mischievous Grandmother and the mystery keeps children thinking. But for me, the importance of friendship and family is what makes this book so brilliant.

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Desperate to save the big Indian wedding of the year, Anisha gets dragged into a madcap kidnap plot involving lobsters, grannies and mysterious chauffeurs. The first of a hilarious new series by Serena Patel, Anisha, Accidental Detective is a feelgood joy.
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The My Brother is a Superhero Series by David Solomons

If your child hasn’t read any of Solomons' books you need to remedy that immediately. Come on, who doesn’t like a superhero story? This series is full of humour and possibly the greatest realisation of FOMO (fear of missing out) ever when Luke loses his opportunity to be bestowed with superhero powers to his brother when he disappears off for a wee.

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Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2016, Solomons’ blisteringly funny novel sets new standards for clever comedy in children’s fiction. Endlessly witty, divinely silly and intensely loveable, My Brother is a Superhero is a modern classic of the genre.
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I truly hope your children will gain some happiness through reading these funny and heart-warming books.

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