Have you ever noticed how children just love things that are wacky, weird or just a bit, well, odd? These crazy capers – at times surreal, sinister and mildly disgusting – will captivate any young reader.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Mo Willems)
Who knows why somebody decided it’d be a good idea to write a story about a frustrated pigeon who really wants to drive a bus – but the result is genius. Once the driver steps away in the first pages, the plaintive pigeon pleads with us, the reader, to let it take the wheel for a minute (‘It’s just a bus!’). Then it throws a massive – and massively funny – tantrum. Completely odd, but inspired.
The Adventures of Asterix (Rene Goscinny)
While the stories are fun and the knockabout comedy will delight kids, the real key to enjoying this book series lies in the wordplay. From the overweight chieftain (Vitalstatistix) to the magic potion-supplying druid (Getafix), almost every character and location name is worth a chuckle. Add to this some true eccentrics – angry Gauls, ‘crazy’ Romans, truly terrible pirates – and you have an anarchic delight. Young children will enjoy the physical comedy, but older kids will get the most from the many puns.
Revolting Rhymes (Roald Dahl)
The master of twisted children’s tales was in particularly savage form with this collection of comic verse. Taking six well-known fairy stories, Dahl chops and twists the endings to delicious effect. So Goldilocks is a horrible brat. Snow White steals the magic mirror to set up a gambling racket. And Little Red Riding Hood? A sharp-shooting assassin, with a weakness for wolfskin coats. Horribly good.
I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen)
The first rule of children’s stores generally is ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ – which is what makes Klassen’s book such an bizarre treat. Basically, it features a bear looking for his hat who finally eats the rabbit who stole it. You don’t actually see anything sinister, and much of the fun lies in working out what must have happened from the implicit details in the pictures. Wonderfully illustrated and dry as a bone, The New York Times called it ‘a charmingly wicked little book’. Kids and adults love it, and you will too.
Captain Underpants (Dav Pilkey)
So, two boys draw their own superhero, who accidentally becomes real when they hypnotize their school principal. And then gains superpowers by drinking alien juices. Sound odd enough for you? The bonkers charm and potty humor of this best-selling book series has completely mesmerized a generation of kids. Of course, it’s been banned in some schools for encouraging children to disobey authority, but if anything that’s only made it more popular.
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