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Humor in children's books

Guest post by Ashok Rajagopalan

I am at my best when I laugh and when I make other people laugh. I’ve noticed that the younger the children , the more they define happiness or enjoyment as something that makes them laugh. Laughter is a healthy emotion. Unless, of course, you laugh at the big man on whose new cell-phone you spilt some banana milkshake - then I’d vote you run faster, rather than laugh harder!

Children are ever ready to laugh which is why I write funny stories for children. And that is why children should be allowed to read them, and laugh themselves silly. I wish they included more humor in school textbooks , especially in lower graders, then we would have kids begging to read their textbooks!

If you are mad at something or someone, write an angry book. If you are sad, please write a tragedy. If you are funny, write a funny book. Funny haha or funny peculiar, or both, like 'Alice in Wonderland.' What I mean to say is that it is easy to write funny stuff, if you are basically Sir or Lady Laughalot and some research will make you funnier.

All my reading life I have researched humor. Seriously. After I started writing, I studied comics, cartoons and picture books. I wanted to know what made children grin, giggle, chuckle, snicker, and snort. I discovered that one laughs at trouble or danger: usually someone else's.  

Day by day, in every way, I became funnier and funnier. Since 1989, I have been at work on tons of comics, cartoons, joke pages, scripts, and three picture books. That’s  a lot of years so I can safely say I am qualified to give funny advice.

When my big elephant Gajapati Kulapati jumps into the small pond, he is in trouble, and so are the poor villagers, and a cow, who are all thrown out of the pond. As a writer, I try to draw out the maximum humour I can from a funny situation. So I add sounds, like 'Kalabalooosh' and 'Gadagada Gudoom Gudoom' for my readers to repeat.

'Kalabalooosh,' as you know, is the technical term for the sound made by a big elephant jumping into a small pond. I make the villagers fall in unexpected places, and, if possible, include a surprise joke, as a bonus. I also throw in a cow. A cow, as any kid will tell you, only makes things funnier! All that is pure slapstick humor, ideal for little readers. I reserve puns and intellectual humor for older kids. If possible, a writer should include all types of humor, to entertain all types of readers.

So my formula for a funny story is:

  1. First, a situation with a beginning, middle and end, said situation being funny by itself, even if it just a single sentence.
  2.  Add as many hilarious details as possible within the plot.
  3. Rewrite your story with funny nonsense sounds and words. They are verbal tickles. You know, the word 'banana' is funnier than 'fruit' and 'splosh' or 'plish' funnier than 'splash.'
  4. Add a cow, if possible.

Or you could scrap the formula and follow your own funny instincts. That works, too! Happy reading and writing, folks!

Ashok Rajagopalan is an author and illustrator with over 500 titles to his name. He specializes in rib tickling plots and keeping his inner child live and kicking.

13 books to tickle your funny bone

A Silly Story of Bondapalli: How do you get a picky prince to eat his peas? You dont! You serve him bondas instead! Learn how the royal cook whips us this tasty fritter that becomes the tastiest trend in town. Picture book, 3+

Fun in Devlok Omnibus: Who says gods and demons must be solemn and serious? This quirky set of stories follow the trials and tribulations of Gauri, Shiva. Krishna, Kama, Yama and Saraswati who must find happiness, converse with talking cows, display their ID cards and show off their skills at dumb charades too! Chapter book, 6+

Gajapati Kulapaati: What happens when an elephant catches a cold? The whole village gets caught in the draft. Nonsense words and rhyming fun makes this book perfect for read alouds. Also see Gajapati Kulapaati Gurrburroom Picture book, 2+

Ghost Catcher: A young man takes a nap under a tree only to find himself haunted by a persistent ghost. Find out how he manages to outwit the ghost in this beautifully illustrated retelling of a Bengali folktale. Picture book, 2+

Icky! Yucky! Mucky!: Meet King Icky and Queen Yucky who have banned spoons and nail cutters in the kingdom of Icktapur. Will things change once the queen is expecting a little baby? Picture book, 4+

Junior Kumbhkarna: A lively retelling of the story of the sleeping giant Kumbhkarna where everyone tried to wake him up with hilarious results. A perfect book for bedtime. Picture book, 4+

Mayil Will Not Be Quiet!: Mayil speaks her mind to everyone around - Amma,Appa, her brother, grandparents and friends but mostly to her her beloved diary. Funny, sensitive and hilarious, Mayils musings on life are at once insightful and amusing. Also see Mostly, Madly Mayil Chapter book, 10+

Monkey Photo: Monkey is tired of the tourists and their clickety-click cameras. So what happens when monkey gets hold of a camera and begins taking pictures of his jungle friends? Look out for a selfie or two! Picture book, 4+

Never Say A Mean Word Again!: Samuel and Hamza hit it off on the wrong foot! Samuel tries to make Hamza pay with his hackneyed plans, but they are always foiled. The two enemies turn into fast friends and teach all of us a lesson in friendship. Picture book, 4+

Razia and the Pesky Presents: Delhis only female ruler Razia Sultan is troubled by a series of annoying presents. This witty historical tale gives you a glimpse into Razias reign and see how Razia uncovers the anonymous sender and gives him an unceremonious send off! Chapter book, 6+

Tales Wit and Wisdom:  From the wry observations of Mullah Nasruddin, Birbals clever takes on King Akbars predicaments, Tenali Ramans witticisms and King Vikramatidyas wise words, these books introduce you the legends from ancient India. Chapter book, 8+

The Clever Boy and the Terrible Dangerous Animal: A young boy visits the neighboring village to find all the villagers cowering fear of terrible, dangerous thing they cant name.The boy is in splits to discover the animals' identity and he takes the lead in helping the villagers breed more!  Picture book, 4+

Vikram and the Vampire: An ancient riddling tale with new characters that will leave you howling with laughter. From stories of Queen touchmenot, Itsratherhot and Oohmyhead along with the four bothers Nin, Com, Poo and Oops, this book is a hoot! Chapter book, 10+

 Also see 2018 South Asian Releases



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