I feel I must clarify. I adore Shel Silverstein. Who doesn’t love “Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out”? Or “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too”? Great stuff. But I fear that children’s poetry, particularly funny poetry, begins and ends with dear old Shel. There is a whole world out there of funny poetry for kids, and some of it even gives Shel a run for his money. These are poems that evoke giggles and guffaws, that insist on being read aloud, and that are perfect for these evenings as the weather gets colder and we want to snuggle by the fire. Check them out! And if you have other suggestions for me, please add them in the comments. I am eager for a few new titles to grab on the next snowy Sunday.
Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks by Calef Brown
Georgie Spider catches flies but never eats the little guys. Instead he cooks them up in pies. He doesn’t use the legs or eyes or any artificial dyes . . . Not far from a greenish town, the Bathtub Driver is selling cut-rate imported shampoo. Georgie Spider serves up award-winning pies, while overhead on Highwire 66 there’s a small problem causing an acrobat traffic jam. Ed’s funny smell, Eliza’s special jacket – they’re all part of the picture in Polkabats and Octopus Slacks, fourteen stories about pesky snails, sleeping fruit, and one funky snowman. In the tradition of Edward Lear, Calef Brown has fashioned fourteen nonsense poems so zany that both young and old will be unable to suppress their laughter. Brown’s invented words and sounds and their visual counterparts create both an audible and a visual feast. This is the kind of silliness children relish.
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Meet Chris Harris, the 21st-century Shel Silverstein! Already lauded by critics as a worthy heir to such greats as Silverstein, Seuss, Nash and Lear, Harris’s hilarious debut molds wit and wordplay, nonsense and oxymoron, and visual and verbal sleight-of-hand in masterful ways that make you look at the world in a whole new wonderfully upside-down way. With enthusiastic endorsements from bestselling luminaries such as Lemony Snicket, Judith Viorst, Andrea Beaty, and many others, this entirely unique collection offers a surprise around every corner: from the ongoing rivalry between the author and illustrator, to the mysteriously misnumbered pages that can only be deciphered by a certain code-cracking poem, to the rhyming fact-checker in the footnotes who points out when “poetic license” gets out of hand. Adding to the fun: Lane Smith, bestselling creator of beloved hits like It’s a Bookand The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, has spectacularly illustrated this extraordinary collection with nearly one hundred pieces of appropriately absurd art. It’s a mischievous match made in heaven!
What are You Glad About? What are you Mad About? by Judith Viorst
From the beloved and internationally bestselling author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst comes a collection of wry and witty poems that touch on every aspect of the roller-coaster ride that is childhood.
Did you wake up this morning all smiley inside?
Does life taste like ice cream and cake?
Or does it seem more like your goldfish just died
And your insides are one great big ache?
From school to family to friends, from Grrrr to Hooray!, Judith Viorst takes us on a tour of feelings of all kinds in this thoughtful, funny, and charming collection of poetry that’s perfect for young readers just learning to sort out their own emotions.
Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky, Illustrated by Peter Sis
We’re sailing to Scranimal Island,
It doesn’t appear on most maps….
Scranimal Island is where you will find the fragrant Rhinocerose, the cunning Broccolions, and if you are really, really lucky and very, very quiet, you will spot the gentle, shy Pandaffodil. (You may even hear it yawning if the morning’s just begun, watch its petals slowly open to embrace the rising sun.
So put on your pith helmet and prepare to explore a wilderness of puns and rhymes where birds, beasts, vegetables, and flowers have been mysteriously scrambled together to create creatures you’ve never seen before –– and are unlikely to meet again! Your guides –– Jack Prelutsky, poet laureate of the elementary school set, and two–time Caldecott Honor artist Peter Sis – invite you to join them on an adventure you will never forget!
The Popcorn Astronauts and Other Bite-able Rhymes by Deborah Ruddell, Illustrated by Joan Rankin
Take a bite out of the calendar with this cheerful collection of delicious seasonal poems, each one an ode to a favorite food
The daring popcorn astronauts
are brave beyond compare–
they scramble into puffy suits
and hurtle through the air.And when they land, we say hooray
and crowd around the spot
to salt the little astronauts
and eat them while they’re hot.
Dive into a watermelon lake and sing the praises of mac and cheese in this playful and poetic celebration of food. In spring, bow to the “Strawberry Queen” and eat “Only Guacamole.” In summer you’ll meet Bob the Ogre, who only eats corn on the cob, and in fall, you can learn “21 Things to Do with an Apple.” And then in winter, retreat from the cold at “The Cocoa Cabana ” Stellar team Deborah Ruddell and Joan Rankin deliver a whimsical celebration of the tastiest treats of life in this palatable poetry collection.
Ogden Nash’s Zoo by Ogden Nash, Illustrated by Etienne Delessert
A collection of verses about animals from the barnyard to the aquarium and the haunts of the lion and rhinoceros also includes verses about mythical animals.
Kate Hillyer is a middle grade writer and poetry lover who feeds her addiction by serving as a Cybils judge for poetry. She blogs here and at The Winged Pen. You can also find her at www.katehillyer.com and on Twitter as @SuperKate.